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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

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When Antiques Dealers Buy From Each Other…It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

When I first started out in the antiques business, I didn’t know what I was doing. I tried to research items but the world of antiques is so large that it’s hard to know everything.

I started out in a small antiques mall in my town, run by a lady named “Nellie”. The first time Nellie purchased something from my booth, I was flattered….until I later found the item in her booth at a much higher price. I was SOOOOO mad. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously she knew something I didn’t and I felt that she had “taken advantage of my ignorance”. Over time, though, I began to have a different attitude.

My attitude today is, if a dealer is not willing to research an item prior to putting it out for sale, shame on them. In antiques, the money goes to those with the knowledge and a dealer should know better.

I know dealers who refuse to use a computer for anything. They continue to do business the way they did in 1980, sticking with outdated research modes and slapping a high price on everything. Everything’s priced at $75 — the good, the bad and the ugly. To me, the Internet is the quickest and most complete research tool out there. There are wonderful sites by professional antiques dealers dedicated to research and the invaluable content of these sites is constantly being updated.

Dealers who do not research their goods are leaving money on the table — they are turning themselves in Chihuahuas in a dog eat dog industry.

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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.

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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 in amysfunkyfibers shop.

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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.

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I Hit The Jackpot Buying Storage Unit Contents…NOT!!!

I’ve heard over the years that buying the contents of storage units can yield unexpected treasures. There are urban legends of people who find diamond rings inside boxes of junk.

A while back there was an auction of the contents of abandoned storage units near me so I decided to check it out. It was a cold winter’s day. Auction-goers milled around, sipped hot coffee and slapped their hands together to stay warm. At 10am sharp, the auctioneer emerged from a warm hut and handed out a list of the unit numbers to be auctioned. We were not allowed to preview the contents of the units or inspect anything prior to the sale. We literally followed the auctioneer from unit to unit…he’d pull up the door….we’d peer inside and the auction would begin.

The first sale was of a large unit full of mechanic’s equipment and tools. I’m not a tool girl myself so I watched the proceedings. The crowd mumbled that it was a good unit with a lot of “money in those tools”. A man won the unit’s contents for a few hundred dollars and he seemed happy.

We proceeded to the next unit. The auctioneers slid up the door and showed a space packed from floor to ceiling with neatly marked moving boxes. Boxes were fitted in the space like puzzle pieces. Well, in my head, if anyone took such time and care to pack the unit so well, there must be something worth saving in there. I won the contents for $250.00.

The crowd strolled away and left me staring at my new belongings. I opened one box. A dirty “pleather” coat. I opened another box. A greasy George Foreman grill. Another box. Fifteen-year-old tax returns. Squelching my rising panic, I wondered how I was going to dispose of this mountain of junk. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that buyers had to have everything gone by day’s end and weren’t allowed to use the dumpsters on the property. And, I’d come to the auction in a small convertible. (Great planning on my part, huh?)

An “angel” showed up to help me…. This little old guy, wearing an army coat and a ratty hat, wandered up and asked me if he could have a box of stuffed animals. I said, “Do you want this, and this, and this?” He took 90% of the storage unit’s contents off my hands. We spent hours sorting and loading boxes in his old van. He saved me.

Would I buy the contents of a storage unit in the future? Heck, no!!! I sped away from there, feeling lucky that I got away as easily as I had….laughing at my own stupidity.

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Michelle Obama Wears Costume Jewelry To Inauguration

Michelle Obama wore a costume jewelry piece to the 2009 Inauguration. The colorless rhinestone piece appears to be attached to the sparkling Isabel Toldeo designed dress.

Note that the length and width of the piece is a perfect addition to the neckline of the dress.

This look proves that it’s OK to wear big rhinestones during the day, as long as they complement the oufit and don’t overwhelm it!!!

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How To Identify The Silver Content of Silver Jewelry

The purpose of this blog entry is to help a buyer/collector identify the silver content of jewelry based on the silver marks present on the jewelry. It will be helpful for you to have a jeweler’s 10X magnification loupe on hand. These can actually be purchased right here on eBay and are very helpful for identifying jewelry marks.

My guide is quite simple. There are a couple of excellent web sites out there with a world of knowledge. If you Google “Silver Marks”, you’ll probably find some excellent resources.

First, look on the back of your jewelry for any silver stamps.

What is sterling silver? Sterling silver is silver that is 925/1000 parts silver. Pure silver is too soft for jewelry making so the highest silver content usually (but not always) found in silver jewelry is .925.

Since the early 1900s, American sterling jewelry has been required to have a sterling mark if it is truly sterling silver. In my experience, older sterling is stamped “STERLING” usually on the back of the piece of jewelry. Sometimes you might see a portion of the word, such as “STER”. This might be because the jewelry was stamped this way or it might have worn away over years of wear.
Newer sterling silver jewelry is often stamped “925”. Again, this stamp is meant to convey the silver content of the jewelry. I’ve also seen “SS” stamped on a few pieces, but this is rare.

I’ve seen a 950 mark on vintage jewelry once in a while. Usually, it’s been on Mexican sterling before WWII era. 950 silver does have a higher silver content than sterling but is not seen too often.

On older and antique jewelry, you might see a 900 stamp. This is meant to show that the jewelry is 900/1000 parts silver. Not quite as high a silver content as sterling. Coin silver can literally mean silver made from melted down coins.
Vintage Native American jewelry may often not have a silver content mark on it. Often this jewelry may have a silver content in the range of coin silver.

4. 800 SILVER
Sometimes, you’ll see an 800 stamp on a piece of vintage silver jewelry. This means that the content of the jewelry is 4/5 silver.
Many times, based on the style of the piece and the 800 stamp, this will point my jewelry research toward European jewelry or other foreign makers. I’ve seen vintage silver filigree jewelry with an 800 mark.

Commercial silver test kits are available for silver (and gold) jewelry. These are probably available on eBay. I personally do not use these. If I have a question about my vintage jewelry after I’ve exhausted my own research, I take a trip down to see my favorite jeweler for his advice.

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How To Identify Celluloid Jewelry

Celluloid was manufactured as an early plastic. Jewelry made of celluloid dates to about 1900 and was quite popular during the Art Deco period.

It is a lightweight plastic, many times a cream color. Sometimes the cream celluloid is painted to add color, though.

In the 1950s, a lot of celluloid jewelry was manufactured in Japan. Celluloid can be quite distinctive looking, many times with rhinestones embedded into the jewelry or molded/carved into floral designs.

Smell test: Hold your celluloid jewelry under hot water for 30 seconds. Now, put it up to your nose and smell it. You should smell a camphor or vinegar-like scent.

Weight: Celluloid feels very lightweight in the hand.

Needle Test: There is a test where you can apply a hot needle to celluloid to bring the camphor-vinegar smell out. Celluloid is FLAMMABLE so I would NEVER recommend this test!

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Cincinnati’s Taft Museum — A Collection Worth Visiting

I visited the Taft Museum in Cincinnati yesterday, for the second time in a month. It is a small museum…perfect for taking someone who will be overwhelmed by a large city museum. A slow stroll through the museum yesterday took me about 1 1/2 hours.

The Taft is housed in a Federal style mansion, built in 1820, in downtown Cincinnati. The mansion had been owned by prominent Cincinnatians throughout its history but was ultimately turned into a museum as a bequest of Anna Sinton Taft and her husband Charles Phelps Taft. During their lives, the Tafts amassed a wonderful collection of art, antiques and furniture. I was told by a docent that the collection of Xing Dynasty porcelain is among the finest in the world.

I particularly admired the paintings. I saw works by Turner, Whistler, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and many other European and American works from the 1600s to the early 20th century. There is a fabulous collection of Middle Ages era porcelain and some fine American furniture. I was wowed by the small exhibit of antique enamel watches and jewelry/vanity items.

One of the extraordinary things about the Taft to me is the ability to walk the rooms and get close and personal to the art. It’s amazing to me the amount of trust that is given museum-goers. The docent told me that the museum is set up so that it feels as if you are walking through someone’s house…and it does feel that way.

The foyer of the house is decorated with a set of extraordinary landscape murals by Robert Duncanson. He was an African-American artist who came to Cincinnati to establish his career and was commissioned by Nicholas Longworth, the owner of the house at the time, to paint these murals. The eight murals are one of the largest existing pre-Civil War domestic mural decorations in the United States.

There is a nice cafe’ and gift shop in the facility too.

Admission is $8.00 for adults. On Wednesdays, admission is free. Closed Mondays.

Taft Museum of Art
316 Pike Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

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eBay Feedback Changes Are Bad For Sellers

Did you know that there are 295,000 entries in under the term “eBay sucks”?

How did I know this? Because one day I got so frustrated by a bad selling experience that I googled the term and found that my anger had a lot of company.

Why are so many people (mainly sellers) angry at eBay? Because it seems like eBay’s policy changes are increasingly stacked against the seller… Now, don’t get me wrong. Selling on eBay has been great for me over the years. But recent changes to eBay’s policies make me feel as if eBay has forgotten that there are TWO sides in every transaction.

When I first heard of eBay, way back in 1988, I was totally skeptical. How could I sell something to a total stranger way across the country and expect things to go well? Remember, this way long before electronic payment services like Paypal. What would I do if someone bounced a check? I couldn’t go and hunt bad check writers down.

Surprisingly, though, eBay DID work. The feedback system allowed both sides of the transaction to leave feedback on how things went. Yes, there were/are a small number of people who would leave undeserved negative feedback for each other, but for the most part it worked. Well, a few months ago, eBay changed the feedback system so that the buyers have 100% of the power.

Now, sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for a buyer. Trust me….there are some buyers who DESERVE negative feedback. If a buyer wins one of my auctions and never responds to my emails and never pays me, I cannot let other sellers know through negative feedback. The new system allows me to open a “Dispute Console” (how wimpy is that?) and, if the buyer ultimately does not pay, they have one positive point removed. Pleeeeeeease….. What about buyers who want to buy on approval, are rude, try to say that the package never arrived or arrived broken and then refuse to send the package back or show me a photo of the broken piece? Yes, it happens.

Also, eBay has broken down seller feedback into four points (Item Description, Communication, Shipping Time, Shipping Charges). Perfection is expected of a seller. It has not caused me to do business any differently, because I already lived and died by feedback. But it’s dispiriting as hell.

In my opinion, eBay has gotten too far away from what made it work in the first place — an honor system of feedback that allowed both sides to rate the transaction.

Toilet photo courtesy of

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How To Clean Sterling and Silver Jewelry

I have my particular preferences for cleaning sterling silver and silver plated jewelry. My preferences have been formed from years of experimenting and sometimes RUINING jewelry by cleaning with harsh chemicals.

First, let’s talk about sterling silver. Since the early part of the 20th century, US sterling jewelry is required to be stamped so. You will normally see either “Sterling” or “925” on the back of a piece. Sterling jewelry is at least 925/1000 percent pure silver, thus the .925 mark on sterling. You may see marks on silver from “800, 850, 900” to “950 and 970”. Anything above 925 is considered sterling silver. There is an excellent online site dedicated to silver marks, Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks and Makers’ Marks:

Sometimes I’ll come across a silver piece of jewelry with some tarnish on it. I know it has some silver content because it is tarnished but I don’t know how much silver is there.

Regardless, how do I remove tarnish?

1. Well, the first way to PREVENT tarnish is to WEAR your jewelry. The slight rubbing that silver jewelry gets when being worn prevents tarnish from forming.

2. I’ve seen sterling stored in soft felt-chamois type fabric storage bags. I’m not sure where to buy these but they prevent exposure to air and prevent tarnish. I’d check with the silver flatware replacement sites online for these bags. Also, there are anti-tarnish pads that can be purchased where jewelry supplies are sold. I’ve not used them but you put them where you store your jewelry and they are supposed to prevent tarnish.

3. NEVER, EVER dip jewelry in dip cleaners. Dipping jewelry in a dip cleaner WILL remove the tarnish but it also changes the patina of the piece. The silver will turn a white silver color….too bright for vintage jewelry. There are some pieces of silver jewelry, such as Native American jewelry, that have blackened details. If you dip your silver, these details will go away and you’ve just messed with the original patina. Also, some natural stones are porous and can be ruined by dip cleaners, especially pearls, opals, turquoise.

4. If a piece of sterling or silver has many details, I will start with the Wright’s paste cleaner. I dampen a sponge or rag and clean the jewelry with the paste mix. Once cleaned, I rinse and dry thoroughly. The paste cleaner is good for getting into crevices with a Q-tip. Cleaning with a paste cleaner gives the jewelry a soft glow and protects the silver from tarnish in the future. The silver will tarnish again but at least it retards the process.

5. My favorite method is to clean with MAAS Metal cleaner. It is a small silver tube that can be purchased at Walmart, on eBay, in hardware stores. It can be used to clean about any kind of metal. The advantage of Maas is that it will remove tarnish but can also slightly buff vintage jewelry. Buffing removes some of the tiny scratches that occur when jewelry is worn. To clean with MAAS, I put a pea-sized drop on a clean cloth and start rubbing the jewelry. It takes some elbow grease but you should soon see black tarnish coming off onto the cloth. It’s amazing what comes off jewelry that appears to be fairly clean. Once I’m satisfied with the cleaning, I polish with a clean cloth. In my opinion, MAAS is a miracle worker which restores the beauty to silver.

I do not worry about removing plate from silver plated jewelry. I’ve used paste cleaners for years and have not had problems.