Sunday, February 05, 2006

Amber-dead bug jewelry

When you wear your amber jewelry, do you ever stop to think about how it came to be, or do you just enjoy the rich color and interesting occlusions in the golden colored decoration?
Amber is the result of trees oozing sap that worked down the tree, picking up insects, bits and pieces of bark and dirt. Over time, it hardened into a material that looks like a stone, trapping the debris inside. Most of these occlusions will be a monotone color, although pieces with multicolor beetles have been found. There are even known pieces with lizards and frogs in them-interestingly, the best known frog has 6 legs! Baltic amber is the best known, but South America also has amber, as do other areas of the world. Amber will date from 30-90 million years in age, and some has been found in rocks as old as 230 million years - during the Triassic period.
There are several legends about the origin of amber. My favorite is that it came from tears shed during Noah’s flood. The Greeks believed that the Heliads shed tears into the Eridanus when their brother Phaethon was drowned in the river, and these tears became amber. They didn’t explain how the amber got from the river to the trees, however. But these legends are no more interesting than the factual history!
Wherever it came from, it makes beautiful jewelry.
There are some simple tests to find out if that piece of jewelry you are looking at is real amber. Amber feels somewhat warm to the touch rather than cool like stones. When rubbed, it develops an electric state and paper will stick to it. When heated enough, it will melt, although you don’t want to try this! The best thing is to buy your amber pieces from reputable shops that will guarantee their items. Enjoy your amber and reap the benefits of the good luck it is reputed to bring!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I haven't figured out what this is supposed to be-looks like a steam engine, but where would the driver sit? Any ideas?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Hannah Hog payback

Estate Sale Paybacks
How many times have you stood in line for an hour, waiting to get into an estate sale, only to have the person in front of you buy everything in sight?
I’ve had it happen to me more than once, but I finally got even with at least one of these Hannah Hogs. As large a town as Austin, Texas is, I still see the same group of people at most estate sales. One particular woman, I got to know as Hannah Hog at my first Austin estate sale.
Of course, I know to get to an estate sale early, so I showed up 45 minutes before the doors opened, with my Starbucks and DH to carry any bulky treasures. But for an Austin estate sale, I was late, and ended up standing halfway down the sidewalk, while unknown to me, Hannah hovered like a vulture at the front of the line. I discovered later that Hannah arrives at sales before dawn, equipped with night vision goggles for locating house numbers and uncovered windows she might be able to peer through.
After shivering in the cold for 45 minutes drinking coffee and wondering if I could make it to the corner 7-11 restroom and back before the doors opened, the Sale manager finally let us in the door. I was in the first group allowed in the house, and made a beeline for the living room, where jewelry and cashiers are usually located. I spotted the table, but it was too late by then-less than 3 minutes into the sale! I met Hannah and learned her seize and sort method of shopping, that day.
Your Hannah Hog may be just like mine, or one of the many variations that I’ve since heard about, but let me describe my Hannah so you can be on the alert for her. She’s middle aged, dressed nicely, and carrying a large basket. No purse to get in her way, she keeps the basket on her arm and both hands free. Hannah doesn’t visit with other dealers in line, she’s focused completely on that front door. She is always among the first in line, goes straight for the items she deals in, and God help anyone getting between her and her goal.
When I got to the jewelry table seconds behind Hannah, she was loading her basket. I reached for a piece still on the table and Hannah snarled ‘That’s mine!’ and grabbed it out of my hand. Shocked, I watched this woman sweep every piece of jewelry on the table into her basket and stalk off, with one last threatening look at me.
So I was kind of peeved-but there was worse to come! After going through the entire sale, DH and I returned to the living room to check out. There sat Hannah on the floor going through this basket of jewelry and discarding all the things she didn’t want! Now, I understand someone saying ‘I’ll buy it all’ if they are willing to make good on their promise, but this lady just does not believe in equal opportunity shopping. I was to witness Hannah doing her seize and sort missions two more times that spring. Every time I saw her, I knew that sale would be a dry run for me.
But as they say, what goes around, comes around. I finally got even with Hannah. I was actually ahead of her in line at a sale. The moment I walked through the door, I asked if there was any jewelry and the attendant told me ‘in the bedroom to the left’. I ran, insofar as that is possible in a house full of antique hunters during open season, straight to the bedroom, where I discovered the Mother Lode of jewelry sales.
There was a small linen closet lined with shelves and just large enough for one person to stand in. Every shelf from eye level down was covered with jewelry! And standing right behind me, outside the closet door….was Hannah. I could feel her hot breath on my neck, and only hesitated seconds before doing what I knew I had to do.
I pulled up the bottom of my t-shirt, making a pouch out of it…and swept every single piece of jewelry off every single shelf, into my shirt . Rhinestones, beads, plastic, broken or mint made no difference. I took it all. Then turning to Hannah, I smiled sweetly, and walked off with my jewelry, my tshirt hanging down like a huge growth on my stomach and Hannah growling and snarling as I walked by.
Yes, I did buy every bit of it. I stretched a perfectly good shirt out of shape. I don’t know if I ever got my money back on all that stuff I bought....but it was worth every cent.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Your Inheritance is in the Garage

I’ve finally come up with the perfect comeback for DH (dear husband) when he complains about the ‘stuff’ that is taking over our home. It’s not a hobby, an addiction, or a garage sale waiting to happen. That mountain of bangle bracelets, the 5 plastic boxes full of 50’s earrings…..the full set of state thimbles, the Mexican pottery, the 400 teddy bears,etc, etc….that’s not junk, that’s my legacy to my children.
For years, I claimed I was building up my inventory to open an antique shop. When my ‘inventory’ took over both living rooms, the basement, and part of the garage, he quit believing that story, and told me to either open the shop or quit buying. When faced with this choice, I had no alternative but to open a shop…and step up my buying to get it stocked without emptying my house.
After 33 years of marriage and the arrival of grandchildren, I no longer have to come up with excuses for starting new collections. I’m not buying for myself-I’m building a collection for my grandchildren. The first granddaughter was a wonderful excuse to start buying those cute Cherished Teddies and keep all of the vintage bangle bracelets I adored, but always felt obligated to sell. She’s 2 ½ now and has probably 120 bracelets. Of course, I’m keeping them until she’s old enough to appreciate them. And since we most likely will have at least one more granddaughter, I’ve started a collection of old plastic pins for her..whenever she shows up. The grandson will have every Pez dispenser made in the last 25 years..when he’s old enough to know not to trade them for baseball cards. I tell DH that the teddies are for this daughter in law, the pottery for that one…when they’re old enough to appreciate them.
So children, when I die-don’t look for a fortune in a bank box. Don’t dig around trying to find my will. Go out to the garage and look for the Rubbermaid boxes marked ‘saving for the kids’. And have a great yard sale!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Store or Show?

When you start any kind of collection, one of the first things you have to do is find a place for it. Some collections of large or even not too large items can quickly take over a house. Fortunately, jewelry is easy to find a spot for (until it reaches the point where you no longer have a collection, but a museum!)
The purists advise you to store your jewelry in white jewelry boxes, preferably the original box if available. There’s no question that this is probably the safest thing to do. You don’t want your precious brooches and bracelets simply piled up together in a jewelry box. Stones can get lost, metal and even stones can get scratched. Plastic should never be stored with metal, as it also can be badly scratched. Once each item or parure is in its own box, you can then store the boxes by categories in drawers, and everything is safe and sound.
However, this is not what I think collections are about, unless it is merely an investment to you. I prefer to display my collections where I, as well as guests, can view and enjoy them. And there are wonderful ways to display jewelry that take up little room.
Shadow boxes are handy. You can make an end table into a shadow box full of brilliant rhinestone brooches. I have even put tiny nails in hanging shadow boxes and hung plastic brooches and pins inside the cubicles. Don’t hang necklaces, because the constant weight on old waxed thread is not good for them, anymore than hanging an old quilt is good for the stitches in it. But pins, earrings, and even bangle and cuff bracelets can be hung.
Plastic jewelry is one of the most striking types of jewelry to decorate a room with. The brilliant colors of plastic can become the color scheme of a room. Bangles of bakelite, Lucite, and acrylic in particular look great stacked on clear columns of plastic, as shown, stacked on an antique drying rack, or hung on multi-rung towel racks. Or fill a clear glass snifter or fishbowl with bangles and cuffs. Just always be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight and away from teething dogs and children, and enjoy looking at your treasures!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Charms bracelets tell a story!

Charms are a history lesson! Take a look at an old charm bracelet sometime. Chances are that the bracelet will outline a history of it’s owner’s life.
Charms got that name because the earliest ones really were charms, or amulets to guarantee health, safety, good luck to the owner. They were made of stones, wood, or other locally available materials that could be carved or decorated. The cave men had them, the Egyptians, the Crusaders had charms that they wore on leather thongs around their necks, attached to their clothing, or somehow close to their body.
It was during Queen Victoria’s time that charms became more of a decorative item and bracelets became the place to wear as many charms as the owner of the bracelet might have. Hair lockets or braids, gemstone charms, religious medals, all were attached to the bracelet for everyday wear.
Eventually these charm bracelets went out of style, although never completely out of use. But there was a major resurgence in popularity after WWII when soldiers returned home with trinkets for their wives to attach to a bracelet. This was the beginning of the heyday of charm bracelets as we know them.
It became a tradition to give young women a charm bracelet when they reached their teen years, married, graduated, or had some other special event in their lives. These bracelets were added to with charms to commemorate weddings, birthdays, children, graduation, special trips or other events in their lives.
Bracelets are popular again today and charms can be found in all styles. The enameled and jeweled ones are particularly stylish…take a look at some of Judith Ripka’s amazing charms! Or they may be the traditional and perennially popular styles such as those of James Avery or Renaissance. The wonderful thing is that they all go together beautifully on a charm bracelet, so just choose the one that pleases you!
The picture above is of my treasured charm bracelet begun by my mother for me. It has University seals from the various schools I’ve attended, club membership charms (from Brownies to sorority and women’s clubs) souvenir charms from trips, birthday charms, and some that were just gifts from family and friends and have special meaning because of that. I seldom wear this bracelet-but if there was a fire, it would be among the things I would save! I’ve started them for both of my daughters in law and added to them for every special event in their lives.
So start your daughter or daughter in law, wife or special friend a charm bracelet. This is a gift that continues to give and grow, throughout the years!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Flea Market Treasures

To a jewelry collector, there is no more entertaining way to spend the day than ‘prospecting for gold’ at the local flea market, trade days, or whatever they’re called in your part of the country.
My long suffering, infinitely patient, husband recently took me to what I consider one of the most well organized trade days in the hill country of Texas. The Lion’s Club of Wimberly sponsors a market days event for craftsmen and dealers on the first Saturday weekend of each month, February through December. It’s always packed full of unique craft items, foods (try the Lions Club BBQ) and best of all, antique dealers!
Of course, there are lots of mass produced new items…however, if you like Mexican silver jewlery, this is not a bad thing! But the fun for me is in hunting for the vintage pieces of jewelry tucked away in the various booths just waiting for me to discover them.
A lot of it is high priced, but the trick is in knowing the value ahead of time, hunting for bargains, and being willing to deal with the seller. That lady decked out in vintage jewelry, with tables full of locked display boxes, is going to value every piece she owns and price them accordingly. She also knows what she has and can usually teach you a lot about vintage jewelry if you can get her interested in talking to you. So if you’re a novice and willing to spend the time listening to her, or willing to pay top price for a piece you like, her booth is well worth a visit.
I like to hunt for the booths with a cigar box full of jewelry or odds and ends tucked away between the comic books and Japanese pottery. This is where you’re likely to find old celluloid charms for a quarter, or Lucite earrings, bakelite buttons, or an Eisenburg Christmas tree that only needs a couple of rhinestones replaced, for a dollar. These dealers picked up the box at an auction, or just cleaned out stored items and threw them together. They will often be willing to sell you the entire box, just to get rid of it. It takes a little more time and patience to shop this way, but the rewards can be worth it! Above is a wonderful celluloid Scotty dog brooch marked ‘occupied Japan’ that I found for $10 at the trade days this month. The dealer valued it because of the occupied Japan mark, and priced it according to what she thought it would be worth. I jumped on that price, knowing the book price for this cross-collectible was closer to $65! So pull on your hiking shoes and head out for the flea markets this weekend-there are treasures waiting to be found!