Background Story

I’ve been experimenting with taking photographs of old objects with different kinds of backgrounds to see if they help highlight the objects or distract from it. My favorite is the gold and black purse with a black and white advertisement for Byrrh.

Art Deco mesh bag

I like this combination of a black and white advert from a 1930s magazine and the Art Deco purse.


I used a random page from on old magazine for the background of the compact and powder puff.

Art Deco dress clip

The plain white background works fine.

Art Deco dress clip

I think this is pretty with the purple scarf background but if I were selling the piece, maybe I’d stick with the plain white background.

Rhinestone bracelet

It was sunny and just too bright outside; not sure if I like this background.

French steel cut shoe buckles

The black textured background just looks bad though I think a matte black background would show off the steel cut beads nicely.

Art deco blue glass sautoir

I like how the blue glass shows up but I might try it with grey for more contrast.


Dangerous Jewelry

Fur Clip


This is one of the most unusual clips in my collection. It’s really large and heavy and is made of pot metal or maybe brass, and has deep red rhinestones and faux grey pearls. The back has two dangerous looking long pins in back. (Funny that it looks like a dead bug on its back in the picture above.) Those sharp points would work well as a weapon if I ever needed one but the real reason for the heavy, sharp points is to clip it into a thick fur coat of collar. It doesn’t work well on a regular sweater but I’ve been able to wear it with a very thick wool cowl neck. Even then, it’s so heavy I’m afraid if I lean over it’ll fall off and break, so it mostly lives in my jewelry box.

I believe it’s from the 1930s or 1940s. It’s not signed nor is there a patent number but the style seems to fit that time frame, and furs were popular then. How would you wear this clip?

Sparkle Plenty

My latest finds were at an estate sale in the neighborhood this weekend. The jewelry collection was small but fun to look at – there was a large collection of animal figurals, a few old charm bracelets, a couple of huge CZ rings, and some neat old lipstick cases.

The first treasure I found was this pot metal brooch with pave marcasites. I spotted it in the case and asked if it were a Duette or pin that comes apart to make two clips but the salesperson said she didn’t this so. Once I bought it and felt comfortable tugging on the parts, I saw that it was, indeed, a convertible brooch. It converts from a pin to two dress clips when removed from the mechanism that holds them all together. I wrote collect dress clips and shoes clips, so I was very pleased to find this. It has a little jeweler’s mark, an arrow with two perpendicular lines going through it, but I couldn’t find out who made it. I think it’s from the 1930s or early 1940s.
Double brooch

Double brooch split

Double brooch split 3

The next thing I looked at were these cute plastic earrings – I don’t know if they are lucite or Bakelite but the color combination is wonderful – amber-colored plastic with green and clear rhinestones. Plastic earrings with green and clear rhinestones I would guess these were made in the 1930s or 40s.

I’m not usually drawn to figurals because they’re too cutesy but the color of this little purple cat was wonderful – the rhinestones are aurora borealis violet and they’re set on japanned pot metal. A rhinestone is missing but that makes him even more special (and such a deal!!) Purple pave cat 1960s, maybe?

An aside – I don’t remember much about Sparkle Plenty in the Dick Tracy comics; what I do remember are the really neat gadgets he had, and his very cool hat.

Photo Practice- Three Dimensional Jewelry

I got out my camera today to practice taking photographs of jewelry, and choose a few pieces from my collection to highlight.

The first selection is a pot metal dress clip and pair of screw-back earrings with light aqua celluloid flowers. They look like they’re from the 1930s. These were challenging to photograph because of the uneven color of the metal, and the shape of the earrings. They aren’t flat, so I had to prop them up a little bit. The worn metal makes it hard to capture the delicacy of the design but I think this turned out pretty well.

My second selection was an ornate rhinestone shoe clip that has clear rhinestones, rhodium metal, and lots of dimension to it. It was a struggle to get the right amount of light – too little, and the rhinestones look dull, but too much, and the reflection is distracting. I first tried to photograph it flat but the results were terrible. I then put the clip on a shoe, as it’d actually be worn. The challenge was to get the whole clip in the photo but I realized a side view gives a slightly better idea of what it looks like. My challenge is try again with the shoe clip and maybe use a filter over the light source to make it less sparkly. I’d like to show the pair but that really didn’t work so well – I just couldn’t get them both in focus at the same time. Back to the drawing board!

Just One Word. Plastics.

The world of plastic jewelry had never been very exciting to me, other than playing with pop-it beads at my grandmother’s house, until I discovered Bakelite and celluloid jewelry. It’s very different from my usual Mexican silver and vintage rhinestone jewelery, but I like the colors and textures. I think my appreciation may have started when we bought the retro resin table shown below as background in the first photo. Maybe Mr. Maguire got it right.

Celluloid and plastic jabot pins and hair pins

Celluloid was invented by John Hyatt in about 1869 and manufactured starting in 1873. It made a nice substitute for ivory and tortoiseshell. Hyatt figured out how to fabricate the material in a strip format for movie film, and by the year 1900, movie film was a major market for celluloid. One of its chemical properties is that it’s very flammable.

Bakelite bangles and hat pins

Bakelite bangles and hat pins

A chemist named Leo Hendrik Baekelund, a Belgian-born American living in New York state invented Bakelite and after fiddling with the composition for some time, publicly announced his discovery in 1909. It was originally used for electrical and mechanical parts, but became popular in the 1920s for use in consumer goods, including jewelry. It was harder than celluloid, and wasn’t flammable.

Moonstone Lucite bracelet, earrings, and brooch

According to CarrotBox, a fun site devoted to plastic rings, Lucite was invented in 1931 by chemists at DuPont. It was water resistant, low density yet stronger than previous plastics. I love the iridescence of the moonstone set.

Great beige plastic French cuff

Close up of unknown plastic cuff

I have no idea what kind of plastic this bracelet is. It’s thinner than Bakelite, and a bit more flexible. I suppose it could be celluloid but the colored bits inside it make me think not. If you know what it might be, I’d love to hear from you!

I based most of my information on the History of Plastics page from the Packaging Today website. There’s lots more science and history of plastics there. 

Bonus: Here’s a YouTube link to Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate. I listened to that soundtrack dozens of times when I was a teenager.

Favorite PDX Places – Xtabay Vintage

Xtabay Vintage Clothing Boutique/ 2515 SE Clinton St./ Portland, Oregon

One of my very favorite stores in Portland is Xtabay Vintage; I love to “play dress up” with the pretty clothes, which I wrote about in this earlier post. The owner, Liz Gross, has a wonderful eye for beautiful vintage clothing and accessories. Her store’s atmosphere is pretty and feminine, and is a calming place to browse after a hard day at work. The vintage goodies she selects are in wonderful condition, and range from the Edwardian era to the oughties, with most from the 1940s to the 1960s. This isn’t a thrift store and doesn’t pretend to be but her prices are very reasonable for the high quality of the merchandise. If you’re on a very tight budget, she has a nice selection of very inexpensive vintage earrings, candles, and nail polish. Here are a few things I’ve purchased from Xtabay in the past few years:

Aurora borealis brooch with watermelon rhinestones

vintage dress clips

Vintage dress clips

Vintage Dress

Rhinestone collar on an atomic print dress

And here are a few things in the store recently; sadly, I can’t buy them all!

Green hat with orange feather. ©2011 Xtabay Vintage

Beautiful purple coat. ©2011 Xtabay Vintage

Bakelite clamper bracelet. ©2011 Xtabay vintage