Thursday, 30 July 2009

Summer weddings

Something old, something new, something borrowed…

There is something so exciting about a summer wedding; it can be one of the most beautiful times of the year to get married. Whether you are the bride or groom, bridesmaid or a guest looking for the perfect gift, Alfies is a great place to hunt around for all your wedding needs.

Vintage wedding dresses are so often intricately made and traditionally have such unusual detail and individual style. The dress can set the theme for the wedding and from the quiet elegance of the 1920’s to the glamorous 1950’s, you are sure to find something exquisite from Tony Durante’s extensive collection.

He also has a fantastic array of accompanying bags and wedding shoes (such a tricky item to find!).

Pearls are a great summer choice for wedding jewellery. Think simple and understated to accompany your dress.

A deilicate seed pearl necklace with 5 strands. The clasp is in gold with diamonds, rubies and pearls.

Offered by Gareth Brooks

Something new? Why not try a new hairstyle courtesy of Nina’s Hair Salon and get spoilt in Isadora’s Pamper parlour for an afternoon or get your makeup done for the big day?

They stock a large selection of hair accessories to enhance any wedding look. For a touch of sparkle, Persiflage has a range of elaborate tiaras.

Pari's Jewellery also has this stunning pair of Topaz Earring, for that something blue!

A pair of 18kt white gold and blue topaz drop earrings.

Offered by Pari's Jewellery

Attending a wedding? For an individual look, brighten up your outfit with some beautiful summer accessories (The Originals - Paola & Iaia and Deborah Woolf Vintage to name a few) or better yet, find the perfect summer dress in ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’.

Bussle Back Dress

An usual bussle back cotton & pique spaghetti strap dress- size 10-12

My favourite thing about weddings is that it’s the perfect occasion to wear a hat. Both Tin Tin Collectables and June Victor have a wide variety of hats from the traditional to the quirky that you won’t be able to resist to try on for that special look.

A selection of June Victor's hats

Finally for the perfect gift.... From silver candlesticks to coffee spoons, Goldsmith & Perris have a large selection of silver for something traditional.

A pair of 20th Century silver column style candlesticks, Sheffield 1915

Offered by Goldsmith & Perris

If in doubt, let the bride and groom make the important decisions with some Alfies gift vouchers that will always go down a treat!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Alfies in The Independent!

Alfies in The Independent on Saturday's Best 50 Markets!

We were very pleased to hear that the Independent on Saturday's supplement The Information has named Alfies as its number 2 market in the Best 50 Markets article!

Read the article

The Second Floor in Alfies

Here in Alfies we have four floors of amazing stands filled with unique items. This week's blog focuses on the second floor, where you will find a great mix of unusual collectables ranging from kitsch 50's tea sets from Ian Broughton to beautiful vintage lace from June Victor.

June sells a range of textiles from the 18th Century up until the 1940's, encompassing costume, lace, ribbons and table and bed linen. Her costumes and related accessories are constantly supplied to films and theatre.

Adjacent to June's stand is Nigel Martin, here you can find a wealth of vintage fabric, fixings and trimmings.

Persiflage specialises in similar items; textiles, vintage clothes and accessories. Like June's and Nigel's, this is a real treasure trove of a shop. You can find amazing 1960s dresses alongside drawers full of vintage buttons and trimmings, all reasonably priced.

The Originals have lots of fantastic and unique pieces of jewellery that I could spend hours looking at! Recently I have been admiring their collection from French costume jewellery designer Lea Stein.

Just opposite The Originals you will find East West Antiques. Colin Thompson who runs the stand has a variety of specialisms including Oriental objects and decoratives, illustrated books (including children's books) and collectible toys and related ephemera.

Francesco Bettoni
deals in original artwork mainly from the 1970s. His constantly varying stock encompasses many disciplines including sculpture, painting, prints, and photography. All the artworks are signed originals from renowned international artists.

Ian Broughton's shop Manic Attic is crammed full of amazing kitsch finds from 1930's-60's. You can find quirky glasses, lighting record players and household items that will take you back to another

Art and Decorative Design, have a great range of 20th Century decorative objects, with a focus on lighting, furniture and contemporary art. This is an ideal destination for collectors and interior designers alike.

Beverley is a well established antiques dealer who specialises in glass, ceramics, porcelain and English china. There really is something for everyone here, from the pretty tea cups to Clarice Cliff hand painted plates.

Trevor Lewis Vintage Glass & Decorative Objects is a relatively new dealer to the market, but with 15 years experience in the antiques trade under his belt, he has brought a fantastic array of decorative items to Alfies. This ranges from Art Deco vases to kitsch glass objects.

So make a bee line for the Second Floor Gallery and see what treasures you can find!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Plastics and Plasticity

The history of plastics is actually pretty amazing. I found this out o
n a visit to the Science Museum in South Kensington earlier this week. After avoiding the hoards of wild school children I stumbled across 'Plasticity', a small temporary exhibition on the first floor. Completely surrounded by floor to ceiling of hanging brilliant red plastic sheets, you are carefully led around the exhibition and shown how plastics have become such a huge part of our lives.

A Natural Plastic - A tortoiseshell inkstand with silver inlay. Circa 1900. By Magna Carta Antiques

Tortoiseshell and horn are two naturally occuring plastics that were used before the invention of Bakelite.

Bakelite was the very first totally synthetic man-made plastic to be invented by Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1912. It was also the first thermosetting plastic, which meant that once an object was formed it could not be changed or re-melted. It was also heat-resistant and non conductive which was great as it allowed Bakelite to have a vast variety of uses and could be used for things that would get hot, such as ash trays and thermos flasks like these:

Classic 1950's Canadian Thermos jugs in brown bakelite and chrome from Robinson Antiques

Bakelite was perfect for making electrical items too, which lead to the first truly iconic bakelite design: the bakelite telephone.

Bakelite Telephone from Thirteen Interiors.

Radios and speakers were also made from Bakelite. These items are still popular and highly collectable today.

A fantastic 1920's Bakelite round mottled loud speaker by Philips. Circa 1927. From Ian Broughton.

The Originals on the second floor have a large range of bakelite, celluliod and plastic household items and jewellery. The image above shows a small selection.

One of the limitations of Bakelite, although some would argue against this was the limitations in colour. Bakelite items are dark and quite classical looking, and this matched the interiors of the time is was first produced but as times changed people wanted colour in their lives and when urea formaldehyde was produced successfully by the British Cyanides Co in 1928 things really got exciting.

With no limit to colour this new type of plastic was used in many household items, tableware, handbags, compacts, jewellery...the list is endless.

1930s Art Deco card box with hand detail. From Connie Speight.

From the 1940s onwards there was an increased use of plastics in everyday life. At Alfies we can easily celebrate some of the fashionable aspects of everyday plastics!

This fantastic late 1950s set (above) is by the famous costume jewellery design house Trifari. It is made from white Lucite, a thermoset plastic, and has matching necklace, bracelet and earrings.

This beautiful ‘Dorset Rex’ 1950s gold bag with a Lucite top and handle shows off a different use for this versatile plastic. Both the Trifari set above and the handbag can be found at Deborah Woolf Vintage.

Plastics are not only reserved for smaller items such as jewellery and tableware. Look at this chic Lucite table from Louise Verber Antiques. Made in the 1970s, notice the gilt finish on the three legs giving it that glam 70s cocktail vibe. I also really like this fun bright red 1970s umbrella stand from Francesca Martire (below).

As we all know too well the superb qualities of plastics and all the things we can do with them (from medicine and transport, to fashion and future technologies) there is always the downside. With the radical growth of a throwaway culture from around the 1960s onwards, it is only now we are realising and struggling to cope with the amount of this material e.g. plastic bags. Recycling is now at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Vintage finds are one of the ways we can reuse, recycle and remember the best qualities and designs of this amazing material.

(Quite) Important Plastic Dates Throughout History: as taken from the the British Plastics Federation.

1926 – Harrods hosts the first display of new coloured tableware by Brookes & Adams and Thomas De La Rue & Co.

1930 – Scotch tape invented.

1938 – First toothbrush with nylon tufts manufactured.

1948 – George de mistral invents Velcro.

1948 – Introduction of 12” long playing records made from PVC.

1957 – The hoop is reinvented as the Hula Hoop.

1959 – Mattel unveils the first Barbie Doll.

1969 – Neil Armstrong plants a nylon flag on the moon.

1979 – Introduction of the first commercial mobile phones.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Cocktail Hour at Alfies

While the first cocktail is believed to have been served in 1803, its fragmented history suggests the cocktail was only widely recognised later on in the 19th Century. The cocktail particularly flourished in the 20th Century during the American Prohibition of 1919-1933, when mixers and spirits were commonly consumed at illegal parties and bars.

The quintessentially American martini has a glass that acts as a universal symbol for the cocktail. With its long thin stem keeping its liquid contents cool, the glass is both a distinctive and practical shape. The martini glass is also distinguished from other glasses by its conical shaped bowl that helps to keep the ingredients from separating. While some believe its shape is also said to bring out the gin’s bouquet others say it was designed to show off the olive or onion best.

Alfies offers a wide selection of pieces to make a very special cocktail hour... then again, perhaps an hour isn't long enough to show them off? Why restrict yourself - have a cocktail evening!

A small selection of Art Deco drinking glasses from a wide range available including Whitefriars

Robinson Antiques

A 1930's glass Art Deco cocktail shaker featuring a drunken man and lampost.

The Girl Can't Help It

Complete set of 1950's 'Glass-Mate' stirrers in original box.

The Originals - Paola & Iaia

c.1920s 4 piece Deco barware set in box. Including cocktail spoon, ice tongs, measure cup and ice hammer.

Goldsmith & Perris

So your bar is set up and looking glamorously retro, but what about you? After all that effort you should look the part too. Now, how about a cocktail ring?

A 1930's diamond cocktail ring in 18kt gold

Marie Antiques

1920's Art Deco Cocktail Diamond and Ruby Ring.

Connie Speight

And what do you know! We've discovered that there's an Alfies cocktail. It sounds delicious, so to finish off the Alfies cocktail experience here is the recipe:


1 dash Triple Sec

1 1/2 oz Lemon Vodka

1 tbsp Pineapple Juice


Combine and shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass (from Alfies!) and serve.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Romantic symbols

Romanticism was a social shift away from the aristocratic, social, and political ideas of the Enlightenment period, and instead stressed the importance of dreams, emotions and sentimentality as the inspiration for writers, artists and composers. The early Victorian period is referred to as the Romantic period and was marked by Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. During this time lockets became popular and they could contain photographs as well as hair from a loved one. Even Queen Victoria herself gave gifts of jewellery made from her hair. Human hair was also woven into elaborate designs and patterns used on pins, brooches, and bracelets. The lockets themselves were usually worn underneath clothing to protect the special token inside and to prevent any gossip surfacing. The romantic ideal of the locket are exemplified in these:

Locket with hair from Sheila Cameron

Locket with photo from Marie Antiques

Selection of lockets from Marie Antiques

In 1848, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Balmoral Castle in the Caledonian woodlands of Scotland and Celtic motifs began to influence English arts and crafts. By the end of the Romantic period, "Scottish pebble jewellery" had become very popular, these were brooches and pendants containing polished agate gemstones. Alfies has some lovely examples:

from Gareth Brooks

Stunning colours from Marie Antiques

The Romantic period in painting emphasised lush landscapes and the sentimentality it could harbour. These traits are finely expressed in these paintings from Peran Dachinger's Fine Art:

Romantic landscape

Greek temple

And on the continent, plump cherubs adorned items as a romantic ideal, such as these gorgeous Dresden comports and mirrors from Gloria Sinclair.

Cherubs and flowers

Adorable cherubs

Be a romantic and find a gift at Alfies!

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