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!

30 January 2015

It was all Yellow

Throughout history yellow has had various connotations; specifically playing an important role in Asian culture. In China yellow is the colour of happiness, glory, and wisdom and is considered to be the most beautiful and prestigious colour. Yellow was often used in the robes and attire of the emperors along with decoration on royal palaces. Yellow is also used in Buddhism as the colour of Monks’ garments and appears heavily on temples. Within geography there are five directions of the Chinese compass; north, south, east, west, and the middle. Yellow signifies the middle, or Middle Kingdom, which is considered to be in the exact centre of the world.

However, yellow has not always had such positive connotations in the West, it can be seen as the colour of ambivalence and jealousy. Yellow is also symbolic in America of cowardice, as opposed to the Chinese association of the colour with heroism. This is believed to be due to the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods where yellow was established as the colour of clothes worn by Judas Iscariot; the disciple who betrayed Christ. This connection branded yellow with connotations of envy and  jealousy.

Yellow is a colour more commonly associated with gold, taken from the Latin word ‘arum’ which translates as ‘yellow’. In Ancient Egypt, yellow/gold was considered to be what the skin and bones of the gods were made of, as it was perceived as imperishable and indestructible. The Egyptians used yellow extensively in tomb paintings using either yellow ochre or the highly toxic brilliant orpiment made from arsenic, also found in a small paint box within the tomb of King Tutankhamen. The earliest traces of yellow made from yellow ochre pigment in clay has been found in prehistoric stone art in the cave of Lascaux, France estimated to be 17,300 years old.

There are a wide range of yellow gems and stones which can be found in many items at Grays such as Amber, yellow sapphire, yellow jade and yellow diamond.

French 18ct gold flower earrings, offered by DB Gems

Citrine Heart Ring by Repossi, offered by DB Gems

18th Century lemon yellow enamelled curiosity bon bon box, offered by Michael Longmore

19th Century High quality cut glass Bohemian goblet with cover, offered by Mousa Antiques

Art Deco Egyptian Revival necklace, offered by MGN Collectables

Brocade Chinese vintage jacket, offered by Vintage Modes

8 January 2015

British Pewter

Pewter has a long and proud history in Britain. It is a metal alloy, a mix of about 96% tin with traces of copper, antimony and silver. Its excellent malleable nature has been harnessed for thousands of years, introduced by the Romans to Britain around the 2nd century AD using tin mined in Cornwall.

In the centuries that followed, most of the pewter made here was for the church, and by the 12th century tiny exquisite pewter badges were cast for the pilgrimages to Canterbury, Walsingham, Windsor, to name a few. Pewter was used to make chalices, patens and spoons for ceremonial use, but the versatility of this alloy was soon recognised by the broader society. Wealthy merchant classes wanted their plates made of pewter, and for a while it was a certain status symbol.  By the 14th century domestic pewter was being widely used and most towns had pewter workshops. The Worshipful Company of Pewterers was founded in 1474 to oversee the quality of the pewterers’ work and their conduct. This livery company is still in the city of London, and has a fine representative collection of British pewter including many pieces of historical importance as well as high quality contemporary pieces.

The late 15th to 17th centuries became the “Golden Age” of British pewter – the simple but stunning designs combined with the soft, subtle colour appealed to many.  Most of today’s collectors adore the plates, flagons, spoons, cups, chargers and candlesticks that were produced during this time - some are very rare; all are collectable. Unlidded mugs and lidded tankards may be the most familiar pewter artefacts from the late 17th and 18th centuries. By the 18th century pewter would have been found in every household, no longer exclusive to wealthy merchants, nobles and church officials.

The Industrial Revolution and the arrival of ceramics from Holland and the Far East in the 18th century heralded a decline in popularity and the manufacture of pewter. The industry shrank and this once highly desirable metal was banished to the taverns. Pewter tankards and measures were still being used in pubs as late as the 1930s.

Pewter saw some revival in popularity in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods and is still being produced today. Modern British pewter continues to be prized across the globe for fine craftsmanship, practicality and high design standards.

Below are some fine examples of British pewter from Jane Stewart’s extensive collection which can be viewed in her two showcases FS05 and FS06 located in the basement of the MewsJane Stewart is a member of The Pewter Society and has been dealing in pewter since 1981. She is a respected and long established dealer at Grays and has gained a reputation for fine quality pewter from the 15th century to the present day. We are proud to have her expertise in house.  All items on display in showcases FS05 and FS06 can be purchased at the reception.

Selection of pewter in showcase FS05. Offered by Jane Stewart
Wavy edged pewter plate with noble crest, late 18th century. Offered by Jane Stewart
Pewter wine funnel with a hook, c.1790s. Offered by Jane Stewart
Half pint pewter tankard with curvy handle, c.1820s. Offered by Jane Stewart
Pewter sprinklers for pepper and spices, c.1790s-1820s. Offered by Jane Stewart

For more information or to book an appointment with Jane Stewart contact her directly:
Phone: +44 7767 685 049
Email:  francoise.jane@gmail.com

18 December 2014

Last Minute Gift Ideas

We know how stressful the hunt for the perfect Christmas gift can be, at Grays you can be rest assured you will find that special item. With over 200 dealers and a wide range of stock, why not avoid the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street and make a short detour to Grays where our dealers are at hand to give you expert information about their stock.

For inspiration, we've compiled a small selection of potential gift ideas. If you visit Grays, it will soon become apparent you are spoiled for choice!

Attwood & Sawyer vintage crab brooch - diamante & red stones, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

Victorian Diamond & Enamel ‘Friendship’ Pendant in Original Case, offered by The Antique Jewellery Company.
Royal Worcester Floral & Butterfly Vases on Black Ground, c.1865, offered by Serhat Ahmet
1930s Silver & Enamel Compact, offered by Evonne Antiques
French Art Deco cufflinks 18ct gold fittings, offered by DB Gems.
Large silver & enamel Austrian box, c.1900, offered by Jack Podlewski

Art Deco enamel vase, offered by Mark Hill
Art Deco Silver Mounted Desk Calendar, offered by Ars Memoriae
Vintage pens, offered by Shabbir Solanki Antiques

We would like to remind you all, the last day of trading at Grays this year will be Wednesday 24 December 10am until 4pm. We will re-open in the New Year, Friday January 2, from 10am until 6pm as usual.

We wish you all a very merry Christmas and New Year!

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