Throwin’ It All Away?
Now I've given myself (and possibly you) an earworm with the Genesis song, but it is an apt title for what is on my mind. It also has a connection to some of my previous posts. I wanted to expand a bit on the theme of people not knowing (or caring) what they have in their jewelry boxes or when they see a bunch of glitter in a case in an antique mall or shop, or sadly, when a friend or relative passes away and no one wants “old-fashioned” jewelry. We are now at a point in time where people who were born before 2001 are from another century. For those of us who were born in that century, it often makes us think of the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution and no indoor plumbing.
Too often the pieces are shrugged at and if they are lucky, put in a clump in a bag or box to be given to charity or (wince) thrown out. In some cases, folks are robbed and the criminals just see a flash of sparkle or metal and they take it, only to realize it’s fake” and do who knows what with it. My grandmother had an amazing Grosse Dior poured glass brooch which my grandfather had brought back from WWII. Thieves broke in and took it, along with many other things, and it;s bothered me for 40 years that they probably threw it out.
This week I was watching an episode on one of my favorite YouTube channels The Way We Wore: Introductory Video. The owner of an upscale vintage boutique in LA was recounting how she had losses during recent events, and many pieces of Joseff of Hollywood and Miriam Haskell were taken. What a loss for her, and for us. Unless the people who took the items knew what they are, it’s unlikely they survived. The episode made me think about how many items of art and history in costume jewelry have been lost.
So what makes a piece valuable?
I like to subscribe to the collecting credo of “I like it, therefore it’s valuable--to me.” Sometimes a piece may be objectively valuable, sometimes only to you because you simply react to it or it reminds you of something or someone significant. There are many variations on the theme. Awhile ago, I went by the idea that I wouldn't buy something if I wouldn’t wear it; I didn’t want pieces sitting around or using my hard earned money to sit there and look pretty. There are certain type of vintage costume jewelry I don’t get involved with, but now it is more a matter of I don’t know much about it, and I don’t know much about it because I never liked it. A person could walk past a glass case or see something online and shrug, thinking, “ugh, all glittery stuff looks alike, I like glittery things but I don’t know why this one costs $20 and this one costs $150. I’ll buy the $20 one.” Which is great! Don’t buy something just because it’s priced higher. By the same token, don’t buy something just because it is less expensive or so cheap that it feels like a great deal.
At the beginning I bought blindly, whatever took my fancy. In those days there were flea markets and garage sales and the buying was easy. You could get quite a stash for $20-30. As time went buy, and I lived with the pieces and handled them and of course scrutinized them. I started to see details I’d missed and I started to develop a predilection toward certain types of jewelry, certain colors and styles. I like the color green and even now have a predominantly green collection. Also as time went by, and I began to learn, it became more costly to buy things, not merely because f the market but because I was seeing and feeling the difference between the $20 brooch and the $150 brooch. I also learned, sometimes the hard way, to snag the piece when you see it, (if you can) because the person behind you might decide to get it.
There was a Hattie Carnegie necklace I agonized over for months. It was a little out of my price range, but I thought about it all the time, and even used the phrase of desperate hope: “If i'm meant to have it, it will still be there.” I was very lucky that it was still available by the time I had saved up for it. That necklace has a few anecdotes to it, which I’ll go into in another installment but suffice to say, I knew that every time the vendor came to a show in my area, I didn’t know if the necklace would still be there. It still amazes me- the price was reasonable, and I’ve barely seen a piece of such beauty.
There’s a certain logic in buying lots at the beginning; you can experiment and see what you like and what you don’t like. For me, it’s usually a piece that stands out and calls to me.” An example would be this stunner. As I write in the description, I was walking down the street of a small town in Maryland many years ago, just strolling along, thinking about getting an ice cream cone from the drug store. (this was the 1980s, yet as I said, a very small town in a time warp of sorts). Down the way I saw a glimmer of light, and thought at first it was the sun glinting off a shop window. I decided against the ice cream cone as it was in a different direction, and kept going. To my surprise, what I had seen was the sun reflecting off the necklace. I stood there and gaped at it. It was in the window of a shoe store, of all places. I don’t know how long I stood there. Eventually I went in and asked about it and...eventually acquired it. The sparkle is truly unmatched, and when I handle it I think about its journeys, and how mine have added to its history.