Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Vintage Wooden Jewelry

You can find wooden jewelry made at any time period but a lot of the pieces that you will see come from the era of the 1940's. During World War II there was a shortage of metals. Aluminum was heavily used in costume jewelry in the 1920's-early 40's but when war broke out it became more important to use the metal for building military equipment. Jewelers and artist started to look at other materials such as wood (I'll get into Bakelite later) to create jewelry. The piece featured to the left is an amazing example of a carved wooden piece. The saddle is made of one piece of wood with burned designs that were done by hand, tiny leather accents, and hand carved boots. I collect these piece not only because they are unique but because it reminds me of a generation that made due and continued to create even in the midst of war.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Onto Old Mine Cuts..into my favorite the European Cuts

In the 1700's old mine cuts or cushion cuts became a diamond cutting style. They called it a cushion cut because it resembles a square that has the corners softened by two or three cuts. Also the point or culet was cut off flat-so when you look down through this diamond you see a circle.

In the late mid 16th century through the early 1800's diamonds were cut into a rose cut. The shape of the diamonds are not circular but more of a free form. There really isn't a table and they have a flat bottom sometimes completely covered by silver and they do tend to be gray in color. A lot of Georgian jewelry has rose cut diamonds which are backed in silver such as the example to the right.

Into the 1800's diamonds became more rounder and closer to what we consider the brilliant modern cut. This is my favorite cut. Having less cuts and the open culet really creates a deeper brilliance in my opinion.
Just this past weekend I attended an auction of a european cut 3.13 carat diamond ring set in platinum. It is the most beautiful diamond I have seen in a long time. It was obiliviously cherished and there was a slight chip on the table and a carbon feather which had been hidden by a prong. It was clean to the eye and even with a loop of carbon. Just a tinge of yellow-maybe a h-i in color. Anyway the hammer price was 5, 900.00 I think that was a buy...even with polishing out the slight chip you would have about a 3 carat ring for 6k--what would you have paid for in a modern jewelry store?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Here is an excellent example of a Middle Ages diamond ring. Just found in mid-2008 in a freshly plowed field in England--what a find. The new owner saw it in the dirt. To imagine that this diamond came from Africa to England, perhaps as early as the 1400's, and was then crafted for a very rich and important person then was lost to the dirt for 100's of years baffles my mind. I have been trying to track if it has been sold but I can't find any mention-it must be worth--geez who knows?

During the Middle Ages most betrothal rings (what we consider a wedding ring today) were made of colored gem stones such as rubies and sapphires. Their rich deep colors were prized. However it is in the late middle ages that diamond rings begin to appear. The first known recorded account of a diamond betrothal ring is from 1477 which was presented by Archduke Maximilian of Austria to his love Mary of Burgundy. Early on these diamonds would not be the near white diamonds we think of today- they would be dark, almost black and in a very authentic form -octahedral state- as is the ring above.

Here is another later example of a Middle Ages diamond ring around 15-16th century. Note the diamond is becoming whiter but is still in a very natural state.

As time progressed the diamond began to have the top cut off to create a table cut and were typically set in silver. This type of cutting can be seen from the 16th century up to the early 17th century.
Whew...that's enough diamond cuts tonight... more to follow. I hope this weekend when I am out auctioning there might be a buried Middle Ages diamond ring-hey a girl has to dream.

Monday, February 16, 2009

So many diamond cuts so little time.

This sweet little buttercup stickpin with a european cut diamond reminded me that it is time to brush up on how to date diamonds by their cut.
I am off to research........

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More Information on Filigree

The word filigree is derived from the Latin word filum (meaning thread). The art of filigree consists of twisting fine wire to create patterns. The majority of pieces that I see consist of silver or high grade gold. The image to the left shows a truly handmade silver filigree piece. Early examples can be found dating back to Etruscan and Greek times. I remember during my ancient studies course that the Walters Art Gallery had quite a few examples of Etruscan works in finer metals.

In regards to the cameo filigree ring that I purchased last Saturday, the filigree in this piece is not handmade but massed produced from a mold. It is pretty impossible to twist 14kt gold into the fine lacy patterns. When looking at more modern examples of filigree wear is an important consideration. The more crisp the filigree (detailed) the more the piece is worth.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Art Deco Filigree Ring with Cameo Wearing a Diamond Necklace Part One

Isn't she a pretty...14kt white gold cameo ring with diamond, just one of my finds at the auction last Saturday.

There was a fad in the 1930-40's where it just wasn't enough to wear a cameo....all of a sudden your cameo needed to wear a diamond necklace. Every now and then I have seen cameo pendants, pins and rings wearing diamond necklaces. I consider this "bling" during the art deco period.

I think this fad began due to women inheriting their mother or grandmother's jewelry and wanting to create something unique with the pieces. Somebody in the 1920's decided to take a cameo and use a diamond perhaps out of a old ring and make it into a necklace for the cameo......and the fad began. Jewelers caught on and mass produced the idea.

Next post I will fill you in on the origins of the filigree style of jewelry making. This setting is an excellent example. Off to research......

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Day of the Auction

I left before sunrise ready for my trip to PA. Unfortunately I missed my exit on the turnpike and had to drive 20 miles above my designation to turn around--so I was a half an hour late. I didn't worry too much as there were over 350 lots of jewelry.

First things you do at an auction-pull out your license, get in line and register. If they have a catalog grab it.

My auction process is to do the quick walk through....just glaze over everything and if something catches your eye make a notation on your catalog to come back and get a closer look.

At jewelry auctions everybody is in your way and crowding the cases. Grab the eye of the helpers and ask them to see the item you are interest in by giving them the lot # of the item. Take your time go over the piece--it is made well, any scratches/chips, has it been repaired? I have looked at items then bought them and found issues after taking them is hard to concentrate at a loud auction so just take your time. Once you buy an item you can not return it unless it is a very unusal case where the auction company was way off their description.

Yesterday I found quite a few great antique/vintage pieces so I took notes on a lot of items. I write down the condition and most importantly how much I would pay. My gut told me that I probably would be out bid but I still took the time to look them over. This paid off as I was able to purchase all the rings and earrings that I liked at great prices.

After you looked at all the pieces you are interested in try to find a spot to sit in the front since it is so difficult to see what they are selling. Take time to listen to the auctioneer and try to figure out what the heck he is saying. Most auctioneers have a continuous cadence...after listening you get an idea if he increases his bids 5 dollars or 25 dollars...something that is important to know in the heat of bidding. For goodness sake don't scratch your nose looking at the auctioneer or you may just end up with a box lot of junk.

The auctioneer calls out the item number and quick description of the item. DO NOT BID ON THE FIRST PRICE HE CALLS OUT. Yesterday, the auctioneer kept starting at 200 he asks for that amount then drops down to 150, 100 then 50 and sometimes down to 20. Get in after someone else has bid. Raise that paddle high and once the auctioneer points to you put your hand down (you'll look like a pro). As the price increases just nod your head when the auctioneer asks you if you accept the higher price. If the bid goes over the amount you want to pay nod your head NO-don't get swept up in the moment! If you are under your amount have your bidder number handy and show it to the auctioneer.

Yesterday was the first time in quite awhile I got some really great deals at an auction....the economy must really be squeezing this is the time to buy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day Before Attending An Auction

I have worked for multiple auction companies and forget that not everyone understands how an auction works.

First how do you find an auction? Best place I know of now is This will allow you to look at all auctions by date and distance from you.

When reading the auction listing pay close attention to the terms and conditions. Some auction companies do not take credit cards so you must pay with cash or check. Most companies will accept an in state check but if you are out of state you will need to contact them and get approval. Be sure you bring your drivers license they will not register you without one.

Buyers Premiums can be confusing as well. Most BP's run between 5-15%, so if you buy something for 10.00 with a 10% BP you will end of really paying 11.00 + sales tax.

When looking at jewelry at an auction--I like to pack my loop (I tie it on my sweatshirt pull string because it is so hard to juggle everything), mini flashlight and notebook.

Tomorrow I am off to a very large jewelry auction in PA-wish me luck.

The Beginning.....

As I continue my passion of collecting and selling antique and vintage jewelry I thought it would be interesting to share my experiences. I love the thrill of finding treasuries buried in old jewelry boxes or box lots. Through the years collecting has treated me well--not only does jewelry tend to increase in value (better than stocks now) but you can actually wear and enjoy the items (try that with a stock certificate).

I welcome any questions on pieces you may own. Hope you enjoy and learn a little.