"Past Times" newsletter for October 2002
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Artisans
Welcome to Past Times!
IN THIS ISSUE:
o All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Collecting Vintage Costume
Jewelry by Liz Kepner of Jewels by Liz
o A Fun Trivia Quiz: Design Motifs of Years Past
o Share Past Times with A Friend
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT GOLD: COLLECTING VINTAGE
COSTUME JEWELRY BY LIZ KEPNER OF JEWELS BY LIZ
The numbers of collectors of vintage costume jewelry continues
to grow. Dealers and/or collectors have probably noticed the
increase in sales in this area and the number of new collectors.
What is the appeal and draw of vintage costume jewelry that
keeps current collectors active and attracts new collectors?
While there are several television shows such as the Antique
Road show that have brought an increase of interest in the
vintage and antique, vintage costume jewelry has not been a
frequently explored area.
Personally I have found vintage costume to be very addicting. I
find I no longer have an interest or desire for pieces of "fine"
jewelry. When I told this to my husband, he applauded.
However, he was soon disavowed of the notion of saving when I
showed him an elaborate Haskell necklace I wanted and the price
Some increase can be attributed to the atmosphere of community
and connection that influences mores and practice. The tragic
events of the last year have emphasized the need to hold onto
the past and present while heading toward the future. Items
from the past may convey a sense of family and a simpler and
more innocent time.
Another draw is the romance and mystery surrounding vintage
costume jewelry. I frequently have customers tell me they
imagine a history for each piece or set. Who was the first
owner of the jewelry? How did they come to be in the owner's
possession? This type of fantasy and story creation can be very
pleasurable and increase the personal value of the piece to the
Collectors come in all shapes and sizes - men and women of all
age groups. I think it would be difficult to characterize the
"average" collector. How collections are put together is as
diversified as the collectors. I have one customer who collects
nothing but face jewelry (the type made popular by Selro and
Har). Some collect only signed pieces while others collect both
signed and unsigned. Some collectors collect jewelry by one
specific designer. I tried this approach and ended up changing
who I was collecting every time I saw another wonderful piece.
I finally settled on collecting pieces that I like ñ unsigned
and signed (with a variety of different designers).
There is a variety of mediums collected. Some collect only
rhinestone jewelry, and some only plastics (Lucite, bakelite and
celluloid). There are collectors of animals, flowers, birds,
and so on. The diversity of collectors enriches this area of
If you are thinking about becoming a collector but don't think
you know enough, remember all collectors start as beginners.
Learning is half the fun. When I began my wonderful journey
into the world of costume jewelry, I went to an antique mall and
asked one of the dealers "how do you know which pieces are more
valuable and collectible"? She started by saying "generally
speaking, the signed pieces of jewelry are– My response, of
course, was "there is jewelry that is signed"? Since that time,
I have learned a lot but have only begun to explore the
information and resources that are available regarding costume
There are a number of ways to learn. The internet is invaluable
and there are many wonderful collectors who freely share jewelry
information. Several have set up websites that provide
information about specific designer history, as well as tips for
collectors. There are a number of wonderful books on vintage
costume jewelry that can be found in the collectors section of
your local bookstore or library. Individual networking with
other collectors/dealers is terrific and is a tremendous source
of support and information. I emailed a dealer (with no little
trepidation) and asked her what was meant by "bakelite was
tested with 409î? She emailed me back immediately and shared
the simple trick of a dab of 409 (the cleaner) being put on the
object. If it wiped off with a yellow cast, it was bakelite, if
not it was some other type plastic. Since that time I have been
given so many valuable tips by others, I can only hope to be
able to pass some on to others.
If you are thinking of joining the costume jewelry ranks,
welcome, we're waiting for you. I encourage and invite you to
enter into a world of beauty, imagination and history. There is
always room for a new collector.
We invite you to visit Liz at Jewels By Liz.
Take this trivia quiz to see how well you know your fabric
motifs of years past. The answers follow:
1. Originally from France, this three, or five-petal lily has
been one of the most popular of all motifs, and was prominent in
Medieval, Renaissance, and Gothic Revival interiors.
2. This insect was a symbol of industry and order, rebirth and
immortality in the ornaments of Ancient Greece and China.
Adopted by Napoleon, it became a prevalent motif on Empire-style
3. The leaf from this tree symbolizes civic virtue and
steadfastness, and has appeared most notably on fabrics in
Ancient Roman, Renaissance, Gothic, Neo-classical, and Arts and
4. What bird was associated with Apollo (music) and Venus (love)
in classical mythology, and was widely used as a motif on
Medieval, Regency, Empire, Biedermeier, and Art Nouveau fabrics.
5. The crown or garland of leaves, the wreath originally
symbolized sovereignty, honor, glory and victory in what period,
followed by the Renaissance and then by the Empire style?
6. What relatively modern period is most well-known for its
patterns of densely packed blooms and foliage on fabrics and
7. The modern playing card pattern is 20th century, but its
portrayal of royalty, clerics, and theatrical figures is within
a genre that extends back to what period?
Answers: 1.The fleur-de-lis 2.The bee 3.The Oak leaf 4.The swan
5.Ancient Greece 6.Victorian 7.The Middle Ages
**This information was obtained from The Style Sourcebook by
Judith Miller, published by Stewart,Tabori and Chang
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