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My love affair with jewelry began when I was about four years old. (This portrait of me taken then shows me wearing a two-strand white bead wrap bracelet, a complement to my girlish grin.) Where others might remember the treasured toys of early childhood, I think of the jewelry – a crystal heart on a silver chain, a red rhinestone strawberry brooch, and a garnet (my birthstone) ring – all pieces given to me by my great-aunt Esther, with whom I had a very special relationship. As you’ll see, I was destined to become a vintage jewelry collector.
As I was growing up, Aunt Esther, a woman with her own sense of style, always marked special occasions with gifts of fine jewelry, each one appropriate to the milestone I was celebrating: a gold charm bracelet for my 13th birthday, a Sweet 16 charm for my 16th, and a gold bangle for my high school graduation. When I would wear her gifts, I always thought of her and of the significant moment in my life that she had recognized. She taught me there’s always more to a piece of jewelry than its sparkle.
Jewelry has a special way of honoring the present and past.
Also on my 16th birthday, I received my first piece of jewelry from another time: it was this Art Deco sapphire and diamond ring that had belonged to my mother’s younger sister who died when I was three. My grandmother had left it especially for me. I wore that ring every day for many, many years (I’ve had the shank replaced twice) and still wear it quite often. Although I always loved the ring for sentimental reasons, my study of the Art Deco design period many years later revealed the ring’s richer story and deepened my appreciation of it.
I became interested in vintage jewels because of this ring and two other family pieces Aunt Esther gave me: a Victorian brooch with seed pearls and a magnificent Victorian gold watch on a long chain. Both had belonged to her mother, my great-grandmother. The watch cover is engraved with our shared initials BS, so I have a feeling it was always meant to make its way to me eventually, to mark a connection to my maternal ancestry. I have passed the watch along to Aunt Esther’s namesake in our family, the next generation, and believe my dear great-aunt would approve.
I had always collected jewelry, but in my 30s I really became a collector.
When I started buying vintage, I bought Victorian and Edwardian pieces and then, inspired by my husband’s design passions as an architect, I became intrigued anew by everything Art Deco. Mad for research, my expertise grew over the years to include the best European and North American costume jewelry designed from 1920-1960.
After officially retiring from earlier careers as a university librarian, fee-based researcher (before the Internet!), textbook editor, in-house records manager, and records management consultant, I was able to turn my love for this jewelry and its history into a business. My well-honed research and analytical skills are put to use when I select and authenticate pieces for the boutique, and write and lecture about the jewelry styles, makers, and social and historical context of the times in which these pieces were worn. All of these activities bring me joy.
Whether you’re a seasoned vintage collector yourself or you’re here shopping for something unique and beautiful, I invite you to browse the TruFaux Jewels boutique and see what era most speaks to you. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified when new pieces are offered and to read the jewelry stories published on my blog. Please enjoy!
Read how Barbara puts her researching skills to work identifying and authenticating vintage costume jewelry
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