27 July 2018

Love & Death : The Intriguing World of Georgian Memento Jewellery

We take a closer look at the fascinating world of Georgian Memento Jewellery...

Original Georgian Eye Miniature of an Eye in Dark Clouds: Symbolic of Mourning. c.1800 Available at Rowan & Rowan

What makes Memento Jewellery of the Georgian period unique is that it marks a distinct departure from the 'Memento mori' styles of the previou era. It is far more personal, playing with the whimsical and the esoteric: without the heavy gothicism of later Victorian pieces.

In the Elizabethan and Jacobean era's, jewellery associated with death and mourning often took the form of taunting skulls and skeletons and was usually overtly macabre. It's purpose was to remind the wearer and the viewer of the inevitability of death and the urgent need for the living to consider the fates of their immortal souls. 

Following the public execution of Charles I in 1649, commemorative 'mourning' jewellery bearing the face of the deposed King began to circulate among those with royalist sympathies. It was a way to show political support for the monarchy and it's later restoration, but also a way to deal with personal grief and a sense of loss. 

Enamel Portrait of Charles I on Fine Gold and Diamond Mount c1640-80. Available at Charlotte Sayers

The burgeoning middle classes of the Georgian era adapted this tradition by commissioning jewellery bearing the likeness of friends and family to mourn those who had died - or to commemorate relationships between the living. Elizabethan aristocrats had exchanged portrait miniatures, but only in the eighteenth century did the practice become common among ordinary people. 

Georgian pieces have a soft romantic air, created by the delicate interweaving of metals and gemstones. The colour black is rarely dominant, with soft pastels and pale natural colours more commonly used. White enamel would often be used to remember a young unmarried woman, and seed pearls for the death of a child. 

Curiously, the pieces associated with death have much the same character in terms of design as the pieces associated with romance. Eyes amid dark clouds commemorate lost loved ones, whilst eyes or lips amid bright clouds were more likely gifted from a living lover.

The aesthetic style of Georgian Memento Jewelry is in keeping with the romantic temperament of the age: which swept through all of the liberal arts from poetry to theatre. The development of euphemistic language amid mourning scenes such as 'gone to bliss'  or  'affection weeps, heaven rejoices' mark a distinct tonal departure from the blunt refrains of an earlier era: a legacy still very much felt in the mourning culture of the present day. 

We hope we've inspired you to take a look at pieces of Georgian memento jewellery with fresh eyes, and to start you off we've picked out some of our favourite items now available from the dealers at Grays...

Georgian Betrothal Pendant Surrounded by Rubies. c.1740. Available at Charlotte Sayers

Lovers Lips Miniature c1790. available at Rowan & Rowan

Georgian Eye Miniature of a Male Eye Amid Dark Clouds. Available at Rowan & Rowan

Oval Miniature Oil on Copper of a Naval Officer c.1700. Available at A Douch

Gold Mourning Bracelet dated 1789. Gold and Seed Pearl. Available at Rowan & Rowan

20 July 2018

July's Birthstone: Ruby

If you're lucky and were born in July, ruby is your birthstone of the month.

One of the oldest sources of ruby 'the king of gems' is in what used to be called Burma (now Myanmar). Sourced in the Mogok River Valley, it provided much of the world's finest rubies for many centuries. These rubies exhibited the highly prized red to slightly purplish red color.

Whatever the source, ruby is by far one of the most popular and coveted precious gemstones in the world. Whether it's your birthstone or not, ruby makes a special gift for any occasion. Grays is abundant with the finest ruby jewellery, take a look at our top picks... 

1960s dress ring, set with natural untreated Burma rubies and diamonds. Available from Wimpole Antiques 

Art Deco ruby and diamond ring. Available from Elton Antique Jewellery

18ct gold Edwardian boat shaped ruby and diamond ring. Available from Elton Antique Jewellery 

Antique 14k yellow gold bracelet of heavy quality, set with six Burma ruby and rose-cut diamond motifs, c1900-10. Available from Nigel Norman

Openwork circular brooch set with brilliant cut diamonds, and three cabochon Burma rubies. Available from Nigel Norman

Victorian double serpent ring in 18ct gold set with old cut diamond and ruby eyes. Available from Wimpole Antiques

12 July 2018

Sheldon Shapiro: 'Jewellery is Like Engineering in Miniature...'

Sheldon Shapiro has been trading for over thirty years from Grays Antique Centre. Sheldon deals in Russian art, jewellery, silver, objets de vertu, and objets d’art including Fabergé. He has developed his own particular style with emphasis on high quality and intrinsic value. We caught up with him for an exclusive insight into his business..

A small sample of the fabulous jewels on offer at Shapiro & Co...

How did it all start for you?

We originated in Portobello Road in the late 1950s. I was a second generation dealer and when Grays Antiques opened in 1977 my father was offered a stall here. By then my father had a shop in the suburbs and he decided he wanted to stay where he was. He never came in. He established shops. So I took over and moved in. I thought I would try it for three months and make up my mind afterwards. I still haven’t decided yet. And it’s been 36 years. Quite a long time! But it’s such a great place. You just never bore of it.

Have you seen many changes during this time?

Grays is in a strategically placed location and that makes it a marvellous place to come and shop. We stopped exhibiting at Olympia, which we used to, but now we do it from Grays twice a year. Its position is an intricate element to the success of the market. And our success. It’s terrific. And because we offer such a wide range of merchandise you have collectors coming here from all over the world. It’s an Antique’s Fair in a building. And that’s why it works. We share the expenses and we all have a shop presence in central London. When people come to London, they come to Grays.

How would you describe your collection?

I specialize in fine jewellery, Russian works of art, rare and beautiful gemstones, objects vertu. The way we choose objects is very much dictated by our market. We are dictated by fashion, our collectors and what’s available, though you never fully grasp the market. That what is so wonderful about it. I like beautiful things. Pieces with history excite me and I love gemstones and gold boxes, fine precious items, things of quality.

What is your background and what would you say informs the way you choose items for your collection?

I grew up in the business as a child and learnt as I grew up. I was trained as an engineer. Jewellery is like engineering in miniature. My engineering skills really help me in my business. In communication, display, design and in projects, I have utilised my engineering skills over the years. My skills in design and display complement my business to compete in a sinking market. But we are rising above the norm. We have a presence in London and we sell on line. But our physical presence is our life blood because it offers the face to face element you need to feel things. We are selling man made things that are very personal. Jewellery is personal. Women need to feel things and need to see how things look on them.  You can sell cars and fridges on the internet. It’s fine. But we sell art objects and fine items that need the physical contact. Our clientele is very varied. We sell to professionals, tourists, collectors, private individuals, other specialists in fine objects and gems.

If you had to choose a piece in your collection that is special to you, which one would it be?

I would choose this English Art Deco 1910-1920s, platinum and old cut diamonds bracelet. It came from another dealer’s collection. Clean cut and intricate in style, it is a beautiful example of quality and craftsmanship. And typical of a bygone era, has everything going for it. It’s a piece of history.

English Art Deco 1910-1920s Platinum and old cut Diamond Bracelet

For more details on items available from this wonderful dealer, visit Shapiro & Co at Unit 380. You can also take a look at their website, or check out our top picks below...

Amethyst and Diamond Ring, c1970

Gold And Sapphire Cat Brooch, c1960

European 18ct Gold Bracelet c1950

Collectable Russian Miniature Pencil, Contemporary

Amaldine Garnet and Diamond Pendant, c1980

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

5 July 2018

ALFayez at Alfies Antiques

The Ground Floor entrance to ALFayez

Those of you who shopped in the Mews at Grays will be familiar with the collective of dealers trading in Middle Eastern Art, Antiques & Design. Friday 1 June 2018 saw Alfies Antique Market launch AlFayez, a new department showcasing antiquities and museum worthy pieces to textiles, ceramics and jewellery from more than 25 professional Middle Eastern antique dealers previously based in the Mews at Grays Antiques. These new shops occupy the whole of the lower-ground floor as well as a newly refurbished area of the ground floor at Alfies, to setup a new collective called AlFayez.

Spanning two floors and spread over 4,000 square feet, ALFayez boasts an architectural staircase, large sculpture of a Roc bird of Arabian Nights legend and a styled water feature.

Left: Large Roc bird sculpture | Right: Roc bird viewed from the ground floor entrance of ALFayez

A shop at AlFayez & the bottom half of the Roc bird sculpture in the background, on the lower ground floor

Dealers include Yaseen Oriental Ltd specialising in fine quality Oriental and Islamic antiques, M & D Arsin Carpets who provide cleaning and restoration services and also sell antique rugs, carpets and kilims, Bakhtar Art specialising in ancient beads, jewellery and textiles, and Garo Kürkman an expert in the field of Ottoman Empire era art and artifacts.

Turquoise at Yaseen Oriental Ltd

Antique hand made rugs at M & D Arsin Carpets

Textiles at Bakhtar Art

Chinese Kangxi period rose water sprinklers at Garo Kürkman

AlFayez will be unique as the UK’s largest permanent collection of Middle Eastern antiques and will provide the perfect meeting of East and West design.

Live music at the ALFayez grand opening

A grand opening party was held on the 21st of June, where exclusive guests, such as Westminster Council officials, local antique dealers and Antiques Trade Gazette members had the chance to peruse the stock whilst sipping bubbly.

Live music was provided on both floors - a lively band on the ground floor performed traditional Turkish music, with Gizem Altinordu on vocals,  Kostas Glynos (Kanun), Ercument Ibrahim (violin) and Baha Yetkin (oud). Whilst Garsaaidi (oudist), provided a more ambient feel to the lower ground.

Alfies' founder Bennie Gray with ALFayez dealer Faisal.

Guests at the launch party

Alfies dealers, Monica of Vincenzo Cafarella (left), and Emilia of Thirteen Interiors (middle) and friend

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