My Jewelry Road Trip, covering the best of antique jewelry across the United States, was taken to another level this week–another country, that is! I experienced some of the best, world-renowned antique jewelry shopping in London, England, with stops at Grays Antique Centre and the well known treasure trove called Portobello Road. My trip wasn’t complete without my two partners-in-crime, Jenn of Bellflower Bay and Kate of Heart of Solid Gold. We were the ring obsessed trio who scoured London for that perfect treasure to take back home with us to commemorate such a fun, once-in-a-lifetime journey. And we definitely found some good ones–each taking home three jewels each!
Grays Antique Centre was first on our list, which we all have been told numerous times, “you’ve got to go!” and “it is antique jewelry heaven!” So naturally, it was our first stop! We arrived on a Friday morning, when dealers were just completing their finishing touches on their booths. Crowd-wise, we felt like we were the only ones there, which was amazing! We were able to look at entire booths, spending time gazing and pondering, as well as conversing with owners, with no one peering over our shoulders or trying to get their chance to see. At Grays, there are over 200 antique dealers, most of them being jewelry with a wide range of time periods and styles. If you have a penchant for a specific type of brooch or necklace, or have your mind set on a particular item, you are bound to find it here! One aspect that I did notice was the price points on items–much higher than what I am used to, however the quality is there, along with the dealers’ expertise. And you can’t miss the river that runs through the bottom level of Grays–it is the Tyburn River, the lost tributary of the Thames!
Portobello Road was unbelievably amazing and beckons to be named best market for an antique jewelry lover. It truly epitomizes “the hunt” in every way possible, with doorways which lead to clusters of shops that extend further than they appear. Each “rabbit hole” is a whole new world of shops and treasures, with antique dealers who have been setting up at this market for decades! Portobello Road has been a weekly market since 1850, selling mostly food items and such. Around 1945, that all changed, when antique items were introduced into the market, making it what it is known for today! My biggest piece of advice, which I am gladly passing along because I was told this by numerous antique dealer friends, is TO GO EARLY. We went on a Saturday and caught the tube around 7am, with not too many people or crowds. Around 10-10:30 the streets were filled with people and hard to maneuver–with the jewelry quarters being as tight as they are, claustraphobia easily sets in! So going early is key! Most of the antiques and jewelry are located on one end of the hill, with newer items, fashions and clothing, and fruits/veggies toward the other end.
Our two-day antiquing adventure in London paid off with finds from early eras, not typically represented well and hard to come by in the United States. Each bringing home three jewels:
- Jenn: brought back a platinum sapphire and emerald ring from the Edwardian Era from Grays Antiques Centre, a Georgian 18k three stone rose cut diamond ring with navy enamel, and a French ring set with a sapphire and diamond both from Portobello Road
- Kate: brought back a Victorian anchor pendant set with a diamond, an early Victorian rose cut diamond cluster ring nestled between a pair of hands both from Grays Antique Centre, and a light blue enamel band set with rose cut diamonds from the late 1800s from Portobello Road
- myself: a green tourmaline and pearl bypass ring, a painted portrait ring of a masked woman surrounded by rose cut diamonds circa 1850s, and a sapphire crowned heart ring with rose cut diamonds signifying “I give you my heart and I crown it with my loyalty.” (last photo depicts all my purchases)