Archive for the 'M.S. Rau Blog' Category

Time to Feast: Setting the Holiday Table

November 23rd, 2015 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter
An elegant 196-piece St. Dunstan silver flatware service by Tiffany & Co.

An elegant 196-piece St. Dunstan silver flatware service by Tiffany & Co.

A time for feasting, friends, family, and autumn weather. To many, Thanksgiving is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Marking the beginning of the holiday season, Thanksgiving is a time to gather and give thanks, the commencement of a time of togetherness and cheer. This merry sentiment practically necessitates delicious food and wine with one’s company, particularly one a day that evokes images of warm pumpkin pie and roasted turkey stuffed with dressing. And any perfectly dressed bird requires an equally well dressed table – perfectly cater to your company’s needs on this grand feast day with classic and elegant tableware.

Each piece is marked “TIFFANY & CO. STERLING PAT. 1909” with the “m” date letter

Each piece is marked “TIFFANY & CO. STERLING PAT. 1909” with the “m” date letter

From one of the premiere silver manufacturers in America, Tiffany & Co. flatware services are sure to be the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving spread. Gaining immediate attention after introducing their first sterling silver flatware pattern in 1847, Tiffany & Co. has prevailed in dining sophistication. This 196-piece set for 12 epitomizes what Tiffany flatware is best known for: elegance, durability, and prestige. Hand-crafted in the St. Dunstan pattern, this set features delicate oak leaves in a subtle, yet delicate, Art Deco design. In this set, there is a piece for every dish imaginable. As made evident by this extraordinary service, Tiffany & Co. sets the standard for American elegance in dining.

Crafted by Alexander Johnston, these candlesticks deeply chased decoration in a well-balanced design

Crafted by Alexander Johnston, these candlesticks deeply chased decoration in a well-balanced design

No table setting is complete without stunning, supple lighting. This outstanding pair of 18th century Rococo style silver candlesticks would be the perfect finishing touch to any table. Crafted and marked by the English silversmith Alexander Johnson, these candlesticks reflect the renowned grandeur of the Rococo style. They feature ornate, deeply chased decoration of natural forms such as rosettes, acanthus, shells, and palms – opulent motifs typical of the Rococo style. Tasteful with a touch of exuberance, this pair of candlesticks encapsulates the sensational style of 18th century Rococo.

The stunning sterling Martelé coffee service embodies the very best of Gorham silver

The stunning sterling Martelé coffee service embodies the very best of Gorham silver

No fine feast is complete without after dinner coffee. This Martele four-piece coffee service by Gorham was deeply inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, a style that was characterized by swirling organic forms. These aspects are evident by the curvilinear handles of the sugar bowl and creamer, the delicate swirl of the coffee pot spout, and the embossment on the whole set of foliate and floral designs. As some of the most highly collected silver in the world, the Martele line of the popular Gorham Silver Company exemplifies tasteful style, and would be an elegant addition to any Thanksgiving gathering.

A King Among Porcelain: KPM

November 11th, 2015 | posted by James Gillis

Earning a legendary reputation after over 250 years of superior porcelain production, KPM Berlin and Chinese porcelain are considered among the finest in the world in terms of quality, creativity, and history. Almost exclusively crafted by hand in classic forms, KPM porcelain has become synonymous with beautiful and timeless pieces that possess a character that surpasses their mere practical uses. A lasting expression of individuality and luxury, KPM Berlin porcelain remains highly desirable and treasured today.

Skillfully executed, this cup and saucer set is a splendid example of the creativity and technical genius of KPM's porcelain artists.

Skillfully executed, this cup and saucer set is a splendid example of the creativity and technical genius of KPM’s porcelain artists.

Before the 14th century, porcelain objects did not exist in Europe. The art of producing porcelain was a closely held secret in China, and was considered a rarity that signified great luxury. To Europeans, porcelain was a dazzling symbol of the exotic; the splendor of hard-paste porcelain was unlike anything Europe had seen before. As European fascination with Chinese porcelain increased, so did their desire to replicate the process of porcelain production themselves. European artisans were ultimately successful in the early 18th century, beginning a new era of decorative arts in Europe.

 

A few decades later, KPM Berlin would emerge as a major player on the porcelain scene. Prussian King, Frederick The Great, a sovereign with a great taste for finery, he purchased a small porcelain factory in 1763, and named it The Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin (Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin). Gaining almost immediate success and acclaim, the factory appropriate the royal spectre as its symbol, a hallmark that still exists today. Customers such as the Duke of Kurland, various Tsars in Russia, and even Frederick himself helped propel the KPM name all over Europe. KPM porcelain established itself on the foundation of excellent decorative techniques, high quality porcelain, and timeless designs – characteristics of the name that prevail into today.

Finely hand painted in imitation of a micromosaic, this remarkably rare coffee cup and saucer displays all of the high standards of production of the famed Berlin KPM factory.

Finely hand painted in imitation of a micromosaic, this remarkably rare coffee cup and saucer displays all of the high standards of production of the famed Berlin KPM factory.

Of the many different types of objects that KPM produced, their cup and saucer services are among the most exemplary of the company’s fine style and design. Their micromosaic imitation pieces in particular were heralded for their remarkable creativity and exceptional skill. A technique perfected in Ancient Rome, the micromiosaic technique of forming images from tiny pieces of marble and glass re-emerged during the 19th century as affluent tourists participated in the Grand Tour. KPM Berlin developed a hand-painted technique that mimicked these popular ancient Roman micromosaics and Florentine pietre dure. Upon first glance, the workmanship is so flawless in its precision that it is nearly impossible to detect the motif is actually painted upon the porcelain.

Emblematic of the factory’s creativity, this rich blue cup and saucer imitates the micromosaic style that was popular at the time. In depicting this manner of micromosaics, this exceptional set features the skillful imitation of precious lapis-lazuli stones in a hand-painted style. This design is rendered with such incredible skill and attention to detail that only the most talented artists could achieve. The result – a shimmering blue surface completed by a medallion of the ancient Doves and Pliny on the cup and a delicate songbird on the saucer.

The micromosaic decoration takes the form of songbirds, while the pietre dure panels resemble Roman vases and butterflies–all of which display an amazing level of detail.

This cup and saucer are formed in a dynamic octagonal shape, hand painted with the dominant hues of vibrant red and gold.

Similarly, this KPM cup and saucer presents unprecedented quality and enormous skill in micromosaic imitation. Luxurious gilding, emblematic of the popular neoclassical style of the period, and stunning hand-painted decoration in a rich red mark the piece as a true rarity. A medallion of two different birds against a rust background offer evidence of incredible skill and the illusion of separate pieces of glass. The decorative motif of birds saw a renewal in popularity during this time.

Exhibiting the high standard of KPM porcelain production, this vibrant gold colored cup and saucer denotes high levels of precision in yet another micromosaic imitation. Exquisitely painted songbirds envelop the border of the plate while Ancient Roman structures are delicately painted on the cup. These flawless designs epitomize the KPM style of the painted micromosaic style and the incredible talent of the factory’s artisans.

The Queen of Georgian Silver: Hester Bateman

October 30th, 2015 | posted by Susan Lapene
This incredible covered tankard features a flaring cylindrical, with applied mid band and a domed cover.

This incredible covered tankard features a flaring cylindrical, with applied mid band and a domed cover.

18th century England, an age when gender roles were very nearly set in stone, held few options for women beyond marriage and motherhood. While men provided financial support for their families, women were expected to maintain family and home; it was rare to see a woman break out of this prescribed gender role towards something great. Yet, for the headstrong young widow Hester Bateman, greatness was within reach.

Born in London in 1708 to a poor family, Bateman grew up under these strong gender delineations, eventually marrying silversmith John Bateman. Batemen adhered to societal standards by maintaining her family, yet she also keenly observed the techniques and tools of her husband’s silversmith workshop. While John’s silver craftsmanship did not experience much commercial success, Bateman still benefited from observing her husband at work.

The elegance of Hester Bateman's style is exemplified in this rare sterling silver inkwell.

The elegance of Hester Bateman’s style is exemplified in this rare sterling silver inkwell.

After the passing of her husband in 1760, Batemen inherited the silversmith business and developed it from a single outworker’s hut into a successful silversmith business. With crafting skills already under her retinue, Batemen was keenly aware of the intricacies that went into creating pieces. She registered her own makers mark, an austere HB,  and began styling her pieces in elegant, restrained styles that stood in contrast to the extravagant, over-embellished fashion of the period. Choosing austere, simple shapes, Batemen’s pieces emphasized sophisticated and timeless classical taste.

 This incredible jug bears Bateman's maker's mark and London date mark under the base and under the lid.

This incredible jug bears Bateman’s maker’s mark and London date mark under the base and under the lid.

This was a bold, yet important, stylistic choice. Bateman’s restrained silverwares attracted a solid middle-class market with its simply, yet elegant design, earning her remarkable success in her own lifetime and for success generations to come. Heralded today not only as one the queen of English silver, but also as a keen businesswoman in her own right, Bateman is truly an inspiration as well as an artisan.

A sleek wooden handle and an engraved crest complete the piece.

A sleek wooden handle and an engraved crest complete the piece.

This incredible tankard is just one of the many elegant pieces designed by Bateman. As a perfect example of her talent as a silversmith, this piece features a flaring cylindrical with a domed cover. Different from any other touches at the time, the handle terminated in a magnificent heart-shape – a touch of femininity and a show of her revolutionary style. Importantly, this bears the hallmark of Batemen and a datemark for London, 1784. Similarly, this silver inkwell is a principal example of Batemen’s talent. As a crucial part of any 18th century person’s desk, this item features cobalt-blue glass inserts and Bateman’s signature delicate beaded borders.

This exceptional and rare silver covered cup by Hester Bateman epitomizes the finest in Georgian craftsmanship.

This exceptional and rare silver covered cup by Hester Bateman epitomizes the finest in Georgian craftsmanship.

Like all of Bateman’s silver, this silver jug perfect represents the graceful proportions for which her pieces were known. The sweeping lower portion of the jug charmingly terminates into a slender upper portion. A curved wooden handle and an engraved crest complete the piece. Like always, Bateman’s famed beaded borders are a testament to her name and talent. Enormously emblematic of Bateman’s unique talent is this exceptional cup and cover. In a classical urn shape, this piece capture everything for which Bateman is praised: slender proportions, beaded edges, and a carefully engraved crest that all work to echo themes of true grace and elegance.

The combination of her dominant personality, business savvy and gift as a skilled artisan has made her one of the most famed of all the Georgian silversmiths, and the most important and celebrated female silversmith of all time.

A Show of Honor: Dueling Pistols

October 14th, 2015 | posted by George Peralta

In earlier times, it was the mark of a true gentlemen: dueling. Beginning in early modern Europe, the act of dueling emerged as an arranged ritual to resolve conflict amongst the most highly-esteemed men. Until the mid-19th century, dueling remained a popular method to restore one’s honor by demonstrating one’s willingness to risk their life for it.

This handsome pair of English .54 caliber percussion belt pistols feature elegant saw-handle grips

This handsome pair of English .54 caliber percussion belt pistols feature elegant saw-handle grips

Though seemingly barbaric today, dueling was an activity that would fully secure a man’s honor and reputation. In earlier societies, a man’s preservation of integrity was absolutely paramount, and a man would go to great lengths to maintain his reputation. Men such as Andrew Jackson, Charles Dickinson, and even the modest Abraham Lincoln participated in this honor combat in their lifetimes.

The barrel terminates in fine nickel silver grips decorated with sharp and crisp engraving

The barrel terminates in fine nickel silver grips decorated with sharp and crisp engraving

During the 17th and 18th centuries, duels were not fought with guns, but rather with swords or rapiers. Yet, with in invent of the dueling pistol in the late 18th century, dueling became all the more dangerous. These firearms quickly became a required accessories to any affluent man’s wardrobe. These beautiful yet deadly weapons were specifically crafted for the purpose of the duel, and often boasted intricate detailing and exceptional craftsmanship. These pistols were crafted to be extremely accurate according to exact standards that would ensure no chance of malfunction or misfire.

Housed in their original box, which features lush green fabric and a gilt-stamped trade label

Housed in their original box, which features lush green fabric and a gilt-stamped trade label

Today, few antiques evoke the same emotion as the dueling pistol. This magnificent pair of British dueling pistols, crafted in 1850, embody the esteem and honor that was associated with the duel. The .54 caliber percussion belt pistols are comprised of elegant saw-handle grips that were ornamental and functional, helping to keep the shooters hand steady. Damascus steel makes up the smooth, octagonal shaft that terminates in nickel silver grips. Intricate engraving encapsulates the elegant handles. The pistols are nestled within their original, custom-fitted case, which also contains a bullet mold, powder flask, cleaning rod and a compartment for ball storage. These pistols are emblematic of the strength and unparalleled masculinity that duels evoked.

Intricate decoration adorns the barrels and frames of each revolver

Intricate decoration adorns the barrels and frames of each revolver

Similarly, this pair of Robert Adams duel percussion dueling pistols are a fine example of exceptionally crafted firearms. Featuring abundantly engraved scrollwork handles of gilt-brass plaques, these stately firearms are housed in their original case of veneered wood lined with velvet. The double action percussion pistol revolvers are the epitome of fine firearm craftsmanship, marked by an extraordinary crafter: The R. Adams Manufacturer of Fine Firearms, one of the most influential British gun designers. These magnificent firearms come as a complete set with their original accessories, including a brass bullet mold, gilt-brass powder flask, and oil bottle.

Debunking the Myth of the Opal: October Birthstone

October 5th, 2015 | posted by Peter Hernandez

I’ve been in the jewelry business for over thirty three years and since nearly day one, I have heard from customers of their fear of the bad luck from opals. Rarely do I show a piece of opal jewelry without a comment about how it is bad luck if you are not born in October or one of the other long passed on myths. However, they are just that, myths.

Enough with the bad rap this stone has taken and being born in October it’s even more important to me. Through this blog, I think it will be interesting to get to the heart of these myths and hopefully debunk the stories which have for so long haunted the beautiful opal stone.

Nearly every gemstone was thought to have mythical powers at one time. For example, the Amethyst was believed to have the ability to keep one from getting drunk while consuming alcohol and the Ruby was said to have the ability to inspire courage, bring prosperity, and stir passion. I would bet that most people would find the lore interesting but pretty much pass it off as that. Not so for the poor opal.

The 3.60-carat opal is perfectly accented by a halo of colored gemstones

The 3.60-carat opal is perfectly accented by a halo of colored gemstones

Opals have a very long and complicated history with many myths attached to the magnificent stone. In medieval times, all blonde haired maidens wanted a necklace made of opals, as a guarantee to prevent their hair from fading. Among the ancients, opal was a symbol of fidelity and assurance. In his time of reign, Julius Caesar established opal as a precious gemstone for the Romans, believing the opal was a combination of the beauty of all precious stones, a token of hope and purity They ranked opal second only to emeralds, and carried opal as a good luck charm or talisman because it was believed that like the rainbow, opal brought its owner good fortune. In the days when Rome spread her legions across Europe and Africa, a Roman Senator by the name of Nonius opted for exile rather than sell his valuable opal to Marc Antony who wanted to give it to his famous lover Cleopatra. Among other ancients, the early Greeks believed the opal bestowed powers of foresight and prophecy upon its owner. In later history, it became associated with love and passion, as well as desire and eroticism. It was seen as a seductive stone that intensifies emotional states and releases inhibitions. Others believe that wearing an opal would bring one about loyalty and faithfulness.

This rare Lightning Ridge black opal displays an impressive range of iridescent blue and green hues

This rare Lightning Ridge black opal displays an impressive range of iridescent blue and green hues

Let’s take a look at why the superstition of the opal came into being. The myth is believed to be the fault of one man, Sir Walter Scott and his bestselling novel, Anne of Geuerstein, written in 1829. In the story, we follow the life events of Lady Hermione, who is falsely accused of being a demoness and dies shortly after a drop of holy water accidentally falls on her opal and destroys its color, fire, and sparkle. Furthermore, when Lady Hermione, wore an enchanted opal in her hair, it gave off fiery red flashes when she was angry and it sparkled beautifully when she was happy. Because of this story, opals gained a wide reputation for bad luck.  Mistakenly, the public took this to mean that this genius author was warning of the bad luck an opal can bring. In addition, in much earlier days, when jewelers did not understand how to handle and work the stones properly, the stones would often dry out and break while being cut, polished or mounted. Naturally, this was considered bad luck. So, they stopped buying the beautiful gemstone altogether. Thanks to Sir Walter Scott and other various happenings, the European opal market was destroyed for almost 50 years without any real merit. Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III of France, refused to wear the stones, as did many others, some well-read and some not so well read.

An eye-catching 20.56-carat black opal is the star of this stunning necklace

An eye-catching 20.56-carat black opal is the star of this stunning necklace

Thankfully, nearly 50 years later in 1877, an amazing black opal was found in South Wales, Australia. The opal market was finally revived. These black opals took the world by storm. The discovery of these opals in solidified Australia as the principal source of black and white opal, a fact still true today. Many do not realize that the myth of the opal being bad luck is not warranted by any sort of evidence or occurrence or that the discovery of the black opal destroyed these negative notions over 100 years ago.

So as we enter the month of October, for which Opal is the birthstone, it’s time to embrace the beauty and uniqueness of this gemstone. Because of all the potential colors and patterns no two opals are ever a like. They are like small paintings with varying patterns and colors.

This amazing necklace boasts 31 fine opal beads weighing 540 total carats

This amazing necklace boasts 31 fine opal beads weighing 540 total carats

We own some of the most magnificent opals, including black opals from the famous Lightning Ridge mines in Australia. This extremely rare black opal ring displays the kaleidoscopic color for which Lightning Ridge opals are heralded. The 3.60-carat opal is perfectly accented by a halo of colored gemstones that mirror its iridescent blue and green hues, including Tsavorite garnets, blue sapphires, and dazzling white diamonds. Similarly, this black Lightning Ridge opal pendant necklace displays a stunning play of color. A magnificent 20.56-carat opal is the star of this pendant necklace, catching every vivid blue and green hue. The extremely rare stone is set in sparkling white diamonds and 18K yellow gold and platinum.

The remarkable range of colors that opals possess can also be found in this mesmerizing 540-carat graduated opal necklace. At a remarkable size, each opal exhibits high levels of translucence and beauty. To find 31 all-natural, matching beads of this size and quality is extraordinary beyond compare. The extraordinary gems are separated by white gold and diamond rondells, while a pavé diamond ball clasp finishes the elegant piece. Undeniably, this necklace displays some of the finest opals known.

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