A Few Gems for New Year's Eve

Just a few blocks away from the Diamond District, the world’s most famous ball is preparing to drop. The glittering orb’s annual, vertical pilgrimage will ring in the New Year, just as it has every year since 1907.  The somewhat random tradition began after the city banned the raucous fireworks display that had marked the holiday in years prior (fair enough). Of course, sparkly spheres look just as nice dangling from ears as from sky scrapers.

Drawing on earlier pagan traditions, Julius Caesar officially designated January 1st as the first day of the new year in 46 BC. The month of January is named for the old Roman deity, Janus, god of change and new beginnings. He is often depicted as the Janus Bifrons; a head with two faces that looks into the past and present. A golden pendant, found in Bulgaria and dating to the 4th century BC illustrates:

A double-face gold pendant, 4th/3rd Century BC. History Museum of Schumen, Bulgaria. 

A double-face gold pendant, 4th/3rd Century BC. History Museum of Schumen, Bulgaria. 

Julius’s calendar was adopted and slightly updated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1576, re-confirming January 1st as the beginning of the New Year. Thus, over the course of a millennia, the Christian nations slowly adhered to the Gregorian calendar and the New Year’s date we know and love today. We’re a big fan of Gregory’s calendar, but also keen admirers of his papal ring stacking prowess:

Exchanging gifts on New Years Day was a longstanding tradition in many European courts. In 1405, Isabeau of Bavaria gave her husband, King Charles Charles VI of France this 62cm tall statue of solid gold studded with gems and pearls:

"The Golden Pony," sculpture, French c. 1405. Altlotting Church. 

"The Golden Pony," sculpture, French c. 1405. Altlotting Church. 

 

And who could overlook Norma Desmond’s stunning collection of gems at her New Year’s Eve soiree for two in the classic 1950 film Sunset Boulevard?

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in  Sunset Boulevard,  1950. Get a load of those bracelets!

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, 1950. Get a load of those bracelets!

 

Wishing you all a night to remember, and a happy and healthy 2015!

Fondly,

The Gray & Davis Team

Gray & Davis Holiday Gift Guide: For the Bride-to-be

It’s an exciting and stressful time for this lady. To tick one item off of her To-Do list, here are some ideas for her “something old.” Or, her “something borrowed” if you can’t bear to part with it yourself (wink!)

Early 20th century diamond bangle bracelet, available at Gray & Davis.

Early 20th century diamond bangle bracelet, available at Gray & Davis.

The diamond bangle

This gold and diamond bangle is the pinnacle of Old World elegance. 14k white gold filigree work extends from a center old European cut diamond, and tiny, twinkling old cut diamonds dot the navette-shaped open work. As was the standard when this bracelet was made (c.1900), any part that touches the skin was fashioned in yellow gold.

The navette brooch

Lovely Edwardian silver wire work is exemplary of this time period. The brooch glitters with rose cut diamonds around a central, horizontal design of bezel-set old European cut diamonds.

Edwardian diamond brooch, available in our  online shop . 

Edwardian diamond brooch, available in our online shop

Edwardian paste earrings, available in our  online shop . 

Edwardian paste earrings, available in our online shop

The sparkly dangles

I can’t believe it’s not diamonds! These dancing dangle earrings are set with faceted glass “paste” stones, an antique diamond simulant. Made in the romantic Belle Époque era around the turn-of-the-century, the pastes are set in silver with 14k gold shepherd’s hooks. A beautiful addition to a bridal suite of jewels.

 

Check out all of our Gift Guides here.

Gray & Davis Holiday Gift Guide: For the Trend Setter

In today’s world of mass-produced jewelry, the most fun way to find unique and original pieces is to go 100 years back in time.

Victorian 18k gold earrings, available in our  online shop .

Victorian 18k gold earrings, available in our online shop.

The Etruscan earrings

These crazy earrings aren't for the faint of heart. Incredible gold wire work on conical dangles was inspired by pre-Roman design, all in 18k yellow gold.

 

 

 

Art Deco platinum and diamond necklace, availabe in our  online shop .

Art Deco platinum and diamond necklace, availabe in our online shop.

The Revival necklace

Art Deco jewelry is celebrated for its bold geometric interpretations of ancient design, and this elegant pendant is no exception. Three geometric shapes fashioned in platinum swing from a delicate chain, allowing the necklace’s lucky 13 old cut diamonds to catch the light. 

 

Check out all of our Gift Guides here.

Gray & Davis Holiday Gift Guide: For the History Buff

For those who know that half the fun of wearing antique jewelry is telling stories about it!

The dirk pin

This pin would look just as much at home on a lapel of your tweed jacket as it would on the Victorian tourist that picked it up as a Scottish souvenir. Pretty tartan patterned enamel is studded with two yellow glass “paste” stones and crowned with a pale yellow citrine at the hilt. Extra points if you can name the clan it was meant to represent.

Victorian sterling silver pin with citrine, enamel and yellow pasts. Available at Gray & Davis.

Victorian sterling silver pin with citrine, enamel and yellow pasts. Available at Gray & Davis.

Georgian Stuart Crystal earrings in silver, 14k gold, made c.1820. Available at Gray & Davis.

Georgian Stuart Crystal earrings in silver, 14k gold, made c.1820. Available at Gray & Davis.

The Stuart crystal earrings 

Clear rock crystal is set atop a gold-wire monogram backed in pink foil in these Georgian earrings. Stuart crystal jewelry was first worn in secret support of King Charles I after his execution in 1659. The style caught on, and soon “Stuart” crystals were made in memorium for all sorts of individuals (we’re not sure whose initials are written in this specific pair).

Check out all of our Gift Guides here.

Museum Monday: Portrait Miniatures at the Met

Having a miniature portrait keepsake of one’s beloved, be they paramour or monarch, became popular among the ruling class in the 16th century. As with all elite fashions, this trend trickled down the social hierarchy, so that by the 18th century, portrait miniatures were a fairly common gift until the invention of photography. Using paint or enamel, fine detail work was expressed on a variety of surfaces, such as vellum, copper, or ivory. These paintings could framed and hanged, decorate the lid of a small box, or be set into jewelry.

Hans Holbein, a making a return appearance to our blog, was one of the early miniature portrait painters, and you can view his work, along with several other fine examples, in the exhibition “In Miniature” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through the end of December 2014. Some miniatures are displayed next to full size portraits of the same person, in order show the incredible detailed paid to the tiny faces in the miniatures. 

Victorian 18k gold and Swiss enamel dangling portrait earrings, at Gray & Davis.

Victorian 18k gold and Swiss enamel dangling portrait earrings, at Gray & Davis.

Georgian portrait miniature pendant in 12k gold, at Gray & Davis.

Georgian portrait miniature pendant in 12k gold, at Gray & Davis.

We particularly love seeing enamel portraits set into earrings. When worn, the portraits should always face each other so that they can always keep their loved ones in sight!

For more information, visit: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2014/in-miniature