Art Deco Adventures in New York City

By our shop in midtown Manhattan, relics from the interwar era when Deco design flourished are everywhere. 

The name ‘Art Deco’ is derived from the 1925 Paris world’s fair, officially titled L’ Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes. Though the French get most of the credit for popularizing moderne décor, Americans also embraced the new decorative style characterized by bold geometry, stylized representations of ancient motifs, and flat surfaces activated by line.

Gates that once lead to the executive suite in the Chanin building. Now in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. 

Gates that once lead to the executive suite in the Chanin building. Now in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. 

The favorite Art Deco haunt of the Gray & Davis team has to be the Fred. F. French building, located on 5th Ave only a few blocks south of the Diamond District. Built in the late 1920s, the French building is a masterfully done and oft overlooked skyscraper that reinterprets art from the Ancient Near East in a distinctly Deco manner.  

As an added bonus, the French building’s lobby now houses a strange tropical bar run by the Tommy Bahama flagship store (yes, that Tommy Bahama). Enjoying the beautiful and lively architecture of the lobby, now almost a century old, while sipping an absurdly strong corporate Mai Tai is a truly enjoyable New York moment. 

Say YES to Wednesday: 1.02 Carat Art Deco Diamond Engagement Ring

This darling Deco engagement ring features a 1.02 carat old European cut center bordered by sparkly half-moons and single cut diamonds. The band is decorated with delicate pierce work and laurel leaf engraving

The center diamond is a GIA certified 1.02ct H, VS2 old European cut. The ring dates c.1920.

 

Would you say yes?

Say YES to Wednesday: Edwardian three diamond 'halo' engagement ring

This very special Edwardian engagement ring features three old European cut diamonds stacked North to South and surrounded by a sparkling halo of rose cuts. Charming leaf-motif shoulders connect the center diamonds to a dainty 18k yellow gold band. 

The center old European cuts have a total carat weight of 1.11cts, and are set in platinum atop an 18k yellow gold band. The ring dates c. 1900.

 

Would you say yes?

Knight's Fancy Ornaments

By far the oldest book in our little Gray & Davis library is a copy of Knight’s Unique & Fancy Ornaments, published in London c. 1834.

In the early 1800s, Knight’s published a number of design books to be used as inspiration by craftsmen of all trades. The elaborate illustrations in Unique and Fancy Ornaments are clearly geared towards jewelers, and mostly consist of Baroque and Rococo scrollwork filled with adorable animals:

On a few of the pages, grid lines were penciled in by a jeweler looking to replicate some of Mr. Knight’s patterns.

So there you have it, a quick peek into the process of Georgian jewelry design.

May Birthstone: Emerald

Emeralds, known to the Romans as the smaragdus are the most valued variety of the beryl mineral family. 

3.41 carat cushion cut Zambian emerald. 

3.41 carat cushion cut Zambian emerald. 

According to the medieval lapidary of Marbode of Rennes, the Emperor Nero preferred to watch gladitorial combat through an emerald lense, as the green color was believed to be soothing to the eyes. Marbode also states that one who wears an emerald will have luck in lawsuits and be protected from harsh fever. If you should find yourself cornered by a venomous snake, just show him an emerald, and he will be so scared that his eyes will fall out of his head and he'll leave you alone.