12 October 2017

The Art of Maiolica

Maiolica wet drug jar, Montelupo, Italy, 17th Century. Available at Guest and Gray

Maiolica is the name given to the tin- glazed earthenware which flourished in Renaissance Italy.

In the early 1400’s, fine ceramics from Moorish Spain began to reach Italy, mainly through the trading port of Majorca, from which ‘Maiolica’ is thought to derive its name.

The Spanish ceramicists had mastered the art of the tin glaze, whereby tin oxide (purchased as a powdery white ash) is applied to kiln-fired clay. The glaze produces the characteristically opaque white background, to which other colours are delicately applied. 

 Maiolica was used for a variety of practical wares such as plates, bowls, tiles and drug jars; but it is perhaps best known in the form of the show dish.

Large decorative dishes in the Istoriato style, (translated literally as ‘painted with stories’) became popular in the 1500’s. Historical, biblical and mythological scenes inspired their decoration.

The chemical qualities of the tin glaze protect and preserve colour and line with a glass-like finish. The technique has ensured that over hundreds of years the distinctive designs of Maiolica appear much as they did when they were first produced, offering a fascinating insight into the visual world of Renaissance Italy.

Maiolica is produced in Italy to this day and workshops throughout Europe have sought to revive it's unique aesthetic since the Renaissance. If you are enchanted by the beauty of this fascinating ceramic, we've selected some original antique and revival style pieces available at Grays...
Maiolica plate, Castelli Italy, c.1700. Available at Guest and Gray.

Maiolica 'Istoriato' dish, Urbino, Italy, c.16th century. Available at Guest and Gray
Maiolica Apothecary Jar, Montelupo Italy, c17th-18th century. Available at Guest and Gray.
'Istoriato' Show Dish, Continental Revival, c.1800. Available at Patrick Boyd Carpenter
Maiolica Armorial Jar, Montelupo, Italy, c.1500-1520. Available at Guest and Gray.

6 October 2017

Birthstone of the month: Opal & Tourmaline

October's birthstone is considered one of the most desirable because it has two stones to choose from - opals which are famous for their "play on colours", and tourmaline known for its wide array of colours.  

Through the ages, Monarchs have treasured opals, both for their beauty and their protective powers.  Traditionally set into crowns and necklaces they were worn to repel evil and protect the eyesight.  The opal has certainly had a reputation over the centuries from the time of The Black Death, when they mainly believed the gem to be the cause of death, thus losing its buying appeal. Then in the Elizabethan period it was deemed a treasured beauty, which was further expressed during Queen Victoria's reign when she gifted opal  jewellery to her children, thus recreating an increase in popularity again.  However, the stone continued to have a mixed reputation, no thanks to the novel Anne of Geuerstein - written by Sir Walter Scott in 1887 - who depicted the opal as an evil stone.

Tourmaline, the alternate birthstone for October, is a gemstone that displays a vast spectrum of colours and is often misidentified as ruby, emerald or sapphire.

Here at Grays you will find a wonderful display of opal and tourmaline pieces waiting to be discovered.

Edwardian 18ct gold, four stone opal & diamond ring. Available at The Antique Jewellery Company

Edwardian 18ct gold, large opal & rose diamond cluster ring. Available at The Antique Jewellery Company

Victorian tortoise opal brooch dated 1870s, with cahonsion eyes set in silver and gold. Available at DB Gems

Opal cufflinks. Dated 1890. Available at DB Gems

1920s Mexican fire opal platinum ring. Available at DB Gems

Opal and heart brooch. Dated 1890. Available at DB Gems

1930s Suite, 70ct green tourmaline rose gold and diamonds. Available at Bellum Antiques

A very high quality white oval opal ring surrounded by 1.0 ct diamonds. Available at S.Greenstein
18ct Gold mounted wood opal and ruby stone set lady's tortoise brooch, c1960s. Available at Shapiro & Co

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