23 June 2016

Copper - man's eternal metal

Copper is one of the oldest metals to be used by humans ca. 8,000 BC and was the first metal to be purposefully alloyed with other metals, like with tin to form bronze. One of the things that makes copper so special is that it is 100% recyclable, without loss of any quality in the process. It is also cheaper to recycle copper than to mine new copper, and it is estimated that 1/80 of all copper ever mined remains in use today. Due to its versatility and sturdiness, copper is referred to as "man's eternal metal".

Copper has a variety of uses, and being such a beautiful element it is commonly used in the arts and for jewellery. According to some traditional knowledge, copper bracelets are believed to relieve arthritis symptoms among other aliments. The therapeutic value has been recorded in legend for hundreds of years. One of the earliest records is found within the ancient Egyptian 'Ebers Papyrus', an early collection of natural healing remedies and one of the world's oldest books. Nowadays a number of European countries use copper complexes in medication to treat inflammatory diseases.

Recently we have been searching through Grays and have discovered some beautiful Copper objects:

18th century copper solid casting with the raised central figure of the four- armed Virabhara. Available from M Wood

A German gilt copper Herrengrund tumbler cup. c1740. Available from P & R Szuhay

A Tibetan copper gilt figure of Amitayus with coloured stones. 10th-15th Century AD. Available from Guest and Gray.

Hand-beaten copper tea box c1880. Available from Hallmark

Copper and silver tazza with four silver rose motifs and inset with mother-of -pearl plaques. Available from Van Den Bosch

One-off large handmade Copper Inkwell by Rathbone, c1880-1900. Available from Hallmark.

16 June 2016

Father's Day

Father's Day is an international event to express appreciation towards fatherhood, fatherly bonds, and the impact of fathers in society. Several countries celebrate Father's Day on the third Sunday of June, although it's also celebrated on alternative days internationally with various traditions surrounding the event, for example;

In Italy, Spain and Portugal Father’s Day coincides with the Saint Joseph's Day, where traditionally families also pay homage to their "spiritual father", like a parish priest, by going to church.

In Germany, Fathers Day or "Vatertag" is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter. The holiday is traditionally celebrated by men (not just fathers) getting together to pull wagons loaded with beer and liquor into the woods. Although sometimes this outdoor trip is replaced with a simple visit to the local pub instead.

Whereas in Thailand Father's Day is celebrated on the day of the current ruling king's birthday. On this day the king gives a speech and people light candles in his honour.

France have a national Father's Day committee, which was setup to instate a prize for fathers who had distinguished themselves in some way. Originally, candidates were nominated by the social services of each town hall/mayor's office.

Finding the right Father's Day gift can often be a true challenge. That’s why we've put together a variety of gifts ideas to suit all tastes and ages.

Carnelian and gold 1920s cufflinks available from DB Gems

Engraved 18ct pocket watch, Victorian available from Westminster Group

Silver dice holder, Sheffield 1905 by Walker & Hall available from  Evonne Antiques

Silver novelty inkwell with stamp compartment, Birmingham 1906 by Heath & Middleton available from Evonne Antiques

Silver table cigar cutter, Made in London 1905 available from Evonne Antiques

Victorian emerald, turquoise and garnet stick pin 15ct gold available from Westminster Group

9 June 2016

Trooping the Colour

This Saturday we celebrate the Queen's official birthday with the traditional ceremony of 'Trooping the Colour'. Regimental flags of the British Army were historically described as ‘Colours’ because they displayed the uniform Colours and insignia worn by the soldiers of different units. Colours of a regiment were used as a rallying point during battles and were trooped in front of the soldiers every day to make sure that every man could recognise those of his own regiment, as it was it was all too easy for troops to become disoriented and separated from their unit during conflict.  This is the origin of the word ‘trooping’. So, what today is a great tradition began life as a vital and practical parade designed to aid unit recognition before a battle commenced.
Today, this spectacular event remains a celebration of the Sovereign’s official birthday. Although Her Majesty The Queen’s actual birthday is the 21st April, her ‘official birthday’ is marked by the Trooping the Colour ceremony.

In honour of this event we have a rounded up a selection of items fit for a queen, in shades of red, white and blue...

A classic diamond and sapphire Edwardian ring, with lovely details at the front of shank surrounding good quality stones. A patriotic ring with stones representative of The Union Jack, offered by The Antique Jewellery Company

Silver‬ and ‪‎glass‬ ‪‎scent‬ ‪bottle‬, c1910 ‪‎Paris‬, offered by AMS Antiques
Webb glass perfume bottle silver mounted, London 1889, offered by Jack Podlewski

Victorian stone cameo surrounded by pearls, 15ct gold, circa 1890. Offered by Wimpole Antiques

Beautiful diamond single stone ring, set with a fine marquise cut diamond, c1900. Offered by Horton London
Sapphire and diamond Edwardian ring, platinum set, offered by John Joseph

19th century Meissen part service painted with floral bouquets on a rich royal blue ground picked out in gold, circa 1870. Offered by K & M Antiques
Pair of silver and enamel small candlesticks, c1950, offered by Jack Podlewski

3 June 2016

Dealer Spotlight: All You Can Bear

This week, we are putting the spotlight on Grays Mews' dealer, All You Can Bear, who sell antique and vintage bears and dolls.

What do you do ?  
I specialise in Antique dolls and teddy bears.

How long have you been dealing?
I have been dealing on an off since I was 21, which is 36 years.

Do you do any fairs?
I attend doll and Teddy bear fairs in London, Sussex and Birmingham. I find that a combination of fairs, antique centres and the Internet work well together as different people have different preferences as to how they like to buy. Though having said that, rare good quality items will sell wherever you have them.

What was your first job ?
(Alfies Antique Market and Grays founder) Benny Gray organised my first job for me. I had just left art school, and wanted to get into dealing properly (I had done a little while at college). Benny got me a job working for some furniture dealers, in his newly opened Grays Mews Antique market. I was allowed to sit a few dolls on their stall.  From there I eventually got a stall in the centre, and then opened a shop in Camden Passage in Islington (1979). I had a few years off when my children were born, and eventually ended up with a stall again, in Grays. The stall I have there now is the exact same stall I used to work on all those years earlier.

Best thing about being a dealer?
The best thing about being a dealer, is that I get to travel. When I was 18, I used to go to Devon with a friend. He used to fill up his car with pine furniture, and bring it back to London to sell.  The proceeds would more than pay for our little holiday. In those days one used to travel all over the country to buy. Nowadays I travel abroad to buy, when I can. I love it!

And the worst?
I don’t see any bad side to being a dealer! Sometimes however I feel a need to balance it with doing something for the world at large, and often raise money for charity etc. At present I am involved with dog rescues down in Brighton as well as being an avid supporter of Amnesty International.

Biggest mistake?
My worst buy was a collection of limited edition teddy bears, which turned out to have been stolen!

Dream object?
I am not personally a collector. I love the items I sell, and get particular pleasure in finding items in their original condition; such as dolls in beautifully made clothing. I guess a dream find would be a French Bebe in original trunk with lots of extra clothing.

Biggest threat to the trade at the moment?
The biggest threat to dealing these days is the fact that many antiques are not in fashion any more. Trends like Shabby Chic, might be fun, but items that have little price end up being overpriced. In many ways it is a good time to buy, as “real antiques” have often gone down in value. Let’s hope the fashion changes again in a few years time.

Any advice for those starting out in the trade?
For anyone starting out in the business… try and get a job in an antiques shop or centre part-time. Handle as much as you can. Learn, learn, learn. Go to the big fairs, where you are likely to see all the latest reproductions, and so won’t be caught out by them when they turn up in auction and on the Internet.

Alternative career?
I cannot think of an alternative career really. I am artistic, and have designed websites, and created animations. However, I am not good at working for others as I fear letting people down. I have always been self-employed.

Tell us a secret?
After many years in the trade, I find that the better quality high end items are the ones that are easiest to sell. In fact they sell themselves. However, try as I might, I cannot resist a bargain, and a good rummage at a fair or market. I get just as much pleasure in selling something for £10 that I paid £1 for as I do in selling things for £100s or £1000s.

Here is a selection of our favourite antique bears on offer from All You Can Bear:
Sweet Farnell Bear

Rubin Chad Valley Bear

WJ Terry Bear

Art Silk Chad Bear

All You Can Bear
Stand A25 & B14
07956 351 944 / sarah@allyoucanbear.com

26 May 2016

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the world's most prestigious flower show. The first show was in 1913 and it has been held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea every year since then, apart from gaps during the two World Wars. However, the organisation that runs the show - The Royal Horticultural Society - has been around even longer, since 1804.

This year, The Chelsea Flower Show is running between 24 and 28 May, and to celebrate we have picked a selection of flora and fauna themed antiques from Grays. Although we are closed Bank Holiday Monday, 30 May, we are still open as usual this Saturday, 28 May, so why not use this opportunity to do some weekend shopping.

Opal and diamond pendant, set in platinum and carved into a Pansy flower. 
Circa 1920. From Westminster Group.

A very rare Meissen squat vase decorated in a Turkish Iznik style pattern, circa 1924. From Serhat Ahmet Antiques.

An elaborate French pair of porcelain and ormolu candelabra decorated in the 
Sèvres style. From Serhat Ahmet Antiques.

1970s Sid Green of London polo neck dress. From June Victor at Vintage Modes.

Chinese Peking glass overlay, 18th/19th century. From David Bowden.
Silver overlay, unusual (with lid), c1900s, American. From Evonne Antiques

Silver & Red Enamel Butterfly Brooch by David Anderson, 1940s.
From The Antique Jewellery Company.

18 May 2016

The Jade Stone

Jade has held a special attraction for mankind for thousands of years. Known in China as "yu" (the royal gem), it is typically a green stone used for ornaments and implements.

Within Chinese art and culture, jade has always had a very special significance but has also been honoured and esteemed by other cultures throughout time. Most notable are the Mayans, Aztecs and Olmecs of Central America who valued Jade higher than gold, while in ancient Egypt the stone was admired as a symbol of love, inner peace, harmony and balance.

Jade can differ in colour ranging from blues, whites, pink or varied shades of red, but is widely recognised as green. In general, the value of jade is determined according to its colour and its intensity. In the very finest jade the colour is evenly distributed.

Symbolically jade is regarded as lucky or protective and stands for energy and beauty, combining the traditional and the modern in a particularly harmonious way.

Below we've displayed a selection of some our most beautiful jade items. 

A 19th century Chinese contrasting celadon jade carving of a recumbent deer, available from  David Bowden

A fine 4.33ct lavender jadeite cabochon, simply set in 18k gold. available from Arts of Asia

A jade ring with diamond borders, available from M & A Kaae

18ct gold, coral and jade drop earrings with detachable drops, available from Horton London

Jade & diamond brooch with original case by Liberty, available from Emmy Abe

White jade with carving available from Alexandra’s Art Corner

13 May 2016


From the 12th to the 15th of May at the Dulwich Picture Gallery you can go and join in a cultural celebration of all things Scandinavian. This spring the Scandimania events include a wide variety of scandi themed activities, from live music and outdoor cinema to crochet, weaving and paint workshops.

A well celebrated Scandinavian feature is the popular designs in both interiors and jewellery. Distinctive Scandinavian jewellery has been produced at least since the time of the Vikings, with heavily embellished bracelets, rings, and pendants featuring complex knotted designs displaying symbolic animals and signs. However, the region's unique industry did not come into its own until the turn of the 20th century, when Scandinavian artisans looked to indigenous craft-oriented arts to inform their designs.

Because of the material shortages during the two world wars, Scandinavian designers were pushed  to experiment with other materials such as ceramics, glass, iron and bronze, reserving silver and gold for inlays or settings.

Norway distinguished itself in the enameled metal arts, and firms like Marius Hammer and David-Andersen adapted the basse-taille and plique-à-jour techniques for jewellery production. In Denmark, the Arts and Crafts movement, also known as skønvirke or “beautiful work”, relied heavily on a sculptural quality achieved through repoussage or chasing. Skønvirke pieces were typically made in silver and sometimes set with cabochons of precious stones.

Both of these movements took inspiration from the reigning Art Nouveau trends of bright colours and densely layered floral shapes. Examples of famous designers are Georg Jensen, Gabrielson Pederson, Sigvard Bernadotte, Nanna, Jørgen Ditzel and Kalevala Koru.

Here at Grays we are joining in the Scandimania by selecting some of our most beautiful Scandinavian designs.

A pair of silver caviar spoons. 1887 by Jacob Tostrup (Norwegian). Offered by Past and Present
Georg Jensen classic vintage hand hammered silver bowl with Danish and English hallmarks, London 1924.
Offered by Past and Present
Swedish silver & enamel casket, a magnificent piece for any collection. Superb workmanship.
Import marks for Cohen & Charles, London 1914. Offered by Decart7
Top quality silver and enamel dish. Made in Norway by Marius Hammer. 1920s. Offered by  Evonne Antiques
A sculptural brooch of a heron set with a moonstone. Denmark. Circa 1910. Jacob Thage. Offered by Van Den Bosch

A Skonvirke silver brooch set with three red amber drops. Denmark. Circa 1910. Danish Jewellery. Jacob Thage.
Offered by Van Den Bosch

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