20 March 2015

First Day of Spring

On the day of the equinox, the Sun's centre spends a roughly equal amount of time below and above the horizon in every location on the Earth, making night and day almost the same length. At the poles, the rate of change for the length of daylight and night-time is also greatest, being the start of the transition from 24 hours of night-time to 24 hours of daylight.

This year there is a total eclipse of the Sun on the day of the equinox, this is a rare event that does not occur again until 2034. An equinox is a phenomenon that can occur on any planet, most notably on Saturn, placing its ring system facing toward the Sun. This produces a visible thin line that can be seen from Earth. The most recent exact equinox for Saturn was on 11 August 2009 occurring again on 30 April 2024.

It was due to the equinox that in 1610, Galileo became the first person to observe the rings of Saturn. They looked to him like two enormous satellites nearly touching the main body. Two years later he noticed the so-called satellites had disappeared but subsequently materialised. He wrote, "I do not know what to say in a case so surprising, so unlooked for and so novel."

In addition, on March 20 we have a second celestial event with a Supermoon in our sky turning into a "New Moon". To celebrate the start of spring and all the life and fruit that comes with it, we have selected a range of fresh and fruity pieces to bring in the new season.

Vintage plastic cherry brooch avaliable from Linda Bee

1950s murano glass necklace avaliable from Linda Bee

Strawberry brooch avaliable from Tings Jewellery Box

1930s grape hat with bow avaliable from Unicorn
1940s grape bangle avaliable from Unicorn

1960s lemon necklace avaliable from Unicorn

14 March 2015

Cocktail Rings

Big, bold and bling! These are the essential qualities of a cocktail ring. It is certainly a ring that demands attention and allows its wearer to make a bold statement.

Its fascinating history goes back to the 1920s; the start of the Art Deco period synonymous with exuberant style and dazzling jewellery. It was a time of Prohibition in America, where illegal cocktail parties became the norm among the wealthy. More fashion freedom for women, cocktails and cigarettes, as well as dancing 'til dawn at illegal parties were all part of women’s emancipation at the time. “Dare to wear” was a guiding rule for women, who would wear their grandiose cocktail rings ostentatiously.  A typical ring of the time would display at least a three carat focal stone, surrounded by small diamonds or coloured gemstones. Cocktail rings were usually worn on the right hand ring or index finger and reflected the style and personality of the modern woman.  A symbol of “Girl Power”, a cocktail ring was certainly something to be reckoned with!

Today, cocktail rings continue to be in demand and can be worn to many different occasions. While the earlier rings showcased precious stones, the 1950s saw many cocktail rings made by costume jewellery designers using faux stones and thus becoming more affordable.

Whatever your style or budget, the dealers at Grays have some really eye catching cocktail beauties to chose from:

Emerald cut amethyst & diamond cocktail ring in platinum, c.1925. Offered by Robin Haydock

1940s tourmaline cocktail ring in 18ct gold. Offered by The Pearl Gallery

1940s old cut diamond cocktail ring in 18ct gold. Offered by The Pearl Gallery

1960s lapis lazuli and diamond cocktail ring in 18ct gold. Offered by Anthea

1960s coral onyx & diamond cocktail ring in 18ct gold. Offered by Anthea 
Square ring with large brown faux stone surrounded by white paste stones, c.1960s. Offered by Linda Bee

1980s blue glass stone cocktail ring in gilt metal. Offered by Gillian Horsup

6 March 2015

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Each year we celebrate Mother's Day which is an occasion for honouring mothers and giving them presents. Unbeknown to most people it is also known as Mothering Sunday, a Christian holiday which is celebrated on the mid Sunday in Lent by Catholic and Protestant Christians in some parts of Europe.

The origins of Mothering Sunday are attributed to Constance Penswick-Smith who was inspired by a campaign by Anna Jarvis (1864-1948), an American. Three years after her mother's death, Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in West Virginia (today the International Mother's Day Shrine), marking the first official observance of Mother's Day. Anna Jarvis embarked upon a campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognised holiday and eventually succeeded.

In the UK, Constance Penswick-Smith established a movement to promote "Mothering Sunday". She believed that “a day in praise of mothers” was fully expressed in the liturgy of the Church of England for the fourth Sunday of Lent. Her idea was that Mothering Sunday should not be limited to one Christian denomination, and its popularity spread through open organisations such as the Boy Scouts and Girls Guides. Under the pen-name C. Penswick Smith she published a booklet The Revival of Mothering Sunday in 1920.

Although Mother's Day and Mothering Sunday are often mixed up, they essentially have the same objective - a day of the year on which mothers are particularly honoured by their children.

At Grays, we have a selection of gift ideas your Mother would appreciate.....

Cameo brooch gold mount 9ct, c.1900 offered by Alice Gulesserian

Brooch watch gold plated, c.1920s offered by Alice Gulesserian
Ladybird box, enamel and silver, c1920, offered by Jack Podlewski
Felspar porcelain armorial fruit bowl c1840 by Copeland & Garrett (1833 - 1847), offered by Alan Wilson

Boxed silver grape shears, London 1893. Offered by AMS Antiques Ltd

27 February 2015

You are the Great Cat

The most established record of a feline's relationship with people originates from Cyprus where, around 9,500 years back, it was found that a wildcat was buried with a human. It was the Ancient Egyptian culture however, that became prominent for its devotion to the cat. Cats became a respected creature and one essential to Egyptian culture and religion. Felines were so revered they received the same embalming after death as humans. An extensive Egyptian tomb with embalmed felines was discovered by a farmer in 1888. This revelation discovered outside the town of Beni Hasan had eighty thousand feline mummies, dated after 1000 BC.

The export of cats from Egypt was so strictly prohibited that a branch of the government was formed solely to deal with this issue, in addition killing a cat was punishable by death. It is recorded that when a feline passed on, the family would go into grieving as though for a human relative, and would frequently shave their eyebrows to illustrate their misfortune.   
Nevertheless, the Egyptians' love for cats would eventually be the source of their demise. In the Battle of Pelusium (525 BC) Cambyses II of Persia conquered Egypt, defeating the forces of Pharaoh Psametik III. Cambyses had his soldiers round up cats and drive them before the Egyptian forces. The Persian soldiers then held cats in their arms, and decorated their shields with images of cats as they marched behind the wall of felines. Reluctant to defend themselves for fear of harming the cats, the Egyptians surrendered the city and let Egypt fall to the Persians.

An inscription in the Valley of the Kings states, "You are the Great Cat, the avenger of the gods, and the judge of words, and the president of the sovereign chiefs and the governor of the holy Circle; you are indeed the Great Cat."

You can find a wide variety of wonderful feline antiques throughout Grays. Here is a selection of our favourite pieces:

Broach, Egyptian style cat 1930s from Linda Bee
Vintage three head cat ring from Gillian Horsup vintage jewelery

Mother holding two kittens, Bronze, 1895-1910. From Mariad Antiques

1980's sterling silver cat earnings from Tings jewelery box

Porcelain cat from Gillian Horsup vintage jewelery
Cat taking photo with camera and Cat playing squash, Bronze, 1895-1910. From Mariad Antiques

1930s straw filled toy cat, from Linda Bee

20 February 2015

Chinese Art at Grays

Chinese art, like Chinese history, is typically classified by the succession of ruling dynasties of Chinese emperors, most of which lasted several hundred years. It is based on or draws on Chinese heritage and culture.  

Early forms of art in China were made from pottery and jade in the Neolithic period, to which bronze was added in the Shang Dynasty. In early imperial China, porcelain was introduced and was refined to the point that in English the word 'china' has become synonymous with high-quality porcelain.

Grays houses an extensive collection of Chinese art. Our Asian art dealers such as A Guest & Gray, Wheatley Antiques,  David Bowden, Jeremy J.Mason and Anita Gray, stock an incredible selection of items including Chinese jade, pottery, glass and bronze. 

With Chinese New Year underway, we focused on the latest offerings of Chinese art from our new showcase dealer Alexandra’s Art Corner.

Glass snuff bottle with double horse motif

Snuff Bottle
It’s said that snuff was introduced to China between the end of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the beginning of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by Matteo Ricci who was an was an Italian Jesuit priest. His 1602 map of the world in Chinese characters introduced the findings of European exploration to East Asia.

Covered jade vase

Chinese Jade
Chinese jade is the primary hardstone of Chinese sculpture. It was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, ranging from indoor decorative items to jade burial suits, reflecting the ancient Chinese belief that jades would confer immortality or prolong life and prevent decay.

Soapstone carving of Buddha

Soapstone Carving
After jade, the principal stone carved by the Chinese is soap-stone, a very soft material varying in colour from a light brown or pale green to a distinctive rich and deep red. Soapstone has been carved by the Chinese for centuries.

Double gourd vase

Huluping; ‘Double-Gourd' Vase
Huluping derives its form from a double gourd, a shape that was made possible by the invention of the Longquan Kiln during the Southern Song dynasty. As a symbol of fertility, the double gourd is considered to be good luck. It is also a Daoist emblem of immortality.

All these items and many more are on display in Alexandra’s Art Corner showcase, FS007.

12 February 2015

Vintage Fashion Accessories at Grays

Next week from the 20th to the 24th of February, the international fashion pack will congregate in London to focus on the latest catwalk trends for London Fashion Week. During this time, London reinstates itself as the style capital of the world.

Amongst the designer shops in Mayfair is Grays Antiques. To those in the know, Grays is a fashion destination for accessories, we have vintage costume jewellery dealers who have a wealth of knowledge about their items, most of which are pieces by designer names such as Miriam Haskell, Trifari, Lea Stein, Christian Dior and Butler & Wilson. Vintage costume jewellery is the perfect accompaniment to clothing and the right accessories can complete an outfit.

Mixing vintage with new adds a touch of style and sophistication, here's a selection of what's on offer at Grays.

Sterling silver and mother of pearl panther brooch inspired by the Duchess of Windsor's collection, 1930s. Offered by Arabella Bianco.
Gilt vintage bird S.A.L. (Swarovski) brooch, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery 

Gold bracelet with handpainted pink cabochons and black demi lunes. 1930s/40s. Offered by Kitty Verity
Large pair of floral seed pearl beaded earrings, designed by Miriam Haskell. Offered by Kitty Verity.

Pair of gold tone clip earrings with green glass piece, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

A beautifully carved floral brooch from the 1930s, offered by Ting's Jewellery Box
Deco black cellluloid & paste bangle, offered by Unicorn;
Vintage gold tone and black enamel panther bangle, offered by Arabella Bianco
Long 1950s gold coloured necklace with garnet coloured paste, offered by Ting's Jewellery Box
Stunning pair of perspex and gold plated earrings, offered by Linda Bee

6 February 2015

Valentine's Gifts Ideas at Grays

Love it or hate it, the annual love-a-palooza is upon us. With Cupid’s arrow set to fire on Valentine’s Day, we have no time to waste.

Cupid's arrow is one of the most widely recognised symbols of love. We all know what happens when Cupid, aka Eros, strikes with his golden bolts. A person falls instantly in love, which isn't always a bed of roses, as we all know. If you have never been in love though -- watch out! Cupid may be stringing his bow and taking aim at you this very minute! 

Edwardian diamond & pearl arrow brooch. Offered by The Antique Jewellery Company

To help you find the perfect way to get your message across, be inspired by our Valentine’s gift ideas below.

Selection of antique lockets. Offered by Spectrum
French opera/theatre binoculars, Paris 1890. Gilded brass and hand painted enamel. Offered by AMS Antiques
Heart shaped frame, London 1900. Offered by Raysil Antiques
Art Deco gold filled pocket watch. Offered by Nayabelle
1920s cigar cutter and ashtray. Offered by Jack Podlewski

If you are planning to pop the question on this most romantic day of the year, Grays offers a fantastic opportunity to find that unique engagement ring. Our dealers stock the finest selection of antique and vintage engagement rings from the early Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco eras through to the late 1980s and modern times. Although diamonds are a girl’s best friend, coloured gemstones such as ruby, sapphire and emerald have become hugely popular in recent years. With Kate Middleton setting the trend with her beautiful sapphire engagement ring we encourage you to experiment with different styles and periods to mark that special occasion. For more information read our Grays Guide to Buying an Engagement Ring, or pay us a visit. The Grays' personal shoppers are now on hand to help you find exactly what you are looking for. This service is free of charge and an appointment can be made by calling 020 7629 7034.

Edwardian emerald & diamond ring, c1910. Offered by Emmy Abe
1920s sapphire & emerald cut diamond ring set in platinum. Offered by Alexandra Engagement Rings
Three stone ruby & diamond half carved ring, c.1890. Offered by Robin Haydock

Why not personalise your  Valentine's gifts with Grays’ in house engravers - Bennett & Thorogood - who can engrave on a wide range of items such as gold and silver jewellery, watches, tankards, napkins and even umbrellas!

Last but not least, the one present that makes everyone happy and excited to shop is the gift voucher. Grays' gift vouchers can be purchased in £10, £20, or £50 denominations at reception.

For more Valentine's gift ideas be sure to visit us at Grays. Happy Valentine's shopping!
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