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

30 June 2016

The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia

This week, the Art & Antiques Fair is taking place at Olympia, London - running from 27 June until 3 July. In its 44th year, it is a key event in the art and antiques calendar globally, and attracts around 30,000 visitors. The 160 exhibitors stock a varied range of vintage and antique items, from antiquity to present day and prices range from £100 to £1million.

At Grays several of our dealers exhibit annually, including Anthea AG AntiquesHorton London, John JosephSerhat Ahmet AntiquesSue Brown and Wimpole Antiques. It is a fantastic opportunity to see their collections in a different setting, amongst another 100 odd fantastic dealers.

Olympia Art & Antiques Fair. Image courtesy of www.olympia-art-antiques.com.

Here are a selection of our favourite pieces from Grays' participating dealers:

An elegant French inkwell with fine champlevé enamelling to the border and wells, circa 1880. Available from Serhat Ahmet Antiques
Cartier love bangles with diamonds in.. Available from Anthea AG Antiques.

1830s regard heart pendant set in 18ct gold in its original box. Available from Anthea AG Antiques.

A diamond and kunzite pendant set in 18ct white gold with white gold chain. Available from Horton London.

A diamond and platinum ring set with two pear shaped diamonds. Available from Horton London.

Victorian gold on silver diamond opening heart locket, c1880, available from John Joseph

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

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

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