Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April Birthstone - Diamond

If you were lucky enough to be born in April, your birthstone is the king of gemstones - the Diamond. Most modern and traditional accounts list diamonds as the birthstone for April. It is not the only stone though, Opals are considered the mystical birthstone, and Sapphires were also considered the birthstone during the 15th to 20th centuries.

Diamond Photo courtesy of ebay seller BangkokGemMart
For today's article, we will discuss the traditional birthstone - diamond. "White diamonds" - the normal style diamonds used in most engagement rings, come in a range of colors which range from colorless to yellowish. The colorless ones are the most prized.

But diamonds are also available in a wide range of colors in all hues of the rainbow. Red, black, blue and green are the most expensive and most desirable.

From ugly duckling to swan is an apt term for a diamond. This lovely and much appreciated stone begins its life in nature, first as a rough chunk of carbon called lampriote or kimberlite deep within the earth. Over the passage of time and great pressures, the deposit reaches the surface, where it can be mined, polished and set in jewelry.

India is thought to have been the first large source of diamond mining. Large diamond mining companies are found in South Africa, Russia and even Arkansas in the USA.

There are many metaphysical and folklore tales association with diamonds. In mythology, diamonds were thought by ancient Greeks to be splinters of stars which had fallen to earth. Some even thought they were tears of the gods. They also believed that Cupid’s arrows were tipped in diamonds. It makes perfect sense that this has translated, over the years, so that this lovely stone has acquired the reputation of being the gift of lovers.

A lovely Georgian poem beautifully describes the April child: She who from April dates her years, Diamonds shall wear, lest bitter tears For vain repentance flow.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Collecting Vintage Jewelry Part 10 - How to shop for and value vintage jewelry

This is another chapter in my ongoing series about various aspects of vintage jewelry. Today we'll discuss how to shop for vintage jewelry, how to value it and where to start in your search.

Bellini Art Deco Rhinestone Bracelet

The prices on vintage jewelry are not static. They change with the passage of time, and they also change with current trends and popular designers. A few years ago, I could pick up Trifari pieces relatively cheaply. Now, even on ebay, the prices of good pieces are very expensive. It appears the Italians want Trifari jewelry back in their country and they have discovered the internet for jewelry buying.

There are lots of places to aquire vintage jewelry. eBay has a fantastic range of it. But be careful. Although there are undeniably bargains there, there are also many pitfalls. Many sellers do not use good clear photos of their jewelry and may have undisclosed faults that you won't discover until you have paid for the item and have received it. Also, you may have a big cleaning program in store for your piece. Many sellers on ebay do not clean their jewelry at all. So, buyer beware. Choose your sellers wisely, ask questions when you are unsure, and know your values.

I prefer to use ebay as good place to see how the market values jewelry. You can search completed listings for two weeks for your search term and get a good idea of what certain designers and types of jewelry is going for. It will give you a very good idea of the "wholesale" price of vintage jewelry.

Going to live auctions can often result in wonderful jewelry finds. And don't forget flea markets and antique shops as you head out for vacations later this summer. These are all good places for vintage jewelry. Scour the local papers for news of upcoming auctions. Often they will tell you whether jewelry will be part of the estate. If you don't mind doing the leg work and then polishing and cleaning the jewelry, all of these could be means for procuring jewelry.

Eisenberg Milk Glass Brooch with Rhinestones

If you don't want to do the legwork and the cleaning process, then you usually will have better luck with quality buying from a well known and established vintage jewelry seller online. There are a multitude of vintage jewelry sellers. Some of them have been established for years, and some may be new and just starting out. You can usually find this information on their websites.

Established sellers know the market well, and normally offer vintage jewelry with good clear photos and the pieces are in good condition. Always, always look for back photos of jewelry that you are buying. The back of a piece can tell you many things about it (including fakes, and undisclosed damage.) If you don't see a back of a jewelry item that you like, move on to another seller. In my experiece, it only takes a little more time to write up an add and give complete photos of it, so not putting them in is lazy at best and deceptive at worst.

Now - suppose you find a vintage jewelry item that you like. There are several factors to consider before parting with your money.
  • Do you have a good idea of the current market price?
  • Is the jewelry clean and in good condition?
  • Is the piece signed by the designer? This will add value to the jewelry. (an exception is Juliana Jewelry which was never signed on the piece, but had paper hang tags only)
  • Is the jewelry piece a "book piece" featured in some of the popular vintage jewelry reference books? This sometimes can add value as it makes them particularly desirable. I've been trying to buy a set of the Har Coolieman jewelry for months with no luck. Every time I find them, the price goes through the roof. They are a much sought after book piece.
  • Are there any extras included?
There are many extras that can make a piece of vintage jewelry worth more.
  • Many designers made sets or parures. Is this piece a part of a set and are all of the pieces included here?
  • Does it come in the original box? This always adds value, and particularly so when the box is in very good condition. They also indicate that the jewelry has been stored well over the years.
  • Does it have original tags? This is a special find. Many designers used paper tags on their jewelry, when were often discarded on the first wearing. Finding original tags on vintage jewelry can easily add 20-30% to the value.
  • Popular designers who are highly collectible will make the piece more expensive and valuable. Many designers such as Hattie Carnegie, Miriam Haskell, Eisenberg, Juliana, and the like were not prolific designers, so the pieces are more rare than the average jewelry pieces. And designers such as McLelland Barclay, Boucher, Jomaz are very sought after.
B.David Aurora Borealis Rhinestone Parure

Armed with these facts and a few tools (magnifying glass, and loupes are helpful to see small details if you can see the piece in person), it is time to start out on your first vintage jewelry buying tip. Have fun!!
All of the items pictured are available for sale on Vintage Jewelry Lane. Just click on the pictures to go to the item pages for the description and prices.

This finishes the series on collecting vintage jewelry. Over the next few months, I'll be discussing various vintage jewelry designers in great detail. Past issues of this series can be found here:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Hope Diamond - Gemstone with a Long History

Most of you have probably heard of the Hope Diamond, arguably one of the most famous diamonds in the world. It is currently housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. It has long been its premiere exhibit.

This unique stone is a large, 45.52 carats fancy deep blue diamond. The Hope Diamond appears blue to the naked eye because of trace amounts of boron within its structure. Under ultraviolet light, it exhibits red phosphorescence.

Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

The history of the Hope diamond is long and fascinating. According to dubious account, the original Diamond was stolen from an eye of a sculpted idol Sita, the Hindu goddess who was the wife of Rama.

The diamond is famous for being "cursed." The earliest account of the curse was taken from a fanciful newspaper article in The Times in 1909. The article wrongly reported that the diamond's previous owner, Selim Habib, had drowned in a shipwreck near Singapore. In actual fact, this death is attribute to aa different person with the same name, not the owner of the diamond. The jeweler Pierre Cartier, a later owner of the diamond, embellished more lurid tales to the curse to intrigue Evalyn Walsh McLean into buying the Hope Diamond in 1911.

The lengthy history of the Hope Diamond began in 1668 when King Louis XIV of France sold it, along with 14 other large diamonds and several smaller ones. The diamond passed through many royal courts and then was reset in 1749, during the reign of King Louis XV. During a week-long looting of the crown jewels in September of 1792, the French Blue diamond was stolen.

Several owners claimed it over the next decades until it was sold to Pierre Cartier in 1909. The diamond was again reset in 1911 by Cartier when he showed it to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean and she did no care for the setting. Cartier mounted it on a headpiece with other large diamonds. Sometime later, it was again reset into the pendant necklace we know today. Harry Winston's purchased it in an estate in 1949, after which it was shown at many exhibits and charitable events worldwide. Finally, in 1958, it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution, where it now resides.

The Smithsonian Institution has a wonderful resource article which outlines the full history of the Hope Diamond. It is truly fascinating and worth the time to read it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bakelite Jewelry - Hot Collecting Trend

Bakelite Jewelry has become a hot collecting area in the last several decades. Collectors are always on the look out for new colors and designs. But be careful, there is a lot of "fakelite" being sold as genuine bakelite.

I've written an artice for my reference library on Vintage Jewelry Lane on how to test for and identify Bakelite. The article gives some background on the material and outlines a variety of tests for you to do to ascertain whether your piece is the real thing.

The words "bakelite" and "catalin" are often used interchangeably. However, they are actually two different materials. Both are thermoset plastics made from formaldehyde. The differences between the two are in the fillers used, origin of manufacture, the opaqueness, and the colors available. Most bakelite jewelry that you see for sale is actually catalin.

Bakelite is a US manufactured product, patented in 1907 by a Belgian chemist, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, working in New York. Most early uses of Bakelite were radios, handles for pots and pans, castings for televisions, toys, etc. Some was even used in coffins! Bakelite was manufactured between 1907 and 1927.

Once you have actually identified a few pieces and tested some bakelite jewelry, you will get a "feel" for it and will be able to detect it just by looking at the jewelry piece, in a lot of cases. It has a definite look to it that is unique. Some colors are a little harder than others to identify.

Much of the fakelite being sold comes in very vibrant colors. This is a good indicator that it isn't bakelite, although not fool proof. Most bakelite colors are somewhat more muted than the mass produced fakelite.

Here are a couple examples of brightly colored fakelite:

Fakelite pictures courtesy of Gale's bakelite guide

Compare these to the much more muted bakelite pieces:

Vintage Jewelry Lane has a nice range of genuine bakelite jewelry. All of it has been tested and is guaranteed to be genuine.

With the high prices that genuine bakelite now bring, it will pay you to be well informed on the subject. I hope this blog post and my bakelite information article at Vintage Jewelry Lane will be of some help to you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Today's Vintage Jewelry Word - C Clasp

Brooches have had a variety of clasps which have been used to fasten them to clothing throughout the years, but most of them have been some variation of the first style of clasp used - the C Clasp.

As a general rule of thumb, a C Clasp, without the locking part, indicates that the pin or brooch is old. There are exceptions to every rule, of course and this one is no exception, so other details such as the setting, type of stones, etc have to be taken into consideration to determine the age of the piece. Most modern C clasps can be indentified because the metal looks newer and is less well made. Old C clasps look to be more of a permanent part of the pin, rather than an addition. The cameo pin to the right shows a very good example of an old C Clasp.
Photocredit : jewelryexpert.com

A C Clasp is named because the part of the clasp that holds the pin in place is formed in the shape of a C. The earliest ones are just a rounded wire. Some other early styles include a more solid piece with a flattened top. As you can see from the photos below, there is not much to hold the pin in place.

Most brooches used C Clasps up until about 1900. Around this time, the locking C clasp was invented which used a locking mechanism to keep the pin from falling away from the C. Most brooches made today use some version of the locking C Clasp.

Here are several examples of very old style C Clasps:

I have brooches with old style C clasps in all of my web stores. (locations at the top right of my blog). Here is a very pretty Victorian Ribbon Bar Pin with a C Clasp from my Carolina Collections Vintage Jewelry Store on Ebay. It's available for only $26.50.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today's Vintage Jewelry Color - Green

Green grass, fresh new sprouts, leafy greens and vegetables - all of these green colors are so earthy and soothing. So, too, is the color green in jewelry. I've always thought of green as a healing color, so I just feel good when I wear green jewelry.

Green is often used as an accent on enamel pins - flower pins use it as enameling for leaves, and of course red and green are used all the times as Christmas colors, and green is used by itself as a color for St. Patrick's day jewelry.

So, I went on a hunt through my stores to see what I have for just plain green. It was kind of hard to find it as a single color. I kind of felt like Kermit the frog - "it's not easy being (just) green!"

Here are a few of my finds - they calm me just looking at them:

And my favorite - just in time for spring is this gorgeous green butterfly rhinestone pin. It is available in my Carolina Collections Vintage Jewelry Store for only $39.99. But hurry in - I only have two of them!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What's in Ginnifer Goodwin's Jewelry Box?

This is another chapter in my ongoing series about the jewelry preferences of some of the popular stars and starlets. Today, we will peek into Ginnifer Goodwin's jewelry box. Ginnifer is the star of the recent movie "He's Just Not That Into You" and HBO's popular series "Big Love."

One thing is for certain, she really is into Big Necklaces. From photos shoots in the early days of her career to very recently, she is seen wearing them. Many of the recent red carpet photos of her show her wearing very large statement necklaces. None made as much of a statement as this huge amber statement necklace that she wore to the movie premiere, though.

Photo credit starpulse.com

Ginnifer also has a love for long dangly earrings. Her bracelets seem to be either non existent or fairly simple and she will occasionally be seen sporting a chunky ring. I've only been able to find one instance when she wore a brooch on a jacket lapel, but this is mainly because she wears a lot of bare at the neckline dresses. By far, her favorite jewelry choices are the big necklaces.

She seems to go from one extreme to the other - either completely bare at the collar bone with simply long earrings, or trying to make a huge impression with her statement necklaces.

Here is a peek at some of her recent treasures other than necklaces:

What do you think of her choices?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Jewelry Find of the Week - Crown Trifari Art Bead Lucite Parure

Trifari is such a wonderful vintage designer. The pieces are so well made and the designs range from very simple brushed goldtone and silvertone to dazzling rhinestone creations. It is one of the designers with which I specialize on all my websites. It's always amazing to me to discover how many of the pieces are purchased by Italians - making the round trip from creation back to the new owner.

I have recently aquired this new three piece parure. Full parures of vintage jewelry, especially Trifari, are getting exceedingly hard to find, especially in wonderful condition. This set appears to be almost new.

The parure consists of a two strand necklace, pair of clip back earrings and matching three strand bracelet. The design consists of goldtone findings and stunning earthtone colored marbled lucite art beads. All of the pieces are marked with the crown over Trifari hallmark. This wonderful Trifari lucite full parure is available on Vintage Jewelry Lane for only $89.99.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bugs and Butterflies - Vintage Jewelry for Spring

Spring is here and it's time to spread some wings - those of the critter kind. With all the bulbs and seedlings starting to grow, now is the perfect time to wear those butterfly and bug jewelry pieces you have in your collection, or to find some new ones to add to it.

Wearing butterfly jewelry lightens the hearts of those that see you in it, and makes you feel special yourself. And since a butterfly symbolizes renewal, a piece of butterfly jewelry is the perfect anniversary gift!

Spring fashions are usually full of color and butterfly jewelry makes a wonderful accent. Although you can find some with subdued colors, most designers of butterfly jewelry take great delight in combining a myriad of stone colors together to make the wings sparkle and stand out. This lovely demi parure uses a combination of pink and purple - both great colors for spring, and it has both a brooch and a pair of matching earrings. It is really romantic and feminine.

This Joan Rivers lucite butterfly pin is a good example of a combination of colors that isn't too bright and would look stunning on either a white or black jacket lapel. I love the layered look of the wings and the clear diamante rhinestones add just enough bling to make it sparkle and shine.

And for those of you who like a bit more of the creepy crawly jewelry - look at these unique bug pins. They should appeal to the budding entomologist in you. Just enough of a crawly look but not creepy enough to make those who see it run away.

Be sure to visit the Butterfly and Bug jewelry page on Vintage Jewelry Lane which has an insect jewelry piece which will appeal to all tastes and budgets. All of the jewelry pieces featured here are available as well as many more. Spread those wings and fly!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Michelle Obama loves Corsage Brooches

Our First Lady seems to have a fondness for brooches. This past week, she welcomed a large group of guests in the Diplomatic Room at the White House. The group was preparing to meet with students from the Washington, DC area as part of the Women's History month activities.

She looked elegant in a Zero + Maria Cornejo jacket which she wore over slim black pants and a huge black floral brooch. She also wore this brooch on the campaign trail, but then she paired it with another white floral brooch. What a unique idea!

I've seen smaller pins grouped together on a lapel for an interesting look, but haven't seen anyone pair up to fairly large brooches together before. It goes well with the new trend of statement jewelry which is so popular right now. She could also be starting a new trend of "corsage jewelry." The symbolism of the black and white flower combination is apt.

If you like Michelle's look, you may find a couple of pins that you could team up on the flower brooches page of my Vintage Jewelry Lane website. I have them in all styles and colors to suit all tastes.

Photo credits: Mrs.O.com

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nicole Richie Has a New Line of Jewelry - Based on Vintage Jewelry Styles

Nicole Richie has launched a new website now. She calls her jewelry line "The House of Harlow Jewelry" and it is being currently promoted by the trendy boutique Kitson on Melrose in California and also on their online website Kitsons.

Nicole states on her site that her "new jewelry line is inspired by my personal vintage collection as well as flea markets from all over the world. Wherever I go, I am excited to see what I can find."

Nicole seems to have a fondness for vintage jewelry designs from the 1960s and 1970s. She puts her own personal twist on them. Her black acrylic necklace is one of the pieces sold out from Kitson's boutique and on back order. It has a Bohemian look very popular in the 1970s. Nicole liked to wear it a lot, as shown in her photo to the left, so that probably accounts for its popularity.

This bracelet also has an ethnic look to it. It's available in several colors, and wide bangles are very popular right now with the current statement jewelry trend.

Best of luck to Nicole. It's always nice to see jewelry that has been inspired by vintage jewelry. Nicole states that the jewelry is just the start. She plans on adding clothing and other fashion items soon. You can view Nicole Richie's website here, along with a video of her getting ready for her jewelry showing.
Photo of Nicole Richie courtesy of singer22.com

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vintage Jewelry Designers - Who am I?

Let's have some more fun. This is another chapter in my guessing game about vintage jewelry designers. I'll give you some clues and a few photos and you see if you can figure out who the designer is. (the answer is at the bottom of the blog, reading backwards.)

Here are the clues:
  • I was founded in 1883 in Europe and was sold in the USA from 1915 through to today, although the company was sold by the original family owners in the 1990s.
  • First base of operation was in France
  • 4 generations of my family was involved in the jewelry business - Jacques, William, Robert and Donald were the first names
  • The first son also sold theatrical costumes for the Zeifeld Follies in New York
  • The designs were often reproductions of the fine jewelry from Europe
  • The jewelry designs included lots of use of precious and semi precious stones
  • The logo of the company was changed approximately every 20 years
  • Lots of gold washed and sterling silver pieces in the designs
  • Earrings used huge rollers for comfort
Here are some pictures of my designs:

Last two photos courtesy of ebay sellers fantasyofjewels and yoyolz

I am considered a very high end designer and some of my pieces command very high prices today. For more information and the answer to today's riddle, you can go to the 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): 'eboH

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jewelry and Astrology - Aries

This blog post is another in my series about choosing jewelry suitable for individual star signs. Aries is the star sign for those born between March 21 and April 19. Tomorrow starts the new star season, so today's post will help you with some jewelry choices for this star sign.

Those born under the sign of the ram are said to be courageious, enthusiastic, generous and optimistic. On the negative side, they can be short tempoerd, impulsive, impatient and somewhat self involved.

To get a clue about what sort of Jewelry to choose for your Aries friend let's have a look at some of these Zodiac facts about the star sign:
  • The primary color is red
  • Birthstone is diamond, bloodstone, or red calchedony (carnelian)
  • Lucky numbers are 6 and 7
  • Best locations are big cities
  • Their zodiac symbol is the ram
  • The flowers associated with this sign are tulips, any thorn bearing flower such as roses, hollyhock, geraniums and impatiens.
Combining these ideas gives me some inspiration for jewelry for your Aries friend. The first one that comes to mind is this Trifari Ram necklace made of intaglio reverse cut glass. It is simple, doesn't have the zodiac sign printed on it as some zodiac jewelry does and feels cold and natural on the neck. The Aries ram zodiac pendant necklace is available on my Vintage Jewelry Lane site for only $19.99.

If the actual zodiac piece doesn't appeal to you, how about this lovely carnelian banded pendant necklace. It is set in goldtone and is a lovely earthy red color which would appeal to aries personalities. You could team it up with this stunning caged gemstone bracelet which has carnelian nuggets of the same shade.

The red carnelian necklace and caged carnelian gemstone bracelet are both available in Carolina Collections Vintage Jewelry. The necklace is available for $11.25, and the bracelet is only $8.50.

Want to buy a piece of jewelry with flowers on it? Look no further than the flower jewelry pages in my three stores: Vintage Jewelry Lane, Carolina Collections Vintage Jewelry, and Vintage Jewelry Mall.

Into numbers for your Aries friend? Look no further than this wonderful 6 strand snake chain necklace with a shield pendant. The necklace is very modern looking and is marked LC on the clasp. It's availabe at Carolina Collections Vintage Jewelry for $11.99.

Check back next month when I will be giving suggestions for your Taurus friend. That is my star sign, so I'll have lots of ideas.

Zodiac Logo courtesy of zodiac-signs-astrology.com/


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