From the Gray & Davis Archives

Below are a few of the fabulous jewels of Gray & Davis past. We’re glad these pieces went to good homes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce!

From Top to Bottom

- Antique brooch featuring a large red garnet and 'diamond' paste wings

- Victorian locket with realistic turquoise scarab beetle

- Stunning pair of Victorian buckle bangles with tracery enamel detailing

- Articulated amethyst drop earrings, c. 1840

- Beautiful carved flower locket, c. 1900

- 19th century turquoise gypsy ring

- Art Nouveau gold locket with a lady and diamond-studded flowers

- Victorian gold beaded necklace with intricate applied wirework details

- Fabulous crowned heart brooch with diamonds set in gold-backed silver

- Golden lover's knot brooch

- Georgian gold torpedo earrings, c. 1830

Hearts in History

The heart is an ancient symbol of unknown origins, and has been incorporated in romantic jewels since at least the middle ages.

Gold Brooch c. 1400, probably France or England. Victoria & Albert Museum.

Gold Brooch c. 1400, probably France or England. Victoria & Albert Museum.

This golden pin would have been used to fasten a garment, and the back is engraved in French with the message "Ourselves and all things, at your whim."

Add a little crook to the heart's point and it becomes a "witch's heart."

Silver and garnet brooch c. 1770. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Silver and garnet brooch c. 1770. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

These neat little tokens first appear in the British isles in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Originally they were used as protective amulets, but later on were gifted to both men and women as symbols of love. 

 

A crowned heart denotes loyalty.

Silver gilt scent case, Germany, 18th Century. Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Silver gilt scent case, Germany, 18th Century. Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Place the crowned heart in a pair of hands for "friendship", and you have Claddagh ring. 

Diamond, silver & enameled gold ring c. 1706. Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Diamond, silver & enameled gold ring c. 1706. Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Claddagh rings are named after an old Irish fishing village. They are a variation of the ancient fede rings that take the form of two clasped hands.  This lovely jewel was used as a wedding ring, and is inscribed "Dudley and Katherine united 26. March 1706."

Two hearts joined together? That's a symbol that speaks for itself. 

Moonstone, pearl and gold double-heart bangle, 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

Moonstone, pearl and gold double-heart bangle, 19th century. Currently available at Gray & Davis.

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An Introduction to Lovers' Eyes

With Valentine’s Day on the way, we wanted to highlight one of the most romantic jewelry trends of all-time: the “lover’s eye.”

"Lover's Eye" brooch. English, early 19th century. Victoria &amp; Albert Museum.&nbsp;

"Lover's Eye" brooch. English, early 19th century. Victoria & Albert Museum. 

These delightful and odd little jewels became popular for their role in the love affair between the future King George IV of England and his secret sweetheart, Mrs. Fitzherbert (shown below). After a faux suicide attempt failed to win the Mrs.’ affection, George sent her a locket containing a portrait of his eye, along with the note:

“P.S. I send you a parcel … and I send you at the same time an Eye, if you have not totally forgot the whole countenance. I think the likeness will strike you.”

Not long after the gift was received, Mrs. Fitzherbert and George were married in secret. Naturally, the new bride commissioned a portrait of her own eye for the Prince’s use. As the story of the royal couple’s romantic gestures spread, so did the vogue for eye miniatures set in jewelry.

Lover's Eye miniature c. 1830, Winterthur Museum.&nbsp;

Lover's Eye miniature c. 1830, Winterthur Museum. 

Lovers’ eyes became popular during a time when upper-class marriages were more often about politics than passion, and taking an extramarital lover was not uncommon. The nature of these partial portraits made it difficult for nosey observers to discover the true identity of the sitter, and kept safe the secrets of clandestine couples. 

Jewels of the First First Ladies

To celebrate Independence Day, we wanted to take a look at some of the jewels worn by the women who played First Lady to our founding fathers.

A portrait of young Martha Washington.

A portrait of young Martha Washington.

As the very first First Lady of the United States of America, Martha Washington understood the importance of keeping up appearances. Though she was not ostentatious in her wardrobe choices, Martha did average about $150 per year in jewelry purchases, and some surviving pieces (shown below) reveal a penchant for garnets and seed pearls, which were very trendy in the late eighteenth century. 

Abigail Adams and her husband John were of more modest means than the Washingtons, and she sensibly decided on faux pearls rather than the real thing. One of her necklaces survives in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum.

First Lady Abigail Adams.

First Lady Abigail Adams.

Faux pearl necklace worn by Abigail Adams.

Faux pearl necklace worn by Abigail Adams.

Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter Martha (called Patsy) filled the role of first lady while her father was in the white house. There are no surviving portraits of Patsy with jewelry on, but there is a piece of surviving jewelry with a portrait of Patsy on it: a pendant with a hand painted miniature, likely commissioned by her father in 1789. 

Dolley Madison followed the trend of modest jewelry among first ladies, opting for simple gold pieces in an 1804 portrait, and a strand of pearls with small diamond earrings for a portrait painted in 1817, her last year in the white house. 

Our last First Lady of the day, Elizabeth, Monroe felt a bit more comfortable with large jewels than her predecessors. A substantial cross of golden topaz and impressive amethyst tiara show her taste towards court dress of European nations. 

 

So Happy Independence Day, and in the words of Abigail Adams, "remember the ladies" who helped to lead our country in its earliest days.