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Excellent Vintage Costume Jewelry US Patent Reference Web Sites

trifariloop

Let’s say you have a piece of vintage costume jewelry with a patent pending stamp or a patent # on the back. There are excellent web sites that are dedicated to identifying costume jewelry which was produced when jewelry designs were patented in the US. Patenting as a practice died out in the early 1950s and the heyday of patented costume jewelry was from the 1920s-1940s. The Trifari pin featured above is patented and is dated to 1953.

These sites can help you determine who manufactured and sold a piece of jewelry, the name of the designer, the date of patent, as well as other details. This information is extremely important in determining the value of a piece of vintage costume jewelry.

The following links show sites with comprehensive research resources. The sites are organized by jewelry maker and dates, along with design drawings and patent dates.

www.jewelrypatents.com

www.vintagejewelrypatents.com

Also, if you want to see a site with loads of high-end magnificent costume jewelry that was produced during the hey-day of design check out the link below. Many of these pieces have the patent information provided.
www.trifari.com

My site: www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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Where To Find and Buy Vintage Jewelry


I get asked fairly frequently where I get my vintage costume jewelry. Below is a list of the different sources I use to obtain jewelry. I’ve listed the sources in descending order based on my personal success in finding quality jewelry there.

1. My Contacts — over the years I have cultivated different people who I’ve met while conducting business. These people know that I am always looking to purchase jewelry. I contact these people every couple of months to see if they anything to sell me. Most often, these “pickers” are my best and most reliable source for jewelry. These pickers are often out in the market doing the same thing I’m doing…working their own contacts, attending sales and auctions and garage sales.

2. Auctions — I read the auction section of my local classifieds each week and also check a website named www.AuctionZip.com. Both of these sources advertise local auctions in my area each week. I only attend auctions which advertise a decent amount and quality of jewelry. I like www.Auctionzip.com because sometimes photos are posted that allow me to preview the auction. I have a pet peeve about auction listings, though….if an auctioneer is going to feature jewelry as one of the main highlights of an auction then he/she should PLEASE post some photos!

3. Local Jewelers — Sometimes local jewelers (I’m talking about independently owned jewelry stores, not mall stores or chains) come across vintage costume jewelry in the course of doing business. I’ve fostered relationships with a few local jewelers who do not consider me to be competition and are happy to sell me costume jewelry in bulk. I try to reciprocate by telling everyone I know how wonderful these jewelers are. I respect these guys and have confidence in their honesty and am happy to refer potential business their way.

4. Pawn Shops — I’ve visited local pawn shops and have found very good deals in the past. Again, pawn shops sometimes end up with vintage costume jewelry in the course of doing business. The only way to find which particular shops do deal in this type jewelry is to go in and ask.

5. Scrap dealers (AKA Jewelers and Coin Dealers) — Some jeweler and coin dealers will be happy to let you pick through the scrap jewelry that they originally intended to sell at scrap value. Lots of jewelry is scrapped when there is absolutely nothing wrong with it other than scrap value has, at times, exceeded the value of the jewelry itself (but jewelers don’t know costume jewelery and will scrap a real treasure). Don’t be embarrassed to go into a store and ask if they are willing to sell you scrap jewelry. The worst thing that they can say is “no”.

6. Antique Stores/ Antique Malls — I do walk through antique stores in the hopes of finding unidentified or underpriced “treasures”. This technique takes a lot of patience since it’s typical that once something is being merchandised in a store that there’s not too much profit margin there for me. But if I have time to kill and really need jewelry, I will visit stores in my area. I have found some wonderful things over the years.

7. Craigslist — I look at Craigslist every day and most of the jewelry there is not what I’m looking for. Every once in a while, though, I’ve been successful in contacting a seller and making a good deal.

8. Goodwill — Not usually a good place in my experience but I still visit periodically. Usually low end items are there.

9. Garage Sales — I don’t attend too many because I’m not interested in getting up at the crack of dawn and fighting other people for jewelry. I haven’t found too much good jewelry at garage sales. But when I do attend a garage sale, I ask the seller if they have any additional jewelry. Surprisingly, the answer is sometimes “yes” and then they bring out the jewelry still in the house.

10. Estate Sales — I went through a spell where I attended these for a while. However, estate sales often require you to get there and line up to get a number hours before the sale starts — only to get into the house and see that there’s nothing there. It can be a crap shoot but is an option.

11. Online auction sites — there are sites that conduct auctions in real time online. I’ve had some excellent but spotty results at these auctions. Read the terms of the auctions closely so that you are aware of shipping costs and additional charges.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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Shopping for Antiques in Small Town Ohio


I had an errand to run recently that took me out into the country of southern Ohio. Prior to going, I Googled “antique stores” to see if I could find a few in nearby small towns. One town, Lynchburg OH, showed a single antique store listing online.

Well, I went out of my way and found Lynchburg. There was a single stoplight with a bank, a gas station, a hardware store and a few other buildings. Within a few seconds I found the location of Lynchburg Antique Mall but it appeared to be closed. Darn it! I was ready to spend some money. After walking up to the store front and peering through the glass, I saw someone arranging items inside. I knocked on the window, totally ignoring the sign on the door which announced that the store would be open for business for the season in a couple of weeks. The man inside the store opened the door to talk to me and let me in.

This guy was busy and could have turned me away. As soon as I told him what I was looking for, he rummaged around and found me several boxes of vintage costume jewelry for me to look through. I found some good items; we had a good conversation while I was looking and he gave me a fabulous deal.

I’ll be back. The owner of the mall said that several antique stores are open in the area during the summer season. It will be fun to explore the area again in a few months.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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How To Clean Green Gunk Verdigris From Jewelry

As a collector and seller of vintage costume jewelry, it’s always a disappointment to come across a beautiful piece of vintage costume jewelry covered in green gunk. You know what I’m talking about…it looks like green mold and is usually clinging to the metal parts of the piece. This green gunk is officially known as verdigris.

Verdigris is corrosion of the metal caused by exposure to moisture, makeup or other contaminants. It happens over time and I see it when a bunch of costume jewelry has been stored for years, sometimes in contact with moisture and with other pieces of jewelry. It is possible to transfer the growth of verdigris from one piece of jewelry to another if they are touching for long periods of time. Some verdigris is easily removed and some is beyond bothering with. I always try to remove it but realize that sometimes the treatment is nearly as bad as the verdigris itself.

Below are my recommended methods to remove verdigris:
1. TOOTHPICK — Sometimes a toothpick is all it takes to scrape small amounts of verdigris from small spots on jewelry. I’d try this first.
2. DRY TOOTHBRUSH — Take a dry toothbrush and brush it across the gunk, removing as much as you can.
3. METAL POLISH — After brushing off as much as I can with a toothbrush, I might move on to try metal polish. There are metal polishes out on the market that are worth their weight in gold to me. Most can be purchased at any hardware store or big box store. I’m currently using a small tube of metal polish named Maas Metal Polish. These metal polishes are very slightly abrasive creams which will help you remove tarnish or dirt from metals. Squeeze a pea-sized drop of polish on to a clean, soft cloth and rub softly on the jewelry. After about 30 seconds of rubbing, check your jewelry out. Hopefully, some of the green is off the jewelry and on your cloth. Finish polishing your jewelry with a clean portion of the cloth. If metal polish has not worked satisfactorily, it’s time to move on to “home chemical treatments”.
WARNING: Some of the options below may work but I use them only as a last resort. Many times, even after the verdigris is removed, the metal underneath is no longer gold plated and may not match the finish on the rest of the piece of jewelry. Keep this in mind before you try the treatments below.
4. VINEGAR — Pour some white vinegar into a bowl or cup and soak your jewelry for about 20 minutes. Pull the jewelry out, then brush it off with the toothbrush. Rinse well, then dry well with a soft clean cloth. Do NOT soak certain types of jewelry in vinegar, especially jewelry with soft gems like pearls, fake pearls, rhinestones with foil backings, glued in rhinestones. If the verdigris is only on certain parts of jewelry, you could still try the vinegar but maybe soak some onto a cotton ball or paper towel and leave the soaked cotton ball touching the verdigris only. This will protect your stones in the jewelry.
4. KETCHUP — I’ve used ketchup in the past because it is acidic and stays in place. The warning about protecting soft gems and rhinestones applies to ketchup as well as vinegar. Lay the jewelry on a paper towel. Squirt the ketchup on the verdigris, wait about 30 minutes, rinse the jewelry well and dry thoroughly. If you can get over the smell and mess of the ketchup, it can sometimes work well.

Proper storage of vintage costume jewelry will prevent future damage. Try not to expose your jewelry to moisture and at least make sure that moisture or makeup is not present on the jewelry when putting it away. It’s best not to pile a bunch of jewelry together and leave it laying there for years. Just get your jewelry out and look at it once in a while. The sooner you catch that nasty green gunk, the easier it is to stomp out!

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Antiques Auction at the Preble County OH Fairgrounds


I went to an auction yesterday at the Preble County Fairgrounds in Eaton, Ohio, known as the birthplace of Swine Improvement in America. No swine were visible yesterday. The crowd included farmers, townspeople, and the same old antiques dealers and gold buyers whom I see at every auction in Cincinnati.

There was so much to sell that it filled two large rooms inside the fairground buildings. I love auctions like that because it usually helps keep prices down when there is an abundance of goods. Yesterday, though, auction bids were surprisingly high….apparently the recession hasn’t hit Eaton, OH. There were at least 200 ziploc bags of jumbled vintage costume jewelry for sale. I competed against one particular guy in overalls (!) and paid dearly for about 20 bags.


There was half of a room dedicated just to sewing supplies. In boxes of supplies, I would see a bakelite clip here and a bakelite clip there. I intended to stay and bid on these boxes but eventually ran out of time.

My best purchase was a 1970s Lanvin signed colorful enamel pendant necklace. Very Pucci looking. I hope to list it on eBay sometime next week.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.


Visit My eBay Store: MidCentury Jewelry
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The Recession Has Hit Vintage Costume Jewelry Sales

The recession can be felt by jewelry sellers on eBay and the Internet. I belong to a vintage jewelry seller’s group and everyone sees a drop in their sales as a result of the recession. I have documented a drop in the average dollar amount per item I am receiving on eBay sales these days. I’m not complaining….it’s just something I have to live through until things get better.

The 1950s-1960s Winard signed gold filled cameo and matching clip earrings featured above sold this past week in my eBay store for $9.99. A heart-breaking price for me to accept, especially since a set like this would have sold for $45-50 this time last year. There are definitely bargains out there for people still buying.

Surprisingly, the competition among resellers at antiques auctions for jewelry continues to be strong in my area. Sometimes I see resellers purchasing jewelry at higher prices than I can resell it for. Either they know something I don’t or they’re not very smart. Also, winter seems to bring out people who are desperate for more stock when the pickings are slim in the cold weather months.

In my opinion, the market will continue to be depressed for a while. I think that some sellers will not survive the recession. Those who can hang on will be the sellers who already had strong customer bases and sufficient capital to survive the down times.

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Vintage Rhinestones Can Look Like Golden Globes Diamonds




Eva Mendes shines at the 2009 Golden Globes awards show in a Dior dress and Van Cleef & Arpels jewels. Vintage costume jewelry can approximate the real jewels shown at the Golden Globes. Eva’s earrings are a classic look that can be found in multiple vintage rhinestone cluster earrings. Most of my personal rhinestone necklaces are not as intricate and chunky as the one worn by Eva but can be found on the market at other sites.

The vintage jewelry photographed below Eva is on my site www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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Youthful Fashions With Rhinestones

I’m still on my “How to wear vintage costume jewelry without looking like a granny” thread. It IS possible to wear vintage costume jewelry in a youthful way.

America Ferrara is wearing a large slightly curved rhinestone pin directly on the shoulder of a gown with a simple line. It’s fresh and unexpected to see a pin in this location.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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How To Wear A Scarf Pin Without Looking Like a Granny



As someone who sells vintage costume jewelry, I’m aware that some of the jewelry can look “granny-ish”. I tend to wear a lot of vintage necklaces and bracelets but not too many pins. They’re a little tricky sometimes to fit into an outfit without looking matronly.

My favorite was to wear a pin is to use it to anchor a cute scarf. I drape the scarf around my neck with one end in front and the other end over the shoulder. The photo above is a good example.

The scarves above are for sale on www.etsy.com in amysfunkyfibers shop. www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5243023

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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How To Find Real Bakelite — Not Fakelite

Everything, it seems, is made in China these days. Even fake vintage costume jewelry is coming out of the Far East. Fakelite (fake Bakelite) bangles are being imported into the US and these copies are quite good. The carving is excellent and of the same quality as old bakelite. How do you tell if the vintage Bakelite bangle sold online is real?

First, where is it coming from and how many Bakelite bangles are being sold by one seller? If a seller is selling too many similar items, I would have to wonder how they are able to come up with an unusually large selection of hard-to-find Bakelite. On eBay, a seller’s history and feedback mean a lot to me. A reputable dealer will not mind answering questions. I would feel comfortable buyer Bakelite from a reputable antiques/jewelry dealer but not from a flea market or from someone in the Far East on eBay.

Real Bakelite has a clunky look and feel to it. It’s heavy but not as heavy as the fakelite. Because it is “old”, it will usually have tell-tale signs of slight wear. If a bangle is too perfect, ask yourself if it’s too good to be true.

Real vintage Bakelite will usually show up in certain colors — reds, yellows, oranges, greens, black, browns. No neon colors here.

Real Bakelite will not have mold lines. The interior of a bangle will be sommth with no mold line evident. The back of a pin will be smooth.

Hardware will be affixed to the piece, not glued on.

These are some clues that will help you diagnose whether your bakelite is authentic vintage jewelry. Again, my main advice is to stick with reputable dealers and beware of bargains too good to be true.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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Websites That Identify Vintage Costume Jewelry From Makers’ Marks or Stamps



You’ve just obtained a beautiful vintage costume jewelry pin! You’d like to know how old it is and who made it. If you spend enough time around vintage costume jewelry, you’ll begin to see that most manufacturers had styles, patterns and techniques that were specific to that maker. But without looking at anything else, many times it’s possible to identify a piece of jewelry solely by the stamps/names/maker’s marks on back.

There are a couple of web sites that are incredibly helpful in identifying makers’ marks and learning about the jewelry makers. My favorite is Illusion Jewels website. This site lists many makers, the dates they were in business, and lots of photos of their marks. I use this site almost every day. www.illusionjewels.com/costumejewelrymarksa.com

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry is a gorgeous site which shows photos of some marks but also has many reference pages with photos of classic vintage jewelry such as Trifari, Eisenberg, Miriam Haskell. http://www.morninggloryjewelry.com/jc/JewelChatMarks.html

A site which is great for researching letters and symbols stamped on chains and jewelry. It’s called “Ornament, Jewelry and Accessory”. This site has a different page for every letter of the alphabet, and these pages don’t appear to be linked. To find a page for each letter of the alphabet, change the last letters in “OJAS” on the web address to the proper letter of the alphabet. So, for letter A, I change the address to “OJAA”. http://www.tace.com/vendors/bjarrett/OJAS

There is a website which is a virtual museum of Classic Trifari jewelry from before 1960. N&N Vintage Jewelry sells Trifari and other makers but their photos and info are fantastic. Check this site out! www.trifari.com

Another thing that I do with good results is to Google the heck out of a jewelry mark. If I’ve exhausted my favorite web sites and cannot find info, I’ll Google a description of the mark. There are many marks which are just letters and symbols. I’ll literally describe this mark on Google and see what pops up. Sometimes I’m able to find the makers from this technique.

And, of course, eBay is an excellent resource. Once I’ve identified my jewelry, I always check out Current and Completed auctions to see what things are selling for.

There are many more helpful sites out there, and I’ve barely even touched on the subject. I’ll talk more in later blogs.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.

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Why Antique Malls Are Going Out Of Business


I was a seller in antique malls for nearly ten years. I enjoyed going to the store every few days, merchandising my vintage costume jewelry and talking to customers. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that remaining in an antique mall was not a smart business decision. I moved out.

I’ve noticed that antique malls and stores all over the MidWest are dying out. Below are the reasons why I think antique malls are going out of business:

1. Competition from the Internet, especially eBay. eBay allows me to market my items worldwide. Many times I would put an excellent piece of vintage costume jewelry in my mall showcase at a competitive price, only to have it sit there for months. Eventually I would get frustrated and remove it from the store to list on eBay. Invariably a collector from New York or California would purchase the item on eBay for many times what I had it listed in the store for. I came to the conclusion that my “best” customers were collectors and dealers in large metropolitan markets with money to spend. These type people rarely walked into an antique store in southern Ohio.

2. Antique Mall Rent/High Overhead: My mall charged a hefty but competitive rent for my city. This overhead was a barrier that had to be scaled each month, regardless of the level of sales. The owner of my antique mall never varied the rent — so when things were bad, the rent was still high. eBay on the other hand is tied more to dollar sales. Some antique shows have competitive fees that can help a dealer sell with lower overhead.

3. Declining quality of merchandise sold in antique stores: My personal experience is that the level of merchandise available in antique malls can decline if a mall owner is not vigilant in policing the merchandise that dealers bring in. When a mall owner is not willing to prohibit new items or Goodwill level merchandise, this leads to a decline in quality of merchandise. Higher quality dealers get frustrated and move out looking for better selling venues.

4. Inability to control image: In a store surrounded by other dealers/merchandise, the only area I had control over was my own. If someone beside me kept a dirty booth or never changed out inventory or sold low quality items, this brought down the general atmosphere of the store. On eBay and on my website, my image is totally my own.

5. Too many people who aren’t antiques dealers are selling in malls: There are no licensing requirements or education requirements to become an antiques dealer. I’ve seen this a million times over the years — someone with an interest in antiques/collectibles decides to make a go of selling some things. These people may not have a selling or business background but they are able to pay some rent. Once these people move in to a mall, they place their items in their booth and wait for the sales to come. Often, more experienced dealers come and cherry pick the better quality items. After that, the new dealer is left to sell the remainder. The items may not be properly researched and priced. The new dealers may not ever come into the booth and move things around and re-merchandise. They may not know what customers are truly looking for. I’ve heard new dealers complain that no one is buying their merchandise, but these dealers aren’t able to analyze what THEY are doing wrong. They don’t understand that possibly they are selling inferior quality merchandise that is improperly priced or is undesirable. After a few months, these dealers are gone.

6. Dealers don’t research their items properly: It’s amazing how many dealers put a high price on every item, rather than knowing what they’ve got and price items accordingly. I call this the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” approach.

7. Dealers who never change their merchandise: Again, it’s amazing how many dealers will leave an item sitting in its original spot, for YEARS sometimes, after placing it somewhere in a booth. Nothing turns me off more than walking through a mall and seeing the same merchandise I saw six months ago.

8. The Economy: Antiques are not a necessity. When the economy is bad, the first thing to go are the non-necessities.

9. Being in an antique store requires a dealer to sit on lots of inventory: When I was in selling in a mall, I had to keep lots and lots of inventory so that I had something for everyone. I needed high priced items, low priced items and lots of everything. The more I had and the more I kept it fresh, the higher my sales. Selling on the Internet allows me to keep a smaller inventory and sell as I aquire inventory. Thus, I don’t have as much money tied into inventory.

10. Fuel prices: Rising fuel prices affect everyone in the business. The cost to heat and light some of those old buildings where antique stores and malls are located has skyrocketed. High fuel prices has also meant a reduction in store traffic.

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Where To Find And Buy Vintage Costume Jewelry


I get asked fairly frequently where I get my vintage costume jewelry. Below is a list of the different sources I use to obtain jewelry. I’ve listed the sources in descending order based on my personal success in finding quality jewelry there.

1. My Contacts — over the years I have cultivated different people who I’ve met while conducting business. These people know that I am always looking to purchase jewelry. I contact these people every couple of months to see if they anything to sell me. Most often, these “pickers” are my best and most reliable source for jewelry. These pickers are often out in the market doing the same thing I’m doing…working their own contacts, attending sales and auctions and garage sales.

2. Auctions — I read the auction section of my local classifieds each week and also check a website named www.AuctionZip.com. Both of these sources advertise local auctions in my area each week. I only attend auctions which advertise a decent amount and quality of jewelry. I like www.Auctionzip.com because sometimes photos are posted that allow me to preview the auction.

3. Local Jewelers — Sometimes local jewelers (I’m talking about independently owned jewelry stores, not mall stores or chains) come across vintage costume jewelry in the course of doing business. I’ve fostered relationships with a few local jewelers who do not consider me to be competition and are happy to sell me costume jewelry in bulk. I try to reciprocate by telling everyone I know how wonderful these jewelers are. I respect these guys and have confidence in their honesty and am happy to refer potential business their way.

4. Pawn Shops — I’ve visited local pawn shops and have found very good deals in the past. Again, pawn shops sometimes end up with vintage costume jewelry in the course of doing business. The only way to find which particular shops do deal in this type jewelry is to go in and ask.

5. Scrap dealers (AKA Jewelers and Coin Dealers) — Some jeweler and coin dealers will be happy to let you pick through the scrap jewelry that they originally intended to sell at scrap value. Lots of jewelry is scrapped when there is absolutely nothing wrong with it other than scrap value has, at times, exceeded the value of the jewelry itself (but jewelers don’t know costume jewelery and will scrap a real treasure). Don’t be embarrassed to go into a store and ask if they are willing to sell you scrap jewelry. The worst thing that they can say is “no”.

6. Antique Stores/ Antique Malls — I do walk through antique stores in the hopes of finding unidentified or underpriced “treasures”. This technique takes a lot of patience since it’s typical that once something is being merchandised in a store that there’s not too much profit margin there for me. But if I have time to kill and really need jewelry, I will visit stores in my area. I have found some wonderful things over the years.

7. Craigslist — I look at Craigslist every day and most of the jewelry there is not what I’m looking for. Every once in a while, though, I’ve been successful in contacting a seller and making a good deal.

8. Goodwill — Not usually a good place in my experience but I still visit periodically. Usually low end items are there.

9. Garage Sales — I don’t attend too many because I’m not interested in getting up at the crack of dawn and fighting other people for jewelry. I haven’t found too much good jewelry at garage sales. But when I do attend a garage sale, I ask the seller if they have any additional jewelry. Surprisingly, the answer is sometimes “yes” and then they bring out the jewelry still in the house.

10. Estate Sales — I went through a spell where I attended these for a while. However, estate sales often require you to get there and line up to get a number hours before the sale starts — only to get into the house and see that there’s nothing there. It can be a crap shoot but is an option.

11. Online auction sites — there are sites that conduct auctions in real time online. I’ve had some excellent but spotty results at these auctions. Read the terms of the auctions closely so that you are aware of shipping costs and additional charges.

www.midcenturyjewelry.com.