Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today's Vintage Jewelry Word - Celluloid

Celluloid is a highly flammable early vintage plastic which contains camphor. One of the main characteristics of celluloid is that it is very lightweight. Celluloid was often used as a design material in the early to middle of the last century, but was later discontinued in favor of heavier more durable forms of plastic.

Celluloid was one of the first plastics to be widely used in making jewelry. The material is derived from a natural plant fiber. The original material was developed in the 1850s in England. Later, John Wesley Hyatt commercialized the use of celluloid. Vintage jewelry using celluloid dates to about 1900.

It was very popular medium during the Art Deco period from 1920-1935. Celluloid was used for a variety of objects, including hair accessories, and pieces were often set with rhinestones or other stones. Highly carved designs were often found on celluloid jewelry pieces, and flowers and leaves were common motifs.

One of the biggest uses of celluloid in vintage jewelry was to make brooches and dress clips, especially during the early 20th century. Celluloid looks similar to some other vintage plastics, but it differs in many ways. It is generally much thinner and lighter than bakelite. It is also much more brittle and can crack when exposed to high heat temperatures - sometimes even being flammable. Even though it can be brittle, it can still be twisted or bent into shape quite easily.

To test a piece of jewelry to see if it is celluloid, hold the item under hot water. it will smell like camphor or vinegar. Never use a hot pin test on celluloid because of the flammability factor.

Here are some photos of early vintage celluloid jewelry pieces:

July Birthstone - Ruby

The month is almost over and I still haven't had a chance to mention the birthstone attributed to July. Rubies are considered the traditional, modern, and mystical birthstone for those born in July. Some charts also show Turquoise or Onyx as the birthstones, but this was only during the 15th to 20th centuries.

Photos of gemstone are courtesy of ebay seller BangkokGemMart

The Ruby is also considered to be the stone of the Zodiac sign of Capricorn, and is often given as a gift for the 40th anniversary.

The history of Ruby mining dates back more than 2,500 years. Rubies are found throughout the world and have been mined in most areas, but Burma is generally considered the area for obtaining the most valuable and highest quality rubies with the deepest red color. The most important deposits are found in Myanmar, which is near Mogok in Burma. Although many rubies are mined, only 1% of them is of gem quality.

As with other gemstones, rubies have metaphysical attributes thought to be connected with them. Two magical elements are associated with red rubies: fire and blood, and they imply warmth and life for mankind. The ruby is also considered by many to be the gemstone which signifies everlasting love. Ancient legends state that one should not make faces at a ruby in a museum since this will make it grow dull. And ancient rulers even thought that a ruby would darken when it sensed danger, only to return to its natural color when the danger had passed.

For healing purposes, rubies are said to be a general health protection and a help for backache and toenail problems.

The color is so rich and regal. What a lovely stone to have attached to your birthday! This lovely Georgian poem aptly describes this birthstone:

The gleaming Ruby should adorn,
All those who in July are born,
For thus they’ll be exempt and free,
From lover’s doubts and anxiety.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Swarovski Crystallized Elements Contest - Fire Mountain Gems

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads has had huge success with their annual beading contest which recently ended. So much so that they are now having theme specific contests throughout the year. They have just announced a new contest which started on July 2 and closes on September 21, 2009.

This contest is called Crystallized Swarovski Elements. Collectors of vintage jewelry have long appreciated the cut and brilliance of Swarovski crystals. Now, creators of contemporary jewelry can try creating their own Swarovski jewelry and have a chance at winning a $1000 gift certificate from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

The lovely necklace shown here is a past silver medal win by designer Dianne Baas. I love the way that she has combined glass beads and crystals in this pretty amber colored pendant necklace. It will be interesting to see what other designers come up with for this year's contest.

Their rules state that all design entries must be comprised of at least 50% of products purchased from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. Each entry must include at least 50% of the product in the piece of the category in which it is being submitted. All designs must be original and a winning design from another jewelry-making contest may not be submitted.

Complete list of rules can be found here. Let the creating begin! Check back later for details about the winners of this and other Fire Mountain Jewelry Making Contests.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Jewelry Find of the Week - Hobé Green Glass Pendant

This week's jewelry find is a stunning pendant made by high end designer Hobé. The company was founded in Europe in 1886 and started manufacturing in the US in 1915. Their designs are extremely well made and very collectible.

This lovely pendant necklace features an oval pendant with a center green glass cabochon in a tooth setting with rolled goldtone edging and the traditional Hobé mess surround. The pendant is 1 x 1 1/4" on a 20" goldtone chain with a spring ring clasp. Signed Hobé © on the back of the pendant.

This pretty Hobé pendant necklace is available at my Ruby Lane shop at an unbelievably low price of $65. Hurry - it won't last at this price. You can click the picture or link for more photos of this special piece.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Christmas In July with Christmas Brooches and Christmas Tree Pins

I've noticed just recently that I am getting a lot of sales from my online stores with a Christmas theme. I guess that some customers really do adhere to the practice of doing their Christmas shopping in July. It makes perfect sense. There is always a good range this time of the year before the styles have been picked over and it makes budgeting in December much easier if a lot of the shopping has already been done.

Christmas jewelry was made by most of the well known vintage designers and contemporary jewelry designers bring out new lines every year. There is a wide variety of choices available, but the most popular style seems to be brooches or pins with various Christmas motifs.

Particularly chosen styles include the ever popular Christmas tree pin. This style of brooch comes in a myriad of materials and designs and is one of my biggest sellers in the months of November and December.

Here are a few pretty Christmas Jewelry choices for you to consider if you like to get your Christmas shopping done early. Just click any of the pictures for more details. Prices range from $7.99 to $50.00.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vintage Jewelry Designer of the Week - Who am I?

This is another in my ongoing guessing game series about popular vintage jewelry designers. I'll give you some clues and pictures and you see if you can guess which designer it is. Ready? Here are your clues:
  • Dates of Operation - 1886 to the present day
  • Design Techinques - no real specific techniques but made great use of floral designs
  • Lots of use of marcasites for accents
  • Owned Tiffany and Co in the early 1980s
  • Many notable designers such as Kenneth Lane, Coreen Simpson and Louis Ferraud
  • Changed the name of the company in 1939 to the name we know today
  • Added jewelry to their product lines in 1971
  • Believed in the door to door direct marketing approach for selling
Here are some pictures of some of my designs:

I am considered a lower end designer today. For more information and the answer to today's riddle, you can go to this designer page of the resource library on my website Vintage Jewelry Lane. (answer is also shown reading backwards at the bottom of this blog post.)

I'll be doing more of these riddles over the next weeks and months. Have fun with the series. Answer: (read it backwards) novA

Friday, July 24, 2009

Coin Jewelry - A Little Bit of History

Do you enjoy looking at old coins, thinking about Napoleon, or remembering a place where you have once traveled? Coin jewelry might be just the thing for you.

The use of coins to make jewelry goes quite a way back in history. It was very popular between the latter part of the 19th century and WWII to decorate or etch coins with floral motifs or initials. This type of jewelry became known as Sweetheart Jewelry, because sailors and soldiers would often brings these items back to their wives or girlfriends.

Other coins would simply be used as they were and made into earrings, necklaces, bracelets or cuff links. I've even seen some coins which started out whole, but ended up being cut into completely different designs such as animals, ships or the like. In this style, all that is left of the coin might just be a small part of the design.

Coin jewelry can feature coins from any country. Two countries which seems to be featured a great deal are Great Britain and the USA, with many real coins and tons of replica coins finding their way into a fashion statement. Napoleon and Julius Caesar are also often seen as figures portrayed.

Sarah Coventry had several designs of coin jewelry, but many other designers also made this style, including Freirich, Nelly Rosenstein and Ciner.

Here are a few examples.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today's Jewelry Exhibit - Contemporary Silversmiths at Aaron Farber

My main interest is vintage jewelry, but I also have a love for sterling silver jewelry from all periods. I was browsing online and came across an interesting jewelry exhibit at the Aaron Farber Gallery in New York.

This wonderful gallery was founded in 1974 by Edward Faber and is a showcase for artist-made jewelry presented in the studio jewelry section, for which the gallery is world-famous. In 1980, Edward Faber also began collecting and presenting vintage watches and timepieces, and this personal passion grew into a formidable part of the gallery's design collection. Mr. Faber is co-author of "American Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design", now in its third printing.

The Farber studio exhibits change 6 times annually and they currently have a fabulous exhibit of contemporary silversmith's jewelry on show. The exhibit opened on June 23 and will be on display until August 8, 2009.

Artists show here include Marilyn Cooperman, Claude Chavent, and Sydney Linch. Here are a few peeks at some of their pieces. You can view more photos of the other exhibiting artist's works here.

Photo credit Aaron Farber Gallery

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today's Featured Jewelry Designer - Florenza

Today's featured vintage jewelry designer is Florenza. The company was started in New York by designer Daniel Kasoff.

This jewelry company has a very interesting start up story. The story is told of how, as a young man, Daniel was in a restaurant in New York and had his coat stolen. Another customer at the restaurant who happened to be dining on the same day was the owner of the Speier Jewelry Company. He came to Daniel's rescue with money to purchase a new coat.

Daniel repaid his debt as soon as he could and was rewarded for his honesty with a position at the Speier jewelry company. He worked there for 10 years and learned the business from the ground up.

Daniel has saved enough in the following years so that by 1948, he was able to open his own business - The Dan Kasoff Company. The company sold his pieces to wholesalers around the world and his jewelry was found in department stores and specialty shops across the USA. The next 8 years proved to be an enormous growing period for his company.

In the 1950s, his son joined him in the business and the company introduced the name Florenza. They chose this name as an honor to Daniel's wife Florence. This is the line that became known for the elaborate old world designs with antiqued goldtone settings which were made to simulate fine antique jewelry.

Design characteristics of Florenza jewelry included antiqued goldtone settings, old world designs, and the creative use of novelty glass stones,. They also had a large line which included the use of genuine shell cameos.

Florenza Demi Photo credit: Ebay Seller sweetthingsvintage

Some of the company's noted customers were Weiss, Kramer, Hattie Carnegie, Coro and Revlon. These customers would bring in the instructions for jewelry and their instructions and ideas found their way into design pictures which then often resulted in the finished product with the well known designer's name. These designs were the property of the customer and carried their name - not the Florenza name.

Only original Kasoff creations carried the name of Florenza. These designs were marketed in many upscale stores as Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord and Taylor and Bloomingdale. The company closed its doors in 1980.

Florenza pieces were marked with the word in script (often on a foil hang tag) or in block, either on a cartouche, or impressed directly into the metal. Here are examples of some of the marks.

The prices of Florenza pieces have been undervalued but are rising on the collectibles market today. Collectors appreciate the varied use of glass stones and cameo collectors prize their pieces which use shell cameos. Since it is still relatively easy to acquire a nice collection at fairly reasonable prices, there is no need to sacrifice quality in your hunt for Florenza jewelry. Look for full sets, shell cameo designs and some of their ornate bracelets.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jewelry and Astrology - Leo

This blog post is another in my series about choosing jewelry suitable for individual star signs. Today's astrological sign is Leo, which is the sign for those born between July 23-August 22. The sign is depicted as a Lion and it is a fire sign.

Zodiac Logo courtesy of

Those born under the sign of the Lion are said to be warmhearted, generous and enthusiastic. They are born leaders, very strong willed and tend to be extroverts. On the negative side, it is thought that they can be a little dogmatic and intolerant and somewhat bossy. Some Leos have quite an easily flared temper.

Thinking about buying jewelry for your Leo friend and don't know where to start? Let's examine some of these zodiac facts for a bit of inspiration.
  • Their primary color is yellow or gold
  • Their birthstone is the ruby
  • Their lucky numbers are 5 and 9
  • Their gemstones are black onyx and peridot
  • One of their flowers is a sunflower
  • Their symbol is the Lion
Since Leo's often like to be the center of attention and their symbol is the lion, this wonderful charm necklace with a huge #1 and big lion charms might do the trick.

Tying in the gemstone black onyx is an easy one. Here are a few onyx jewelry items to consider.

Would you like to purchase something in their favorite color? How about any of these yellow jewelry items?

Have fun treating your Leo friend. All pieces shown are available in my online stores. Just click the photos to go to the item pages for more details. Prices range from $10.50 to $28.99.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Winner's announced in the 7th Annual Ugly Necklace Competition - 2009

The winners have been announced for the 7th Annual Ugly Necklace Competition hosted by the Lands of Odds Website. I just love this quirky contest and am always eager to see if my choice was the winner. But alas, not this year. My favorite was the big floral necklace by Jolynn Casto, but she came in fourth. It is beginning to appear that I cannot choose ugly necklaces!

The winner for 2009 is Lynn Margaret Davy from Wimborne, Dorset, United Kingdom. Her necklace features all manner of Chinese, Japanese and Czech glass beads made into leaves, strings, and what appears to be a dreamcatcher.

As with all the other contestants, Lynn has a poem to go along with her creation which sort of explains the process:

The Story Of My Beading Life...

Unfinished objects - UFOs.
All beaders have a lot of those,
Enthusiastically started
Before you got a bit half-hearted.

I pick beads up, I start to stitch,
But just can't make decisions... which
Of all these beads spread on my table
Will make this cuff most fanci-able?

And so I put it to one side,
Leave it till later to decide,
Get out some other beads and things
And start a range of fancy rings.

One ring down and six to make...
My beady willpower starts to flake.
I know, I'll stitch some leafy collars
In hopes of earning lots of dollars.

Half way along, with leaves aplenty
(17, 18, 19, 20...),
My eyes are closing and I'm yawning.
I'll make the others in the morning.

That night I have a great idea
Seen in a dream all bright and clear.
I'll win Bead Dreams! Find fame and glory!
By lunch next day, a different story...

Rings, cuff and collar still half-made,
N0w I need beaded beads to trade.
This one is wonky, here's a flat one,
Won't even try to finish that one...

And so the pile of UFOs
Just multiplies and grows and grows.
However many things I bead,
I never have the time I need

To finish them, to make and mend
And fasten off each dangling end.
I have unfortunate suspicions
These are my beady life's conditions

And when at last I've served my time-O
And fate steps in to cut my Nymo
I'll plead and argue all the way
To live and bead just one more day

And when the Reaper comes for me
I'll go with him reluctantly
My plaintive cry still undiminished:
"I can't go yet -- I HAVEN'T FINISHED!"

Here is her creation in all its glory. Well done, Lynn.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What is the Mohs Scale and How does it Relate to Jewelry?

I've written about several different gemstones over the last few months, and one term which always seems to be mentioned in these articles is the Mohs scale. Just what is this?

The scale is not a contraption that measures weight. It is a scale of relative hardness of a mineral which was developed by a German mineralogist named Frederich Mohs in 1812. It is routinely used by modern jewelers and gemologists to differentiate between various gemstones. So, if you are shopping for gemstone jewelry, it's a good idea to have some understanding of the Mohs scale.

The scale consists of 10 classifications from softest being #1 to hardest being #10. Talc is considered the softest and diamonds the hardest. Mohs based his scale on 10 minerals that were all readily available. The scale tells you how easily a mineral or gemstone can be scratched by others. (hence, the diamond can scratch all others, but cannot be scratched by them so it is the hardest on the Mohs scale.)

The Mohs scale is very low tech. Basically you test your unknown mineral against one of these standard minerals. Whichever one scratches the other is harder, and if both scratch each other they are both the same hardness. It's that simple. However, sometimes a mineral will fall in between the numbers of 1-10 so you might find one rated 2 1/2-3, for instance. To give you an idea in layman's terms - your fingernail is a #2, a copper penny is #3, and glass is approximately #6-7.

Here is an overview of the Scale

  • #1 Talc

  • #2 Gypsum

  • #3 Calcite

  • #4 Flourite

    • #5 Apatite

      • #6 Feldspar (or Orthoclase)

      • #7 Quartz

          • #8 Topaz

          • #9 Corundum

            • #10 Diamond

            Photos courtesy of


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