18 August 2016

August 20 - National Honey Bee Day

World Honey Bee Day (previously referred to as Honey Bee Awareness Day) was founded in 2009 by beekeepers within the United States to raise awareness of bee keeping and the bee industry. This is done through education and promotion, and by honouring honey bees and bee cultivation world wide. 

Honey Bee

On this day, bee lovers everywhere decorate their gardens with lavender, borage and marjoram, which are considered the bee’s knees in pollinator lures. A honey bee is naturally distinguished by the production and storage of honey, but also by the construction of perennial, colonial nests made from wax. The most well-known honey bee is the Western honey bee which has been domesticated for honey production and crop pollination.

Drones (males) are made from unfertilised eggs, thus represent solely the DNA of the queen that laid the eggs. Workers and queens (both female) result from fertilised eggs, and therefore have both a mother and a father. Worker bees join forces to seek out food and use a pattern of "dancing" (known as the bee dance or waggle dance) to communicate data relating to resources with each other. Honey bees also perform tremble dances, which recruit receiver bees to gather nectar from returning foragers.

Here at Grays we honour World Honey Bee Day by displaying some of our own beautiful honey bee related items;

Bee brooch, available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

Hulkin + Heath silver swivel jar made in Birmingham 1920, available from Evonne Antiques 

Czech bee brooch, available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

Honey jar, Sheffield 1912, available from Jack Podlewski

Perspex bee brooch with gold and black body and clear wings, available from Linda Bee

Yardley powder box with bee decoration, available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

11 August 2016

Afternoon Tea Week

Afternoon Tea Week is in full swing and will run until 14 August. People throughout the UK will be celebrating one of the nation's favourite culinary pastimes with exclusive events and activities taking place at various locations.

Afternoon Tea is a tradition believed to have been started by Anna Maria Stanhope, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1841. It began with Stanhope's daily ritual of tea and a light snack to fill the gap between lunch and dinner. She would invite friends to join her, thus creating a new social event that became an important part of British society, still enjoyed today.

At Grays, we have found all the tea paraphernalia you could need to host an exquisite tea party!

Embossed sugar caster, Birmingham 1907, from AMS Antiques 

1930s Norwegian enamel spoons, from AMS Antiques 

1910 Birmingham sugar snips or tongs, Elkington & co, from AMS Antiques
Silver tea strain, Birmingham 1946, from Jack Podlewski

1920s Mappin & Webb tea strainer, from Jack Podlewski

Silver tea strainer with handle, 1913, from Jack Podlewski

Silver tea strainer, Birmingham 1929, from Jack Podlewski

German loose tea strainer spoon, from Jack Podlewski 

1900 silver pierce sugar bowl, from Raysil Antiques

1900 glass and silver sugar shaker, from Raysil Antiques

5 August 2016

Peridot: August's Birthstone

Peridot is the birthstone for the month of August. It is also the stone given to celebrate the sixteenth year of marriage. Peridots are clear with a distinct oily luster and their colour is often described as yellow-green, green with a golden tone, olive or bottle green, deep chartreuse, or just an excellent light green. The stone is one of a number of gems that aren't routinely treated and therefore the richness of its colour is often exceptional and completely natural.

Peridot isn't solely formed here on earth, but has also arrived to Earth from outer space! Many different gems have been found in meteorites, but peridot is the only gem that has been found in large enough sizes to create jewellery from.

In 1749, a meteor landed in a desolate area of Siberia. It had been found to contain several pieces of peridot crystals large enough to be set into jewellery. Nowadays most of the peridot mined comes from China, Pakistan and Arizona. Two of the best peridot collections in the world can be found at the Field Museum in Chicago, and also the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Here is a selection of some of the best peridot jewellery at Grays:

1950s Flower basket brooch. 18ct gold set with sapphire, amethyst, peridot, aquamarine and diamond. Available from The Antique Jewellery Company

Citrine Art Deco 18k Yellow Gold Ring with Aquamarine and Peridot, available from Leila in the Mews

1930s Peridot Dress Ring, available from Westminster Group

Edwardian Peridot Diamond Ring,  available from Sylvia Williams

Victorian Peridot & Ruby Bracelet, available from Alfred Toro

28 July 2016

Summer Celebrations: Antique Jugs at Grays

With the burst of summer which has been sprung upon us this week, comes the desire to celebrate outdoors. Antique pitchers and jugs are great for summer parties and dinners, indoors or out. These useful table pieces are a synergy of form and function and have always been used for celebrations. In fact, the wealthy Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians created many beautiful examples to adorn their tables. However, it was not until the 18th century that European manufacturers started to produce decorated jugs on a larger scale, although the word jug is first recorded in the late 15th century as jugge or jubbe.

Now, it is the Venetian glass examples, or those made by Britain's big ceramics houses in the 18th and 19th centuries that are highly collectable.

Here is a selection of the top pieces from Grays:

Etched glass, silver overlay, hammered silver, jug  c1910, American. From Evonne Antiques.

Silver etched jug 1900-1910. From Evonne Antiques.

Silver overlay glass jug, c1900s, American. From Evonne Antiques.

Venetian Jug c1880. From Mousa Antiques.

Bohemian Jug c1880. From Mousa Antiques.

 English pitcher, c1900. From Mousa Antiques.

Moser Jug ca1880-1890. From Mousa Antiques.

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

21 July 2016

The Great Fire of London

Fire! Fire! is a new exhibition showing at the Museum of London this summer, which documents life in London before, during and after the Great Fire of 1666. It will run from 23 July 2016 until 17 April 2017.

Great fire of London

The Great Fire of London started on Sunday the 2nd September 1666 in the bakery of Thomas Faryner - the King's baker - on Pudding Lane near London Bridge. It didn't take long before 300 houses had collapsed and the strong east wind spread the flames even further.

By the 4th of September half of London was in flames, and it would take another whole day before the fire, on the 6th of September, had been extinguished altogether. By this time, only one fifth of London was left standing.

The fire is estimated to have destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City's 80,000 inhabitants, destroying 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul's Cathedral, and most of the buildings of the City authorities. The fire threatened but did not reach the district of Westminster, Charles II's Palace of Whitehall, and most of the suburban slums.

Many artifacts were found after the fire giving clues to what happened. For example, a melted piece of pottery that can be seen on display at the Museum of London, was found in Pudding Lane, showing evidence that the temperature reached up to 1700 °C.

Below we have on offer historical items from around this period, available at Grays.

16th century Bill style edged blade with curled beak & wrap around socket. The shaft is decorated with leather & lion studs, with a crimson velvet tassel, available from Leons Militaria.
Rare slide of the monarch Charles II with botanical enameling to reverse. 17th century, available from Rowan & Rowan.
A rare 17th century wriggled-worked plate by a London pewter, available from Jane Stewart.

Late 16th century halberd with 18th century spike. The blade & beak has re-enforced points & traces of etched decorations, available from Leons Militaria.

A silver brush with the top hallmarked London 1695 and engraved with a armorial, available from P & R Szuhay.

14 July 2016

The Birthstone of July - Ruby

The ruby is one of the four recognised precious stones together with emerald, sapphire and diamond. The name ruby comes from the Latin word rubens which simply means red, and can be found in many different shades. The most sought after is the pigeon or dove blood ruby, because of its beautiful deep shade.

Ruby is deemed by many cultures to be the most precious gemstone. It is often associated with the sun and is believed to possess many positive effects and mystical properties. Ruby is also known as the stone of courage and passion.

The most rare and highly valued ruby is the star ruby. Inside of the ruby is what appears to be a six-ray star with perfect symmetry. A beautiful feature of this stone is that the centre of the star moves when the stone is moved. It is usually found within smaller stones, of a weight of three carats or less.

Some famous rubies include the "Rosser Reeves Star Ruby," the "Edwardes Ruby," the "De Long Star Ruby"  and the "Hope Ruby".

Below we have chosen a selection of some of Grays most beautiful ruby items.

Victorian ring set with Burma ruby and two old cut diamonds, in 18ct yellow gold. Available from Alexandra Engagement Rings

An 18ct white gold set ruby eternity ring, available from S. Greenstein

Edwardian dragonfly brooch set with ruby, pearl and diamond 15ct gold. Available from Wimpole

Gold mounted ruby and rose cut diamond cufflinks in 18ct gold, circa 1890. Available from Nigel Norman

1950s Dark Red Ruby Cluster Ring surrounded by a row of white clean diamonds. Set in 18ct White Gold. Available from DB Gems

7 July 2016

Interchangeable Jewellery

Many items of antique jewellery are multifunctional, allowing expensive pieces to be worn in other ways. Very often Victorian brooches, for example, have a removable brooch fitting, enabling the piece to be also worn as a pendant, a centre piece for a choker necklace or even as a hair ornament. 

Interchangeable jewellery continued to be fashionable during the Art Deco period. Double clips that could be worn separately as dress clips, or jointly as a larger brooch were typical. Earrings with detachable elements provided a day to night option.

We love interchangeable jewellery for its ingenuity, masterful craftsmanship and versatility. At Grays we have a wonderful selection, here is just a small choice of what we have on offer...

Gold brooch/pendant, lapis and diamond, French, c1900. Offered by Emmy Abe

Edwardian diamond and platinum pendant/brooch, c1910, offered by John Joseph

Georgian cameo pendant/brooch, offered by Alice Gulesserian

Silver and gold angel brooch/pendant, natural pearl and diamond, enamel work. c1880, offered by Emmy Abe

Early Victorian memorial brooch/pendant, seed pearl and turquoise, offered by Aurum

Gold, diamond and enamel Boucheron ladybird, movable wings, offered by John Joseph

Edwardian necklace, pendant - platinum & diamond, interchangeable enamel discs, with tool. Offered by John Joseph
1950s French citrine, amethyst and blue topaz interchangeable ring, offered by Diem

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