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

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