Friday, July 25, 2008

Floating Opals

When I came across my first floating opal, I hardly knew what It was. I purchased the item from my then-favorite vendor at McKinney Trade Days last year. The piece must have cost me between 2-5 dollars, and liek all jewelry that I have begun to find, I immediately went home and tried to do some research on the piece.

The pendant is teardrop shaped glass, with a nicely worked silver cap, but not in the traditional tulip shape. I immediately knew the opal chips for what they were because of my longstanding love for the stone. I know now that they are suspended in water... not oil. I found that out when I came across my second floating opal- gold tulip capped and with a round globe. I've included some pictures to show as examples.

Some information about the opal as a stone: ( the most thorough link on opals I've ever seen!)

More scientific.

And informaton about floating opals:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Butterfly Wing Jewelry

Butterfly wing jewelry is something I've been chasing for a couple of years now. Recently my husband bought me a very nice piece for my birthday, and I couldnt be happier. As a person who loves stones in general, I never thought that I could be atracted to the more " Organic" jewelry, but Butterfly jewelry changed my heart.

There are generally 3 kinds of antique butterfly wing jewelry.

1.) Jewelry that actually contains a whole butterfly. This could be on a background of another butterfly's wing and/or there could be pressed flowers with it. The jewelry that is like this usually a good sized circular pendant.

2.) Morpho Butterfly jewelry with scenes " reverse" painted on it. Western scenes, tropical scenes... even scenes with people and animals. These are personally the least desireable to me. They reek of kitch, and I could never imagine wearing one. These come in all varieties. Ring, necklace, earrings, bracelet. This is more flexible than the whole butterfly.

3.) Morpho Butterly jewelry that has not been altered. The pure electric blue of the natural wing is allowed to showcase it's own beauty. Versatile, but much more expensive than the painted variety.

I own an unaltered pendant manufactured by the Thomas Mott company. It reads: "TLM Sterling England" and I have good reason to belive that it was manufactured in the 1930s.

The old pieces date from the twenties and thirties and are English. Most of them are brooches, and a smaller number are pendants (judging by size, and the fact that charm bracelets were not popular in the twenties). Although the patent for reverse-painted jewelry with a butterfly-wing background was issued earlier, the jewelry became popular in 1924 because of an exhibit at the British Empire Exhibition by the firm Thomas L. Mott (the same company as TLM, known to charm-lovers for their enamels). Hoffman started making butterfly-wing jewelry in the late thirties and is still making it, I believe, pretty much all hex signs at this point. The quality is fairly good, though not what it was--and nothing is hand-painted, as all the old English stuff was.

Most of the old butterfly jewelry that is on the market today was apparently made by a few British firms in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These included Thomas L. Mott Ltd., Henry W. King & Son and Owen Brothers. Two other companies were located in Bermuda (Crisson) and France (Morpho).
Although jewelry made of insects dates back to ancient times, Thomas Mott's exhibit at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 is credited with making butterfly jewelry all the rage. Mott, which was founded in 1875, acquired Henry W. King in 1925 and Owen Brothers in 1933, making it the largest producer of butterfly wing jewelry. In addition to plain butterfly wing, some jewelry incorporates reverse painting techniques.

In 1922, Shipton Co. of Birmingham, England, applied for a patent with the following specifications: The invention uses real butterfly wings for the production of coloured pictures on glass sheets or surfaces... being first painted or otherwise fixed upon the back of a glass sheet so as to have transparent or substantially transparent portions or space to be subsequently filled in with real butterfly wings applied against the back of the glass sheet to give the desired colour effects. Reverse painted pieces may be stamped PT 202212 or PAT Aug 1924. (Some pieces of butterfly jewelry were mistakenly stamped PT 220213 which is, in fact, the patent for Corona Typewriter Inc. Anti-friction ball carriers for typewriters dated Dec. 3, 1923). The reverse painting on some of the older pieces is intricate and beautiful however, most "souvenir" and modern pieces are either the Rio de Janeiro skyline or the palm tree & sunset motif.

Another decorative technique combined butterfly wings with sulphide bas-relief figures. A sulphide clay plaque of figures or scenes was created and sandwiched between glass and a backing of wing. Sulphides are more commonly seen in marbles and paper weights.
Butterfly jewelry signed Hoffman has been made for a number of years. Old pieces apparently date back to 1938 but new pieces were being sold at the Amish Farm & Home Gift Shop in Lancaster, PA, very recently. Hoffman's older pieces range from the typical palm tree & sunset motif to the very attractive art deco or arts & crafts style frames. Their new pieces have an Amish motif.

When buying butterfly jewelry, look for old, well-made, signed pieces in gold or sterling silver settings. The glass crystal should be tight. Any back painting should be clear and intact and the butterfly wing background should be fully iridescent, not brown or black.
The information on this web page came from: "Butterfly Jewelry: New Finds of an Old Fashion" in HERITAGE, a quarterly report on antique and period jewelry and watches that was included in the May 1994 issue of JEWELERS CIRCULAR-KEYSTONE. There has been another more recent article written by Janet Lawwill for the Spring 2001 issue of the VINTAGE FASHION AND COSTUME JEWELRY NEWSLETTER.

The butterfly that was harvested for these pieces is called the "Morpho" butterfly and it exists in South America. Companies that manufactured this jewelry in the 1930s would import the butterflies for $5 a piece. Not a lot of money today, but in the '30's, that was a good chunk of change.

More on the Morpho:

The commoner (Blue) Morphos are reared en masse in commercial breeding programmes. The iridescent wings are used in the manufacture of jewellery and as inlay in woodworking. Papered specimens are sold with the abdomen removed to prevent its oily contents from staining the wings. Significant quantities of live specimens are exported as pupae from several neotropical countries for exhibition in butterfly houses. Unfortunately, due to their irregular flight pattern and size, their wings are frequently damaged when in captivity.

If that seems cruel to you, please reflect upon this... with the exceptance of corals and woods, organic materials such as fur, horn, bone, feather or butterfly wing are all comming from an animal who's life would eventually come to an end. In the Morpho's case... 137 days. Do I condone horrible practices like fur-farms or ivory poaching? Certainly not.

But, when you are buying a vintage item, consider the fact that an animal such as a fox has not been recorded to live for 50-60 years. A butterfly for longer than 137 days. Somehow the item had to be made, but in buying vintage, you are not directly contributing to the horrors of today. Somebody has already been there before you. In fact, it seems more responsible to "recycle" vintage items for modern tastes in this way.

And in the end, personal preference is what it's all about...if you do not like organic jewelry, dont buy it. But if you do... and butterfly wings hold a certain charm for you, then buy vintage. Not only will the quality and the craftsmanship be better, but you can feel like a responsible human being as well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Buchanan's Flea Market

Today I went on a trip to Buchanan's Flea Market, a new venue for me. The market is held here in Dallas at Fair Park and I had been looking forward to going.

Here's a blurb from their website:

"This monthly market originated in January 1995 and has grown to be one of the finest and most respected antique and collectible markets in the United States. Featuring more than 85,000 square feet filled with antiques and collectibles dealers from across the United States and Europe, this market is visited by thousands of eager-to-buy customers and collectors each month. Many of our customers travel to Dallas from around the country just to visit our show!"

My 4 Purchases totalled a whopping $9. Here's what I got for the money:


Rose Pendant marked " Eggert 925 S Denmark."

I was stunned that nobody had snatched this piece up sooner. Yes, it looks at first like a worn and tarnished lump, but upon closer inspection... it is a delicate rosebud in silver, the details excruciatingly precise. I didn't have my laptop with me at the market, but I guessed that what I held in my hands was something I already have in my possession... a casting of a live plant in silver.

Here's what the research turned up:

The history of Flora Danica goes back to 1953, when Orla Eggert and his wife Grethe Eggert, the founders of Flora Danica Jewellery, established the company in Copenhagen. Before entering into the Jewellery business, Orla and Grethe had travelled in Europe performing as professional dancers in the biggest nightclubs and Varieties. When a baby daughter brought the free life as travelling artists to a halt, Orla Eggert needed to find a new way of earning a living for his family.
Inspired by the beauty of the autumn leaves slowly dropping from the trees against a low autumn sun, Orla Eggert developed the idea to make jewellery based on the unique design created by nature. The first pieces of Flora Danica Jewellery was based on copper plating of flowers and leaves which after being skilfully turned into jewellery by craftsmen was coated with 24 ct of gold. However, the copper was soon replaced by Sterling Silver, which also today forms the basis of each individual piece of Flora Danica Jewellery.
The production of jewellery started in humble surroundings in Orla Eggert´s small kitchen, but the demand for the jewellery grew quickly, and since then the company has occupied different premises. Today Flora Danica Jewellery is manufactured in our modern workshop located in Copenhagen.
Flora Danica is still a family company where second and third generation continues the family traditions of manufacturing high quality jewellery and maintaining a reputation of high quality and customer service.
More spectacular events have highlighted our company’s history. In 1992 Flora Danica Jewellery was asked by the Royal Court to manufacture a special memory Brooch personally designed by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. The broach was composed of wheat spikes resting on a beech leave, symbols of Denmark’s nature and agricultural traditions. The brooch was presented as a personal gift from the Queen to all the Ladies attending Her Majesty’s Silver Anniversary.

When I look closely at the piece, I do see some places where traces of the yellow-gold plating haven't worn completely off. But the wear on the piece leads me to believe that it was one of the first run casts in 1953. Either that, or my new pendant has had a very hard and active life. the pictures one finds on the website of their modern jewelry, frankly aren't enough to hold my interest. Too modern, too tame and too yellow-gold. But imagine, if you will, a chunkier, wilder cousin, who is unafraid how someone would perceive them. Beautiful or ugly, you decide.


Camelot " Carnelian horse and carousel" pendant

I dont normally go in for yellow metal, but the "Carnelian horse" stunned me here. A good carving in the orange stone depicts a horse, and trappings of gold-toned material create a front that is detailed, and resembling an ornate cage. The carnelian horse hangs suspended behind it's cheap but fillegreed cage. The gold tone has not started to wear off the metal yet. Either the piece has been well cared for, or it is not that old. With careful preservation... that will not happen. On the bottom is tha hallmark "Camelot". So far, nothign useful has turned up when searching after the "Camelot" company, so I will divulge into a bit of history about the semi-precious stone, Carnelian.

Folklore suggests that carnelian was used protect the traveler after death and guard against evil. Carnelian's healing properties are thought to help purify the blood, relieve menstrual cramps and back pain. It is also thought to be beneficial in the treatment of infertility and is worn to enhance passion and desire.

Carnelian is a 7 on the Mohs scale and has been used for centuries to carve beautiful cameos. It is found in Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Russia, South Africa, and the USA

Carnelian was used widely during Roman times 2,000 years before the present era to make signet or seal rings for imprinting a seal with wax on correspondence or other important documents. Hot wax does not stick to Carnelian. The word carnelian is derived from the Latin word meaning horn, in reference to the flesh color sometimes exhibited.


Antique 'fix-it' clasp with loose pink glass stone

This was something I almost didnt get, but eventually got for free. It is just a clasp, but since I make and re-fashion jewels, it was intriguing to me. The pink stone ( chipped, and I'm sure it's glass) is currently setting back into the socket it fell out of. This ia a long oval clasp.. the kind where you have a little "tab" that fit's securely into the bigger piece when you insert it. The back is marked "Checkoslovakia" and the oval sides are imprinted with what I would call a Wheat pattern. When it is all said and done, I might use this clasp for a necklace I will make for the Eggert rose.


Gold-flecked blue glass stone pendant with nouveau design.

This is the hardest to dicern... and more puzzling since I have a foil-backed orange stone with the same surrounding nouveau design as this pendant. There are no markings. It is about as big as my thumbnail. The glass stone is chabochon in it's setting. Around it is a bigger oval of thin metal, and at the North, South, East and Western points of this tiny Pendant are a design of leaves, in clusters of three. I wish I knew the maker!

Hello and Welcome

I'm an avid " Finder".

I go dumpster diving ( admitedly a gross project for some, but delightful to me) alley scavenging, antique shop browsing and flea-market hopping in the Dallas Area... and a little bit online too...

This will be a blog about my finds, past and recent in all these areas. Because, not only do I like to find things, but I like to learn about them as well. Aside from being an artist, this is my passion, and I hope to inform you as well.