15 June 2017

Father's Day: Last-Minute Gift Ideas

As you all know, it can be difficult to avoid the usual high street "gift ideas" that we often see in the lead up to Father's Day, which falls on 18 June this year. It is also a challenge to find something your dad will not genuinely expect to receive. So why not surprise him with something unique, we think the best way to achieve this is to buy vintage. At Grays we have so many treasures to choose from we're sure your mission will be accomplished by the end of your visit, and for the very last minute shopper, don't forget we're open from 11am until 5pm on Saturday.

Here's some of our top picks at Grays to help inspire you...



Penhaligon’s genuine silver bookmark with blue tassle. Offered by Past & Present.

Art Deco mantel clock. Offered by Old as Time Antiques.

Gold pocket watch, available from Spectrum

Carved green chalcedony cufflinks with diamond centres and surrounds, c1920. Available from Wimpole Antiques.
A finely enamelled brown trout brooch in silver and gold,English c,1930. Available from Nigel Norman.
Boston Bomber WWII plane model/ashtray. Available from Leon's Militaria.
Pablo Picasso. Portraitiste IV, original etching, (16th December 1966 IV, Mouguins). Available from Horton London.



8 June 2017

Signet Rings: A Unique Gift for Father's Day

If you are searching for a unique Father's day gift this year, something really special, then why not consider a signet ring? These beautiful, characterful objects are steeped in tradition, and yet are enjoying something of a resurgence in modern men's fashion.

Historically, signet rings were used as a seal of authentication for high status individuals, and played a crucial role in business, politics and society.

Seals of authentication - created from the method of inscribing a mirror image onto a hard surface - were used as far back as Ancient Mesopotamia 3500 BC. Signet rings are even mentioned in The Old Testament,

"And the Stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the King sealed it with his own signet."
(Daniel 6:17)

Their use proliferated throughout the Ancient world, became a permanent fixture of social status in the middle ages, and later enjoyed prominence in the Georgian and Victorian eras. In contemporary fashion, they are still prized for their unique historical and aesthetic value.

Here at Grays we have hand picked a stunning selection of signet rings from different eras, including some that aren't inscribed and are suitable for personalised engraving.

Ancient Roman ring dating from the 3rd century AD, silver with carnelian intaglio of clasped hand. Available at Ancient Jewellery.

Victorian amethyst and 18ct gold intaglio ring. Depicting a rearing horse with a monogram underneath. Available from The Antique Jewellery Company



Victorian bloodstone and 18ct gold shield shaped signet ring. Available from The Antique Jewellery Company

 Rare Art Deco engraved sapphire signet ring, depicting a stag's head crest. Signed Boucheron Paris, and dated 1930  Available from Havlik Fine Jewels



Top to bottom: Victorian 18ct gold  ring; Victorian carnelian on 18ct gold ring.
Both are part of a selection of plain signets available from Leila in the Mews and suitable for engraving. Visit Bennett and O'Connell Engravers for engraving enquiries.


1 June 2017

June's Birthstone: Pearl

Pearls are produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, the pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable.


Pearls have always been synonymous with elegance. Coco Chanel once said  "A woman needs ropes, and ropes of pearls".  Audrey Hepburn, ensured that black flats, LBDs and of course, pearls, came to be reckoned as 'wardrobe essentials' for women around the world. 

Related image
Coco Chanel 


At Grays, we have a wide selection of pearl jewellery to choose from. Whatever the occasion, you will find a piece of jewellery that you can count on. Here are our current top picks:

French filigree 18ct Gold Silver Tipped Diamond Pendant, 1900s. Available from Robin Haydock.

Leo de Vroomen, 18ct, London hallmarked, mabe pearl and enamelled. Available from Paulette Bates.

Mother of pearl cufflinks, 1920s. Available from Wimpole.

South sea pearl necklace. Available from Michelle Payne.

Victorian pearl flower spray brooch. Available from Aurum.

25 May 2017

Chelsea Flower Show: Floral Treats from Grays

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has begun! The legendary annual event this year takes place between 23 and 27 of May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. The event showcases the best in garden designs and horticultural exhibits. Our highlight for 2017 is Greening Grey Britain, a garden designed by Professor Nigel Dunnett, which provides a range of ideas on how you can turn your grey English community yard or garden into a place that everyone can enjoy.

Feeling inspired by the show's displays - and the beautiful weather we're having! - we've selected our pick of Grays' floral pieces.

Rare Meissen hot water jug, decorated in the rich onion pattern, c1860-80. From Serhat Ahmet.

1920s Chinese jade brooch, certified as real natural jade, undyed. Available from Wheatley Antiques.

Victorian yellow gold flower spray brooch set with seed pearls rubies and emeralds. Available from Spectrum.

Stratton compact with enamel lid, c1990s. Available from Arabella Bianco.

 

Antique vases aren't just for looking at, why not make functional
use of them and fill them with flowers?


Pair of 19th century Parisian porcelain vases, from Mousa Antiques

Pair of early 20th century porcelain 'Moonflasks', probably English. From Mousa Antiques.


                                   

18 May 2017

The Great Pyramids

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and also the last one still in existence. Until the Lincoln Cathedral was built in England in 1311, the great Pyramid of Giza held the title for the world´s tallest man-made structure, it held the record for an unbelievable 3871 years!


The pyramids are implausibly precise structures. The three Giza pyramids are perfectly aligned with the Constellation of Orion. In Ancient Egypt the stars of Orion were associated with Osiris, the god of rebirth and afterlife, perhaps hinting at the purpose of these great buildings. Most typically believed to be tombs for the Pharaohs, no mummies or remains were ever found within the pyramids. Additionally, no writing or hieroglyphics have been found within the great Pyramids of Giza, creating more mystery surrounding their original purpose.

Another Pyramid known as Cheops faces true North and is the most accurately aligned to North of any structure in the world. Despite being created millennia ago, the pyramid still faces that direction with just a marginal error. However, this is as a result of the North Pole shifting slowly over time, which suggests that at one time the pyramid was spot on.

Menkaure's Pyramid

There was an attempt to destroy the Giza pyramids in the 12th century. Al-Aziz, a Kurdish ruler and the second Ayyubid sultan of Egypt, tried to demolish them however had to give up because the task was too immense. Ultimately he did succeed in damaging Menkaure's Pyramid where he left a large vertical gash in its north face.

At Grays, we have Egyptian or Egyptian inspired treasures waiting to be discovered. Here's a few of our top picks..


Egyptian high status shabti statue, 664 - 332 BC. Available from Antique Choices.

A pair of scarab earrings by Askew of London. Available from Linda Bee.

Egyptian gold finger ring with 18th Dynasty carnelian frog, 1543 - 1292 BC. Available from Ancient Jewellery

Egyptian lapis lazuli fish 10th - 15th Century AD. Available from Habibi Oriental Antiques.

Egyptian gold and scraboid ring, 1795 - 1550- BC. Available from Ancient Jewellery.

11 May 2017

Hokusai : Beyond the Great Wave. Japanese Art at Grays



Clear day with a southern breeze (Red Fuji) from Thirty-Six
Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 25 May – 13 August at The British Museum

 

This May the British Museum will present "Hokusai : Beyond the Great Wave" an exhibition focusing on the later works of Katsushika Hokusai (1760- 1849) one of Japan's most famous and influential artists. His long career displays a fascination with the natural geography of Japan, most notably with the great Mount Fuji.

Hokusai is best known for his woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, many of which will be on display. The mountain became something of a personal obsession for the artist, as with many who came before him.

A popular subject in Japanese Art, Mount Fuji has a long history of cultural and religious significance. One of the earliest incarnations of its myth is The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, in which the elixir of life is burnt at the summit. It was said that this is the smoke which can sometimes be seen rising from the top of the mountain (which is in fact an active volcano!)

To celebrate the upcoming exhibition and the enduring influence of Mount Fuji on Japanese Art, we have selected some beautiful pieces here at Grays Antiques, depicting or inspired by the mountain and by Japan's natural beauty.

Wood sculpture depicting dragon atop Mount Fuji, lacquer interior. Two views. Japan, 19th Century. Offered by Peter Sloane 


Iron inlaid miniature case dating from the Meiji period. Offered by David Bowden



One of a Pair of six- panel folding Japanese Screens, c1890-1920. Offered By David Bowden


Rare Satsuma dish, painted central landscape depicting Mount Fuji and the Moon, gilt square seal mark Offered by Anita Gray



     'Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave' runs from 25th May -13th August  at The British Museum.

4 May 2017

May's Birthstone: Emerald

Emeralds are one of the four most sought after precious stones, along with rubies, sapphires and diamonds. The emerald conveys a more complex set of symbolism and emotions. It is the most calming of all the colours, encouraging growth, reflection, peace and balance. This, along with the gem’s rarity, makes the stone a unique alternative to a traditional diamond engagement ring.

Below is our top emerald picks available at Grays.

18ct emerald and diamond ring 1920s. Available from Westminster Group.

1960s diamond and emerald ring. Available from Boris Sosna.

Diamond & Emerald Ring. Available from Alexandra Engagement Rings.


Edwardian emerald and diamond target engagement ring. Available from DB Gems.
Emerald and baguette Art Deco ring Available from John Joseph.

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