Friday, October 28, 2011

Lucite Jewelry: Identifying Varieties or Types

Bakelite and Catalin are thermoset plastic brand names.

This is a fabulous explanation of Lucite types.  Full credit goes to poodlearts on Ebay.

Lucite is the queen of diversity, appearing in many forms, colors and styles in jewelry from the 1940's on, although it was most popular during the '40's and '50's.  It is an acrylic resin, and one type of  thermoset plastic (Bakelite is another, although Bakelite is a phenol formaldehye resin).  A brief aside here to clear up a point - the term 'thermoset' does NOT refer to a specific form or style of plastic; it is a broad-based term referring to any plastic that, once heated and formed, cannot be melted down and reformed.
And so, the purpose here is to illustrate a variety of the forms of lucite that you might come across.  Although clear in its original state, like the apple pendant above, lucite can be tinted virtually any color, in ranges from transparent to opaque, with a few interesting variations along the way.

The Basics:  Solid-Color Lucite - Solid colors are used for many purposes; white lucite can look like milk glass in a pair of earrings; black lucite can be used like onyx; many pieces have been carved or molded to add interest.  Pictured is a navy bangle with carved accents, a bright yellow bangle, a pair of blue earrings with a molded pattern, and a necklace with solid-color turquoise beads.
Moonglow Lucite - Probably one of the most popular forms of lucite, Moonglow pieces look as if lit from within, and come in a complete range of colors, as well as being used in almost all forms of jewelry - from beads to bangles to insets in earrings, brooches and necklaces.  The first picture is a pair of simple lilac-purple clipback button earrings; the other photos show an assortment of colors and sizes of beads.

Confetti Lucite - Confetti Lucite encompasses a wide range of variations, all basically a transparent form of lucite with chips or glitter encased.  The first illustration is a classic blue confetti lucite button; the second is a red glitter-encased lucite pendant.  The third is a brooch set with a classic example of an opal lucite cabachon.
Granite Lucite - A beautiful variation, granite lucite is normally opaque, with 'chunks' or bits of lucite in varying colors that emulate the look of granite - but in a wide variety of colors.  elow shows a cuff bracelet with a green granite lucite cabachon, and an interesting white variation with blue and orange in a pair of earrings from Japan.
Embedded Lucite
This form usually uses clear lucite over embedded objects - small seashells, flowers, rhinestones, whatever the artists could come up with.  The example below is a pair of earrings with tiny flowers embedded under clear lucite.
Molded Lucite - Actually, this term probably covers most lucite pieces.  However, I am using it here with jewelry that uses multiple pieces.  These pieces are often referred to as 'thermoset', which is why I've included them here.  These molded pieces may use any of  the varieties shown above, and moonglow lucite is one of the most popular forms, especially in earrings and necklaces.   Shown below are several pairs of earrings that use a variety of colors and shapes.
Other Variations - These are many other variations I've come across, although they are less common than those covered above. A few are illustrated below - the first is a necklace with 'marbled' beads that look almost like unakite in coloring.  The turquoise cabachons are a combination of granite lucite and webbing.  The pearls are actually two varieties; the smaller pearls are a pearlescent lucite, while the larger baroque pearls have a pearl coating over lucite.  And finally, the blue beads combine marbling with moonglow lucite - a striking combination!.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hattie Carnegie

Hattie Carnegie (15 March 1880 — 22 February 1956) was a fashion entrepreneur based in New York City from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary as Henrietta Kanengeiser.
The second oldest of seven children, Hattie Carnegie's father was an Austrian Jewish artist and tailor, thought to have introduced her to the world of fashion.

Carnegie, who emigrated with her family to the United States at the age of six years old in 1886, was known for her elegant couture collection and secondary ready-to-wear lines. Her company was revolutionary in the sense that it was one of the first to introduce ready-to-wear to the high-end market. She pioneered the 'head-to-hem' boutique concept that paved the way for the future success of Ralph Lauren in America. Her company discovered some of the most prominent American fashion designers of the twentieth century, such as Norman Norell, Pauline Trigère and James Galanos; for nearly a decade, the made-to-order department was headed by Pauline Fairfax Potter.

Hattie Carnegie was originally a milliner and owned a successful shop on East Tenth Street in New York named Carnegie - Ladies' Hatter . Despite the fact she had never sewed a seam in her life and had no formal training, she swiftly opened a dress shop on the Upper West Side and finally in 1923, she opened the famous Hattie Carnegie boutique at 42 East 49th street, close to the current address of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Carnegie enjoyed tremendous success throughout her career but the proudest moment came when she designed the Women's Army Corps (WAC) uniform in 1950. They were adopted for wear on New Year's Day 1951. On 1 June 1952, Hattie received the Congressional Medal of Freedom for the WAC uniform design and for her many other charitable and patriotic contributions. The WAC design was so timelessly elegant that it was still in use for women's U.S. Army uniforms in 1968.

Hattie Carnegie designs are in the collection holdings of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and at the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida.

"Simple, Beautiful Clothes"
Carnegie's belief in simplicity fit perfectly with the streamlining of 1930s design. She believed that "simple, beautiful clothes … enhance the charm of the woman who wears them. If you have a dress that is too often admired, be suspicious of it." The dress, she insisted, must fit and not overpower the woman who wears it. She was unabashedly devoted to Paris fashion and made regular buying trips throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Yet while she was a self-declared Francophile, she adapted French style to American tastes by offering a blend of style and comfort that suited many fashion-conscious Americans who still wanted their clothes to have a French flair.

Designing for the Middle Class
Carnegie's expensive original designer clothes were out of reach for many Americans, but this did not limit her influence on American design. Hers were among some of the most widely copied designs by popularly priced designers. As the decade wore on, Carnegie added a modestly priced, ready-to-wear line of clothing that proved to be the most lucrative of her enterprises. She made her modestly priced clothes more available to the average consumer by permitting some department stores to carry the new line, breaking from her usual practice of selling her clothes at her own shop. This practice secured her influence over both haute couture and popular wear.

For decades Hattie Carnegie's personal taste and fashion sense influenced the styles worn by countless American women. Whether they bought her imported Paris models, the custom designs, the ready-to-wear collections, or the mass market copies of her work, women welcomed Carnegie's discreet good taste as a guarantee of sophistication and propriety. Carnegie's business ability and fashion acumen enabled her to build a small millinery shop into a wholesale and retail clothing and accessory empire and made her name synonymous with American high fashion for almost half a century.

Carnegie's place in fashion history was assured not because of her own designs, but because of her talent for choosing or refining the designs of others. Between the World Wars, the list of couturiers whose models she imported included Lanvin, Vionnet, Molyneux, and Mainbocher—classic stylists—but also select creations for Chanel and Patou, Schiaparelli, and Charles James. In fact, Carnegie claimed in an April 1949 Collier's article to have had a three-year unauthorized exclusive on selling Vionnet models in the early 1920s, a few years before Vionnet started selling "to the trade."

The Custom Salon was generally considered to be the heart of the Hattie Carnegie operation, since it was with made-to-order fashion that Carnegie began. The focus of her business was to interpret European style for American consumers, but the sense of dress she chose to champion was not contained in the minutiae of design. It was instead an approach to fashion that emphasized consummate polish in every outfit. Norman Norell, who was with Carnegie from 1928 to 1940 (primarily as a ready-to-wear designer), remarked in American Fashion (New York, 1975) that he often worked from models that Miss Carnegie had brought back from Paris. He could legitimately claim, however, that he had imprinted his own signature on his designs for the firm, and it is often possible to make an informed attribution of Hattie Carnegie styles to her other designers. Certainly one gown featured in a 1939 magazine layout is recognizably the work of Claire McCardell, who spent two years with the firm.

Carnegie was already established as a taste-maker by the time she added the ready-to-wear division to her company in the 1920s. "Vogue points from Hattie Carnegie" contained her style tips and forecasts for Vogue readers. At the Hattie Carnegie salon, a customer could accessorize her day and evening ensembles with furs, hats, handbags, gloves, lingerie, jewelry, and even cosmetics and perfume— everything, in fact—but shoes.
The Carnegie customer, whatever her age, seems to have been neither girlish nor matronly, but possessed of a certain decorousness. Even the casual clothing in the Spectator Sportswear and Jeunes Filles ready-to-wear departments was elegant rather than playful. The Carnegie Suit, usually an ensemble with dressmaker details in luxury fabrics, traditionally opened her seasonal showings. She often stressed the importance of black as a wardrobe basic, both for day and evening, but was also famous for a shade known as "Carnegie blue." Perhaps Carnegie's preference for 18th-century furnishings in her home relates to the devotion of formality so clearly expressed in her business.

During World War II Carnegie was an impressive bearer of the standard of the haute couture. French style leadership was unavailable, and designs from her custom salon took pride of place in fashion magazines and on the stage, as in the original production of State of the Union by Lindsay and Crouse. Carnegie's leadership was also important to other fashion industries. She had always used fabrics from the best American textile companies, and continued to patronize specialty firms such as Hafner Associates and Onondaga Silks, which were not immersed in war work. She also used fabrics designed and hand-printed by Brook Cadwallader, and continued to do so after French materials again became available. Only after Carnegie's death did the company claim to use exclusively imported fabrics.

Hattie Carnegie died in 1956; the fashion empire she had built survived into the 1970s, but in 1965 the custom salon was closed and the company concentrated on wholesale businesses.

  • Epstein, Beryl Williams, Fashion is Our Business, Philadelphia and New York, 1945.
  • New York and Hollywood Fashion: Costume Designs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection, New York, 1986.
  • Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.
  • Steele, Valerie, Women of Fashion: Twentieth Century Design, NewYork, 1991.
  • Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Road to Morocco

    We were looking for a spring orienteering trip and weren’t having much luck. Last year, we travelled to Portugal and Spain with Sun-O and had a great orienteering adventure. There were a lot of positives to doing a similar trip this year. Interesting terrain, different culture and history, excellent weather, small field (by European standards – only about 1000 participants), and few North Americans. Plus, many of the European teams were there for spring training camp so the elite races were quite competitive. In our hotel alone were the Swiss and Norwegian national teams. Despite all these positives, we felt a bit of “been there, done that.”
    Until we noticed that Sun-O now offered an option to add a side trip to Morocco for a few days of orienteering and sightseeing. It was advertised as the first multiday event ever in Morocco and likely to be the first event there of any kind other than one urban sprint.
    Almost before we knew it, we were on a plane to Madrid and then into the rental car for the long drive to the Portuguese coast and the town of Figueira Da Foz (200kms north of Lisbon) for the Portugal Orienteering Meeting (POM). The exact dates for POM vary from year to year and this year it was held several weeks earlier than last year.
    This year, POM was a bit disappointing. The weather turned cold and damp and the terrain was not as interesting (coastal pine forest similar to the New Jersey Pine Barrens or Florida with sandy soil, lack of complex contour and rock features with an extensive trail network). Despite this, the courses were well designed and challenging and included four days of main events, two models, a night urban sprint, and a Trail O. The WRE on Day 2 was hotly contested and won by Thierry Gueorgiou (France) and Simone Niggli (Switzerland).
    A few days of sightseeing and then we headed 200kms inland to the Norte Alentejo town of Crato for the second WRE called Norte Alentejo Orienteering Meeting (NAOM). A model, middle, sprint, and long courses were high quality events on much more interesting and challenging terrain (very detailed, flat and rocky) and the weather was slightly better. The winners of the WRE events were Olav Lundanes (Norway) and Helena Jansson (Sweden).
    After the event on Sunday, a long 6 hour drive led us to the southeastern coast of Spain for a few days of training in Andalucia. The tour organizer (Sun-O) set out streamers in the woods for self-paced training on several maps of the national park in the area. In addition to the solid orienteering terrain, the hotel was on the training maps and we were only 200 meters from the beach. Too bad the weather did not lend itself to sunbathing or swimming!

And finally off to Morocco
    Up before dawn on Wednesday for the 1½ hour drive to Algeciras for the “fast ferry” to Ceuta on the North African coast where we met our travel companions for the next part of the trip. The only other North Americans were Margaret and Brian Ellis from Canada. The remainder of the group were half from Spain and the rest from northern Europe.
    The ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar was picturesque with the Rock of Gibraltar serving as backdrop as we sailed away from Europe towards Africa. The ride was about an hour and then we stepped onto African soil. Or did we? Yes, we were on the African continent, but still in Spain. The town in which we landed was the Autonomous City of Ceuta, a small remnant of colonialism which remains Spanish territory (much to the chagrin of Moroccans). Even though it is on the African continent, the Euro is the official currency, Spanish is the official language (although French and Arabic are widely spoken), the houses are whitewashed, and there is no official border crossing. In this way, it is similar to Gibraltar (which is British territory located in Spain).
    And, where were the sand dunes with camels?  This part of Morocco is quite steep and forested with a mild, Mediterranean subtropical climate with a decent amount of rainfall. Not one shifting sand dune to be seen.
    We boarded our bus for the tortuous ride to a small national park in the nearby mountains. As the bus climbed high above the port, we spotted controls in the woods. The Moroccan tour guide chattered on in English and then Spanish about the city below us on our right, but all eyes were glued to the hillside on our left as we yelled, ‘There’s another one in that steep reentrant!” We knew we were getting close to making history by being the first people to orienteer in the North  African forests. We disembarked at a pull out on the side of the road (complete with restaurant and spectacular views of the city and the Mediterranean), changed into O gear, and hiked to the start on Mirador de Isabel II.  The course was a Motola, with four map exchanges (map and photos on page 27).
    A quick recovery and change of clothes and we were on our way back to town for lunch and a few hours of self-guided sightseeing (we spent our time mostly visiting a fort and then napping on a bench in front of a shrine of some sort). The bus then maneuvered its way through the town of Ceuta and then the start of our journey south to the town of Chefchaouen (founded in 1471, situated in the Rif Mountains, known for its blue-rinsed houses and buildings).
    But first, we had the border crossing to deal with. Because Ceuta is EU territory, but located in Africa, it is a focal point for illegal entry and security is tight on both sides of the border. Two 30-foot high patrolled barbed wire fences made the area seem more akin to the DMZ. We were sternly told, “no photos allowed”.
    Our Moroccan tour guide collected all our passports, tossed them in a plastic shopping bag, and casually strolled over to the guard house to have them stamped.  About 40 minutes later he returned, distributed all the passports, and we were ready for Morocco. Except me. I did not get my passport back. A few tense moments while the guide searched. We were the only US citizens. Did they want my passport? All kinds of crazy thoughts race through your head at times like this. But, alas, the guide had just decided it would be fun to play around for a bit. Finally, he “found” my passport, laughed, and we were ready for Morocco. This time the bus moved forward, all of us filled with anticipation.
    Arriving in Chefchaouen after dark, exhausted, we checked into our hotel. We opted to stay in a traditional Riad, steps from the main square in Chefchaouen’s tiny medina or old city. The other option was a modern European style hotel just outside the medina. The main redeeming quality of the European hotel was that it was the only place to purchase alcohol in the entire village. A real dilemma for us, but we opted for tradition, deciding we could always go to the bar at the other hotel (we never did because the bar was filled with tourists, all smoking heavily).
    After settling into our room, we joined our traveling companions for a traditional Moroccan dinner (tajine, a vegetable stew with chicken, couscous and harira, an interesting tomato based soup), and then off to bed for an early start the next day.
    No alarm clock needed in Morocco as the call to prayers assured that we arose before dawn each day. But, the early awakening did give the opportunity to explore our unique lodging and the surrounding area.
    Chefchaouen’s medina featured a labyrinth of Byzantine passageways and dead end streets, too narrow for any vehicles with four wheels to travel. This was the venue for the morning event, a sprint/middle in and around the medina and it proved to be the highlight of the trip.
    We have done urban sprints in Europe, but this added another dimension with the intricate nature of the streets. Also, fifty or so Europeans in orienteering kit running through the medina proved quite a contrast to the residents in their traditional garb. But, the locals were curious and very friendly, with many of the children directing us to the controls and even offering to take our punch cards and run ahead to punch for us. Perhaps some orienteers for the future…
    In the afternoon, we were led on a guided walking tour of the medina (including the areas through which we had just orienteered) and a demonstration of traditional rug weaving. But, we were not done orienteering just yet. Event 2 was held on more traditional, but very steep, orienteering terrain outside the city and finished once again in the medina. 
    Our last night in Morocco began with another traditional dinner at the hotel. This was followed by awards and several presentations, including one by the local tourism board about preserving traditional Moroccan culture and how orienteering tourism could fit right in.
    Once again we collapsed into our bed ready for an early start the next day. The highlight of our last day was a sightseeing tour of the city of Tetouan and a lunch at a restaurant which included traditional (we called it touristy) Moroccan dancing and music.
    The brutal bus ride back to Ceuta through this mountainous area provided the opportunity to reflect on this unique experience. Orienteering in Morocco is still in its infancy and we were the “guinea pigs” to help Sun-O determine whether to expand this option. Even though there are currently only a few small maps, the combination of the culture and the orienteering proved an intriguing mix. The main topic of conversation on the bus was looking out the window at the terrain and debating whether it would be suitable for mapping – a clear indication that everyone seemed to give the trip a thumbs up!
    We concluded our trip with another WRE weekend event (model, middle, sprint, long) in Ronda, Spain. Ronda is best known for the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), completed in 1751, which dramatically transverses the 98m El Tajo gorge below and is still in use today.
    Finally back to Madrid and a few days of sightseeing before returning home.
    All in all, the trip provided an excellent mix of culture and orienteering. We didn’t tally up the events, but during the three weeks we could have probably done a different orienteering event every day (two on some days) if you included the models and the trainings. We can recommend it to anyone looking for intense orienteering training with an option to experience the cultural history of this part of the world – true orienteering tourism.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bakelite & Catalin

The History of Bakelite & Catalin and How to Test for Authenticity


Bakelite Jewelry has become a hot collecting area in the last several decades. How do you know if the piece that you recently purchased is the genuine item or a fake reproduction or "fakelite," also currently being offered in large numbers online and at flea markets? I'll do my best to take some of the mystery out of this popular subject, since knowing how to test for bakelite will help you to also date your jewelry.
Before I comment on the testing for bakelite content, I'd like to give you a short history of the early depression material, which details the differences between the two materials commonly referred to as bakelite.

History of Bakelite
The words "bakelite" and "catalin" are often used interchangeably. However, they are actually two different materials. Both are thermoset plastics made from formaldehyde. The differences between the two are in the fillers used, origin of manufacture, the opaqueness, and the colors available. Most bakelite jewelry that you see for sale is actually catalin. 
This thermoset plastic made from phenol formaldehyde has fillers to make it more durable, stronger and less expensive. The filler could be rags, cotton, wood, carbon black - even asbestos. Because of this, reworking the product can make it harmful to your health. By and large, bakelite is very opaque. True bakelite colors are normally very dark because of the fillers.

Bakelite is a US manufactured product, patented in 1907 by a Belgian chemist, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, working in New York. Most early uses of Bakelite were radios, handles for pots and pans, castings for televisions, toys, etc. Some was even used in coffins! Bakelite was manufactured between 1907 and 1927.

Catalin is a thermoset plastic made from either phenol, melamine or urea formaldehyde, that normally has no fillers. It can be reworked and is usually very colorful. Catalin is also very translucent. Sunlight causes catalin to lighten over time. Catalin is also subject to shrinkage.

When the patent for bakelite expired in 1927, the patent was acquired by the Catalin Corporation in the same year. The Catalin Corporation is thought to be responsible for nearly 70% of the phenol resins available today - thus the statement that most bakelite jewelry sold is actually catalin. Catalin jewelry production continued through the 1930s and 40s in abundance. With the introduction of lucite in the 1950s, the production of vintage catalin jewelry effectively ceased in the 1960s, although it is still possible to get reworked pieces which were manufactured much later than this date.
Testing of bakelite and catalin
One of the easiest ways to test for the difference between the two materials is to hold them up to a very strong light. Light will not pass through bakelite since it is opaque, but will filter through the more translucent catalin. Even black catalin allows some light to pass through it. 
Further testing for actual bakelite or catalin content
There are many different tests used to test for bakelite/catalin - including the hot water test, the friction test, the scrubbing bubbles test (not recommended, since Scrubbing Bubbles is caustic and will strip the finish of the jewelry), the 409 test, and the Simichrome polish test. None are conclusive on their own. Once you have some experience with the product, you will get a very good feel for it by just sight. Bakelite and catalin have a very distinctive look to them. 
French Bakelite - Far East Bakelite - Fakelite
This is not considered true bakelite by vintage jewelry collectors. I have seen a great deal of French bakelite for sale on auction sites such as ebay. The pieces are lovely, with highly carved designs and vibrant colors. They sometimes fetch high prices.

However, this type of jewelry is neither bakelite or vintage. It is mass produced, newly manufactured plastic fashion jewelry with little or no collector value. The same is true of the mass produced items labeled as bakelite from the far east. If there is a lot of it for sale, you can be sure that it isn't true bakelite, which is very hard to come by. I buy estate jewelry collections all the time, and rarely find genuine bakelite pieces in the estates. Also, French bakelite will not pass the bakelite tests outlined on this page.
As bakelite prices have risen, this "Fakelite" has appeared on the market. Although some of the sellers of Fakelite insist that it will pass chemical testing, none of it successfully passes hot water testing. Fakelite smells "wrong" (unlike bakelite) when tested with hot water.

409 Testing
This is the easiest test for the beginner. Lightly dampen a Q tip swab in 409 cleaning solution and rub it gently on an inconspicuous area of the jewelry piece. If the material is bakelite it will turn the Q tip bright yellow. (not brown - brown is just dirt.) The 409 should be thoroughly rinsed off, since it could damage the finish of the piece. This test is a good indication that the jewelry tested is bakelite, but not absolutely conclusive. It should be combined with the hot water and smell test described below. 
Scrubbing Bubbles Testing
Dow bathroom cleaner - popularly known as scrubbing bubbles used to be widely used for testing of bakelite jewelry. Vintage Jewelry Lane does not recommend that you use this method, since the product is very caustic and has been known to strip the finish from the jewelry piece. 
Simichrome Polish Test
This is similar to the 409 test, except that you use a polish called Simichrome Polish, which is available online or at most hardware stores. This test is a little more expensive, since Simichrome is more expensive than 409. Put the polish on a soft cloth and wipe over the jewelry to be tested. Once again, it should result in a bright yellow area on the cloth. Simichrome doesn't have to be rinsed off, and it can be used to polish the whole piece of jewelry. Not a conclusive test, especially on reworked catalin, but fairly conclusive in combination with the hot water test. 
Hot water test
This test is very accurate, but requires some experience, since one needs to know what formaldehyde actually smells like. Run the water in your tap (or heat it in the microwave oven) until it is very hot and hold the jewelry piece in it for 15-30 seconds. Immediately smell the article. If it is bakelite or catalin it will have the distinctive smell of formaldehyde. A burnt milk smell indicates French Bakelite, and a camphor smell indicates Celluloid - another early vintage plastic.

A lot of the reworked catalin pieces will not respond to the Simichrome polish or 409 tests, but should respond to the hot water test. It is still possible to get a false positive to this test, if the piece is newly polished, carved or highly dirty. Also, be very careful of the water on the findings, since the water can loosen glue. Always dry thoroughly.

Friction test
This is similar to the hot water test, but is helpful when there is no hot water available, such as time when you are at a flea market or other sales venue. You simply rub the jewelry piece until your thumb feels very hot and then smell it. It will give off the distinctive formaldehyde smell. 
Hot Pin Test:
I strongly discourage this method of testing, since it requires that you actually damage the piece of jewelry which will devalue it greatly. It requires heating a pin tip until it is red and then touching it to the bakelite/catalin object. The characteristics of true bakelite or catalin insure that the piece will not melt, so a pin cannot pierce it. The heat of the pin will, however, cause a dark spot to remain on the jewelry piece, which cannot be removed. 
Other Indicators of True Bakelite or Catalin
Bakelite/Catalin jewelry will never have seams or mold lines. White jewelry is a good giveaway that it is not bakelite or catalin, since both have a yellowish patina which develops over time. A chalky finish which looks like dust and will not wash away is never found on the true product. (This is a good indicator of a newer material referred to as "fakelite.") Finally, true bakelite pieces will have a distinctive clunking sound when tapped together.

As indicated above, no one test is totally conclusive for guaranteeing that your jewelry piece is true bakelite or catalin. When used in combination with all of the other tests, a positive test on each can help you to feel fairly certain that you really do have a collectible piece of vintage bakelite or catalin jewelry.

Final notes on testing methods
Not all jewelry pieces which actually are Bakelite will pass these tests. This includes pieces which are very dirty, pieces which have previously had their finish stripped with chemical test agents such as Scrubbing Bubbles, some reds, many blacks, and jewelry pieces which have a coating which is resin washed. Pieces which have been covered with a plastic sealant compound, and jewelry pieces which have been sanded will not pass the test. And finally, newly re-worked pieces made from Bakelite and freshly polished pieces may not pass these tests but may still be bakelite.

In addition, some pieces which are NOT bakelite may pass some of these tests. For this reason, it is very important to test with several methods, including hot water and 409, and to also look for other evidences of bakelite content, such as oxidation and patina.

Learning New Words - Parure

Being a former English teacher, I love to learn a new word and love the history of words even more...

Parure - noun

Matching jewelry containing several pieces such as necklace, choker, brooch, earrings, bracelet and ring. Demi-paurure consists of only two to three matching pieces.

A set of jewelry including a necklace, bracelet, earrings, brooch, and ring. That's considered 5 items (earrings are 1). However, most people consider a parure everything except the ring. Demi Parure is 2 pieces of jewelry or more pieces but less than 4 pieces (again, earrings are 1). So, a bracelet and earrings, or a necklace and bracelet, or a necklace and earrings, or a brooch and earrings, or bracelet and brooch, etc. would be a demi parure.
[French, from Old French, adornment, from parer, to adorn; see pare.]

Okay, so off to add this word to a few of my Etsy listings.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aurora Borealis

Learning New Words

I'm just starting to learn the correct jewelry terms. Still unsure about crystal and stones!

Lead glass is so-called because the glass contains lead - as much a 50% of the weight of the glass is due to lead.

The presence of the lead increases the index of refraction - a high refractive index, means it bends the light more. By cutting the glass in just the right way, internal reflection from inside the shiny surfaces of the glass cause the light to reflect internally. This internal reflection results in sparkle as the glass is tilted, adding to its beauty.

This stone was created by Swarovski® in 1955 in collaboration with Christian Dior. It shimmers in every imaginable color. The effect is achieved by vapor blasting the facets of the lower part of the crystals with an invisible, micro thin metal sheet. 

 Also known as AB, the term now refers to any highly iridescent surface.

The term is most commonly used in reference to crystals, rhinestone, or synthetic stones that are iridescent.

I just listed these heavy earrings which I'm calling  Aurora Borealis for now...

Jewelry Collecting Books

I've just started to include vintage jewelry in my Etsy shop. I have a great deal to learn, though.

To start, I've picked up a few jewelry collecting books.  (Goodwill has been a great place to find books, as well as some lower end antique shops. Amazon has been okay. I have a $6 limit and I have dozens of collecting books.)

I find that the descriptions and photos are excellent and very helpful, but the prices are not to be bothered with. I've used many of the descriptions in my shop descriptions. I also like to say that the piece is found in xxx.

These books reflect the prices when the books were published, not at a time when the economy is in the tubes, so it's not much help now. One dealer at a flea market was quoting book prices to me when I was trying to make a deal. Finally, he realized I was not just a women buying a piece to wear and he said, "Yea, okay, so now let's talk reality."

Fine Fashion Jewelry from Sarah Coventry
Jennifer A. Lindbeck
Great colorful pages, lots of original company catalogs

Sarah Coventry Jewelry, An Unauthorized Guide for Collectors
Monica Lynn Clements
Great colorful pages, no original company catalogs

Here's my favorite Sarah Coventry set I have listed on Etsy -

Collecting Rhinestone and Colored Jewelry
Maryanne Dolan
Very few color pages. 157 pages of marks. Good descriptions.

Collecting Art Plastic Jewelry
Leigh Leshner
Pretty pictures and rather obvious descriptions. Not much about who made the pieces and nothing about when.

Unsigned Beauties of Costume Jewelry
Marcia "Sparkles" Brown - yea, gotta love the Sparkles addition
Great for looking at pretty pictures and reading descriptions, but what's the point? There are not dates. If they are unsigned, they are unsigned and this book does not help try to figure out who made the pieces. Why write a book about things that you just look at and say, "Yes, this is a pretty brooch with white cabachon hearts."  I've learned nothing from this book, I'm sorry to say, Sparkles. No, I take that back. There are some jewelry terms and colors I've learned to use - navette, I had to look up, for example.

Here is the shop section in Etsy where I have all my jewelry. I still have a box full to list...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Countries Never More

I've been collecting items from Occupied Japan since my dad died and I found a rather tacky little ceramic dog in his garage. It was marked Made in Occupied Japan and I was hooked!  I now have about 50 pieces and will be listing many of them on Etsy in the upcoming months. A few are already in the Countries Never More section (a bit of a play on Poe's The Raven which was one of my dad's favorites -

I also collect items made in countries that no longer exist, and the list is huge. So far, I've found items from Czechoslovakia and West Germany. The search continues . . .

Abyssinia: The name of Ethiopia until the early 20th century.
Austria-Hungary: A monarchy (also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire) that was established in 1867 and included not just Austria and Hungary, but also parts of the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, Romania, and the Balkans. The empire collapsed at the end of World War I.
Basutoland: Lesotho's name prior to 1966.
Bengal: An independent kingdom from 1338-1539, now part of Bangladesh and India.
Burma: Burma officially changed its name to Myanmar in 1989 but many countries still aren't recognizing the change, such as the United States.
Catalonia: This autonomous region of Spain was independent from 1932-1934 and 1936-1939.
Ceylon: Changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972.
Champa: Located in south and central Vietnam from the 7th century through 1832.
Corsica: This Mediterranean island was ruled by various nations over the course of history but had several brief periods of independence. Today, Corsica is a department of France.
Czechoslovakia: Peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
East Germany and West Germany: Merged in 1989 to form a unified Germany.
East Pakistan: This province of Pakistan from 1947-1971 became Bangladesh.
Gran Colombia: A South American country that included what is now Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and Ecuador from 1819-1930. Gran Colombia ceased to exist when Venezuela and Ecuador seceded.
New Granada: This South American country was part of Gran Colombia (see above) from 1819-1830 and was independent from 1830-1858. In 1858, the country became known as the Grenadine Confederation, then the United States of New Granada in 1861, the United States of Colombia in 1863, and finally, the Republic of Colombia in 1886.
North Yemen and South Yemen: Yemen split in 1967 into two countries, North Yemen (a.k.a. Yemen Arab Republic) and South Yemen (a.k.a. People's Democratic Republic of Yemen). However, in 1990 the two rejoined to form a unified Yemen.
Ottoman Empire: Also known as the Turkish Empire, this empire began around 1300 and expanded to include parts of contemporary Russia, Turkey, Hungary, the Balkans, northern Africa, and the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire ceased to exist in 1923 when Turkey declared independence from what remained of the empire.
Persia: The Persian Empire extended from the Mediterranean Sea to India. Modern Persia was founded in the sixteenth century and later became known as Iran.
 Prussia: Became a Duchy in 1660 and a kingdom in the following century. At its greatest extent it included the northern two-thirds of Germany and western Poland. Prussia, by World War II a federal unit of Germany, was fully disbanded at the end of World War II.
Rhodesia: Zimbabwe was known as Rhodesia (named after British diplomat Cecil Rhodes) prior to 1980.
Siam: Changed its name to Thailand in 1939.
Sikkim: Now part of far northern India, Sikkim was an independent monarchy from the 17th century until 1975.
South Vietnam: Now part of a unified Vietnam, South Vietnam existed from 1954 to 1976 as the anti-communist portion of Vietnam.
Southwest Africa: Gained independence and became Namibia in 1990.
Tanganyika and Zanzibar: These two African countries united in 1964 to form Tanzania.
Texas: The Republic of Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836 and existed as an independent country until annexation to the United States in 1845.
Tibet: A kingdom established in the 7th century, Tibet was invaded by China in 1950 and has since been known as the Xizang Autonomous Region of China.
Transjordan: Became the independend kingdom of Jordan in 1946.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): Broke into fifteen new countries in 1991: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldovia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
United Arab Republic: From 1958 to 1961, non-neighbors Syria and Egypt merged to become a unified country. In 1961 Syria abandoned the alliance but Egypt kept the name United Arab Republic itself for another decade.
Urjanchai Republic: South-central Russia; independent from 1912 to 1914.
Western Samoa: Changed its name to Samoa in 1998.
Yugoslavia: The original Yugoslavia divided up into Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia in the early 1990s.
Zaire: Changed its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dating Vintage Commercial Perfume Bottles

Dating Vintage Commercial Perfume Bottles

by: cleopatra*s_boudoir on Ebay

Some tips on dating vintage commercial perfume bottles:

Do you have a vintage perfume and need help in figuring out how old it may be? Simply knowing when your perfume first came out can be a huge help. I have written over 200 guides on perfume companies and their perfumes and noting launch dates for perfumes. Please remember that some perfumes were made for many years after their launch dates, on the other hand, some perfumes were only sold for a very short time.

  • The presence of clear labels indicating contents were first used around the 1950s. These are either on the front, back or base of your bottle.
  • By 1970, cosmetic companies were stamping colored numbers on the bottom of their products. This stamping usually consisted of four numbers and was visible on the bottom of each item. Older bottles from the 1930s-40s would have lot numbers or patent numbers embossed right into the glass base.

  • A Zip Code on a label denotes age meaning this bottle is from 1962 or later. Before 1937, no zip codes were used. From 1937 to 1962, two code numbers were used on mail and labels. In 1962, all zip codes were required by the US Postal Service.

  • If your bottle has a label which states: "returning this bottle to the perfumer is a national duty"...then your bottle dates from 1940-1945 during WWII.
  • Bottles embossed with or having labels marked "Made in Occupied Japan" were made from September 1945 until April 1952.
  • Bakelite screw caps were in usage from 1930s-1950s.Some perfume bottles as the ones for Lanvin often continued using black Bakelite screwcaps into the 1960s. If you rub the cap  with your finger briskly or hold it under hot running water (remove cap from bottle first!) for about 20-30 seconds, then smell it, if it has a formaldehyde odor, it is bakelite.
  • Lucite caps were used from the late 1930s-onward. The older lucite caps become yellowed or discolored from perfume.
  • Another feature was the use of plastic caps placed over the base of a ground glass stopper. The finest plastic caps began to be used by 1979 when the glass factory of Saint Gobain Desjonqueres introduced the first plastic covered dowel stoppers.
  • Glass stoppers that had dowels that went into corks were in use from 1870s-1920.

  • Goldtone plastic screw caps were in use after the 1940s.

  • Goldtone metal screwcaps were in use from 1930s onward.

  • Enameled lettering ( instead of labels) on glass bottles started being used after the 1930s and was pretty regular feature in the 1940s onward. This lettering is fragile and can be lost with too much cleaning.
  • If your label states that the perfume was "created/compounded/assembled"  in France or USA, it dates to after the 1940s and most likely dates to the 1950s.
  • If your box or label has a number with a degree symbol, this notes the perfume or cologne's alcohol percentage. Two common percentages are  80% and 90% for eau de toilette and cologne.  This helps date the bottle to after the 1950s.
  • Look for a patent number on the base of the bottle, these patent dates were frequent in the 1930s and 1940s, you can look up the number on search engines on US patent webpages online. Also, English Registry Design numbers can also be found on perfume bottles from the United Kingdom, you can search the numbers online also.
  • Old glass bottles might have etched matching numbers on the base of the perfume bottle and on the bottom of the stopper. This was done at the factory when the stopper would have been ground to fit the bottle, the numbers are to show which bottle goes with the right stopper. These were usually found on French bottles.
  • If your bottle is marked Gaillard, J. Viard or J. Villard, it was made during 1900-1920s. Lucien Gaillard was a contemporary of Lalique and designed many Art Nouveau perfume bottles for notable French perfume houses such as Clamy and Violet. Julien Viard was a French glass designer of the 1920s and designed bottles for Richard Hudnut,Isabey, Favolys and Langlois. Both Gaillard & Viard collaborated and you might find the mark of J. Villard on some bottles.
  • Older bottles stamped their name and origin somewhere on the bottle. In the 1940s, stickers replaced the stamping but were soon lost or destroyed, making it difficult to authenticate.
  • If your bottle has an embossed entwined HP mark on the base of the bottle, it was made by the glass factory of Pochet et du Courval in France after 1930.
  • At the beginning of the 20th century, revenue stamps appeared on the imported scents coming into America.This stamped container is very collectible, because of the information on that stamp.
  • Always look at all sides of a bottle. Some labels can be read from both sides, looking thru the back of the bottle. You might encounter labels which have the date stamped on the back of the labels. Sample bottles from the 1950s onward, often had labels that would say "sample, not to be sold". Today's bottles read "tester". Factice, or display bottles, were not meant for resale, and will have labels such as: "dummy, not for sale".  Sometimes a date is also stamped on the backside of the label, I have seen this with old Chanel & Lanvin bottles. Chanel bottles from the 1960s onward should have the backs of their labels marked with a copyright symbol and CC.
  • If your bottle is marked S or SGD on the base, it was manufactured by the Saint Gobain Desjonqueres glass factory of France after the 1950s, when the factory was rebuilt after WWII and equipped with modern fully-automatic machinery.
  • Old labels turn brown naturally, however, water and perfume can cause stains on labels over the years
  • Cellophane packaging was developed in 1908 by a Swiss textile engineer, Jacques Brandenberger, and in 1917 assigned his patents to La Cellophane Societe Anonyme and joined that organization. On December 26, 1923, an agreement was executed between Du Pont Cellophane Company and La Cellophane by which La Cellophane licensed Du Pont Cellophane Company exclusively under its United States cellophane patents. It was originally used to wrap luxury items, but was expensive and not moisture proof. Finding early perfumes with cellophane packaging is very rare. It wasnt until the late 1940s that cellophane started to become a regular feature on perfume box packaging.
  • Look on the base of your bottle for acid stamps for Baccarat, Lalique, Cristal Nancy or Cristal Romesnil, these markings add value to your bottle. Cristal Nancy closed their doors in 1934. Only from 1936, Baccarat bottles were systematically engraved with  a mark. Prior to this, they were acid etched, stamped and some had round paper labels, while many have no distinguishing marks.
  • Lalique perfumes were marked with a signature on the bases. The signature has changed over the years and you can date a bottle by the style of the signature. Older bottles are marked R. Lalique in block lettering.You can look up various websites or books on Lalique to find signatures and the dates they were used.
  • Older perfume will start to darken and the oldest perfumes have a syrupy texture.
  • If your label or box has the perfume company's address, you might be able to date the bottle by comparing the addresses for the company if a company has had more than one address.
  • If your bottle has a VB , or BR mark on the base, it was made by Verreries Brosse of France after the 1920s when the factory installed semi-automatic bottle making machines. In 1963, Brosse switched from making hand ground stoppers to precision machine grinding. In 1976, Brosse patented two new stopper innovations,the first is a ring made of polypropylene with horizontal joints placed on the stopper dowel.The second is a polypropylene coating of the stopper dowel designed with internal friction teeth.
  • Sealed perfumes which look to have some perfume missing, have had their contents evaporated, this is caused by heat, and poor storage as well as aging.
  • Check out vintage advertisements for perfumes in old magazines. They will usually have a date on them and you can use these to compare your bottle to whats shown in the ad.
  • Older perfumes have onion skin paper seals or thin celluloid seals in either red, blue or other colors.
  • The styles of the boxes or labels can also help determine age. Art Nouveau is generally 1900-1920s, Art Deco mid 1920s and some styles carried into the 1940s, psychedelic late 1960s-early 1970s. Please note that this isnt always foolproof.
  • Some perfume boxes or labels might have a warning label such as: "Warning--Use only as directed. Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal". This warning was approved by the FDA starting in 1975.
  • Any cosmetic, perfume or lotion labeled "hypoallergenic" dates to after 1975, when the FDA allowed companies to mark their products in this manner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The Code of Federal Regulations 16, Part 23.5[2] defines Vermeil: "An industry product may be described or marked as 'vermeil' if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on all significant surfaces with gold or gold alloy of not less than 10 karat fineness, that is of substantial thickness and a minimum thickness throughout equivalent to two and one half (2½) microns (or approximately 1/10000ths of an inch) of fine gold."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The myth and magic
of Nemadji "Indian" Pottery

Nemadji Pottery has been produced at the gateway of Minnesota's Arrowhead Region since 1923. The plant was first founded in the City of Moose Lake, which is at the crossroads of Minnesota state highway 73 and Interstate-35.
Nemadji Tile first graced the floors of many churches, and businesses and the homes of America's most wealthy. The less expensive pottery was produced as a tourist item during the Great Depression. It was sold primarily in the west and in the northeast as "Indian" Pottery.
The only connection to Minnesota's Ojibway Tribe is the Name, Nemadji, which roughly translates as"Lefthand." While never produced by Indians, the pottery was promoted as being reminiscent of ancient indian pottery--overtime, it became known as Indian Pottery.
The Pottery was first made using the rich clays taken from the banks of the Nemadji River. The special painting technique used to give the pottery its unique look was developed in 1929 by Eric Hellman. The Nemadji plant was moved to Kettle River in 1972-73. The new owner updated the plant and made significant changes to the pottery. The plant was sold again in 1980. Within a year, the new owner closed down the tile making end of business. Production of Nemadji pottery ended in the winter of 2001-2002.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chalkware was figurines made of sculpted gypsum painted with watercolors; most typically those made in one of two periods, the first beginning in the late 18th century and ending by the beginning of the 20th century, the second being during the Great Depression. Those made during the first period were more typically serious art; those during the second period were more typically somewhat jocular.
Today, Chalkware is more commonly created with a plaster substance to create long lasting collectibles. Vaillancourt Folk Art is known for producing the first contemporary chalkware figurines since the original gypsum versions. Contemporary chalkware was made popular by designer Judi Vaillancourt and is one of the last remaining crafters still designing by hand.

 From Country Home Blog

ChalkwareThis is a featured page

Called poor-man’s porcelain, chalkware was the immigrant’s savvy answer to a growing demand in 19th-century America for ornamental figurines. Using fast-drying plaster of Paris (which sets white and powdery like chalk), small teams of craftsmen created products that sold for pennies. Plaster did not have to be fired in a kiln like pricier ceramics, and decoration could be quickly hand painted rather than glazed.

One family, a rented room, water, plaster, and a few jars of paint were all that was needed to create a menagerie of small, colorful chalkware animals, birds, portrait busts, and fruit compotes to sell door-to-door. Image peddlers, as they were called, strolled city streets hawking wares they carried on boards above their heads. Some took along unpainted pieces as well, which they would decorate to a housewife’s liking right on her doorstep.

Though chalkware was a commercial product, today it is appreciated as folk art. The difficulties of modeling plaster gave each figure a coarse, almost clumsy charm. Forms are often imprecise and dependent upon painting for descriptive details. Because each piece was hand painted, two casts from the same mold can vary according to the skill or taste of the decorator.

While the 20th-century eye looks for signs of the human spirit in the individuality of each piece, the original chalkware owner was more likely to focus on resemblances. Chalkware was an imitative art form, executed in the style of then-fashionable Staffordshire figurines. From sheep and peasant couples to the ever-popular spaniel, many chalkware forms were modeled on imported ceramics. However, although comparisons between Staffordshire and chalkware figures can be made, no one has ever identified a chalkware piece that was cast directly from a Staffordshire figure. Chalkware craftsmen, it would seem, did not buy the expensive imported figures to make their molds.

Instead, they made their own models with the goal of capturing the general look of the more expensive wares. They were also selective in choosing which Staffordshire forms to imitate, opting for dogs, cats, and squirrels over cows and for patriotic and pastoral themes over figures from literature, mythology, theater, or sports.

Italian immigrants in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York carried on the bulk of chalkware production in America from 1840 to 1890. They worked in barely furnished rooms and abandoned houses, rarely staying in one place long enough to set up a home or a shop. Some itinerant peddlers sold their wares on city streets; others traveled deep into the countryside.

Although chalkware has been found as far north as Maine and as far west as the Mississippi, it was eastern Pennsylvania’s German population who proved such an enthusiastic audience that, until recently, collectors mistakenly regarded chalkware as a homespun craft of that region. Experts attributed the vibrant, often garish paints on chalkware to the local taste for color and proposed theories as to how a tradition of plaster figurines so strong in Italy could have developed and flourished in the German community. This misunderstanding of the origin of chalkware led collectors to believe that it was an exclusively country art form favored by those who could not afford pricier ornaments. The truth is that plaster ornaments were just as likely to have decorated urban homes as rural homes, and, while they were certainly very popular with working-class loan modification people, they also appealed to Victorians of more than humble means. Victorian interiors were dark, with heavily draped windows. Indoor lighting was expensive and inefficient, but rows of inexpensive, colorful chalkware could brighten a room.

The majority of chalkware pieces depicted animals—sleeping and sitting cats, poodles, spaniels, squirrels, roosters, parrots, deer, and sheep. Religious figures included angels, nativity scenes, Madonnas, kneeling children, and Saint Nicks. During the first half of the 19th century, portrait busts and relief portraits of royalty and political figures such as Napoleon and Josephine were made, but they soon fell out of fashion. After 1860, the range of chalkware that depicted people focused almost exclusively on working-class heroes such as firemen, idyllic peasant couples, custom shot glasses,George Washington, singer Jenny Lind, and social reformer Amelia Jenks Bloomer.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Saga of Landers, Frary & Clark

The Saga of Landers, Frary & Clark
By Earl Lifshey
Copyright © The National Housewares Manufacturers Association
Reprinted with permission.

"This is the story of Landers, Frary & Clark and its service to the American home. For more than a century three able men, active in the industrial, political and cultural life in New Britain and in Connecticut, were the principal actors in our little story. But the real theme is the changing pattern of American living in the past 100 years and of the company's contribution to this changing pattern, because Landers has been making products for the American home for nearly twelve decades and its success has been due to ability to change products with the changing times."
Those were the words with which Richard L. White, then chairman of the board of directors of Landers, Frary & Clark, began a speech on his company's history at a meeting of The Newcomen Society in Noank, Connecticut, August 12, 1955. (Mr. White resigned as chairman in 1958. B. C. Neece continued as president of the company. The following year he was named chairman but retired in 1960. Harry T. Silverman, who had been president and was then elected chairman, was the last to hold that post.)
In 1965 though, this great company, once one of the best known and most prestigious in the housewares and hardware business, closed its doors permanently. The unbelievable had happened. While rumors of its impending doom had long been zig-zagging throughout the marketplace, the final reality came as a shock to the thousands of retailers who had known and dealt with the company for so long.
On May 17, 1965 its illustrious "Universal" trademark along with the remaining assets, inventory and equipment were acquired by the General Electric Company's Housewares Division, though not until after some rather frantic last minute meetings with government officials in Washington who wanted to satisfy themselves the acquisition involved no "monopolistic" aspects.
The number of products manufactured by Landers over the years was enormous and their scope amazing. They made stainless steel bull-nose rings and electric ranges, kitchen scales and vacuum bottles, window hardware and ice skates, mouse traps and percolators, can openers, cutlery and aluminum cookware, and thousands of other products. And somehow, almost until the very end, it seemed to work out profitably.
Landers, Frary & Clark traces its start to the time George Landers, age sixteen, arrived in New Britain, Connecticut in 1829 looking for a job. He soon went to work for Josiah Dewey who, seven years earlier, had started a small foundry making cupboard latches and other hardware. After Dewey's death, it became Landers & Smith Manufacturing Company in 1853. As president, Landers' salary was seven hundred dollars a year.
In 1862 the small but prosperous company made another of the many acquisitions that were to mark its history and growth in future years. It acquired the firm of Frary, Clark & Company, of Meriden Connecticut, the company name changed to Landers, Frary & Clark, which it retained for the next full century of its existence.
Probably the most important item introduced around this period was a household scale, "the first product designed particularly for the American housewife," White explained in his speech.
The company and the extent of its line continued to it had added meat choppers and sausage stuffers, screw eyes and strap hooks, door handles and floor scrapers, molasses gates and faucets, meat hooks and harness hooks, cast iron match boxes and curry combs, fancy brass hat hooks and eyes with porcelain knob ends--and even toys.
In 1870, George Landers, having turned fifty-seven, decided to retire from active management, but to stay on as vice-president and director. His son was now secretary of the company.
In the 1890s the trade name "Universal" was adopted for the company's products. And it was in the same period that it introduced a series of quite revolutionary household products that were to help establish it as a leader in the housewares field.
One of these, explained Richard White to the Newcomen Society, was the "Universal" bread maker.
In those days breadmaking was a common household chore...the days of baker's bread were still far away. In the "Universal" bread maker, dough was prepared in the evening, left in the machine to rise overnight, ready for baking in the morning. That business was one of the mainstays of the company.
The second product to become a household necessity was the "Universal" food chopper. Choppers were not new, but this one ground not merely meats but vegetables as well....Odds and ends could be turned into hashes and casseroles with ease....The identical model food chopper first produced in 1897 is an active item in our line now in 1955--58 years later.
The third, and to us, the most important invention of the period was the "Universal" coffee percolator (first produced in 1905). Here was a brand new method of brewing coffee below the boiling point, with resultant improvement in clarity and flavor....Today percolators outsell other types of coffee makers. This percolator of the nineties was a simple one, heated on the stove. The day of electricity was only dawning.
A stock clerk named Charles F. Smith had gone to work for Landers in 1882, and in 1900 on the death of Charles Landers, son of the founder, he was elected president. Until his death in 1938, Smith was responsible for the tremendous growth of the company. Beginning with a patent it received in 1908 for the development of an electrical unit to be used on percolators, the company moved head-on into the appliance field.
The first "Universal" appliance appeared in 1912 when a "thermo cell" electric iron was introduced. Percolators, toasters and ranges soon followed. By 1915 it was already making electric ranges. Then came World War I when all production was devoted to military needs.
After the war the company greatly intensified its entry into electrical household products, an era Richard White referred to as the second or "electrical phase" of its development. "Today [1955], while Landers is manufacturing many non-electrical products for the home, its principal products are in the electrical field," he said.
It is noteworthy that in the early 1920s Landers, in order to exercise more complete quality control over its appliances, adopted a policy of making all its own parts as far as possible. At the time it claimed that six out of every ten homes in the country had at least one "Universal" product. Its capitalization in 1923 had reached $10.5 million and it employed over three thousand people.
In 1919 the Barnes & Kovell Company and the next year the Columbia Heating Pad Company were added to produce its own "Universal" line. In 1940 it acquired the O-Pan-Top Manufacturing Company, producers of a top-opening carpet sweeper.
Throughout the many years of its growth Landers had developed a conservative, intensely quality-minded image; here, it seemed, was a company so solidly rooted "it'll go on forever." So in 1950, when it announced the discontinuance of its cutlery division after eighty-four years of operation, the trade was shocked. Landers, they would tell you, acquired businesses--it didn't drop them.
But the next few years saw acquisitions. In 1954 Landers bought the Dazey Corporation with a big line of can openers, juicers, and other items. The following year it bought the Electric Steam Radiator Corporation, Paris, Kentucky, adding the name "Electresteem." In 1958 the Standard Products Company, Whitman, Massachusetts, was purchased and its line of portable appliances marketed through a new subsidiary, Handy-Hannah Products Corporation under the "Handy Hannah" brand. The same year a Canadian firm, Ever-Bright Limited, was bought. It made copper-clad utensils and portable appliances. To house the operation making private brand merchandise, Landers bought a big new plant in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, the Eastern Metal Products Company. In the next couple of years Landers also brought out a line of "Cookamatic" copper-cored stainless steel appliances, operated by a single control.
A great effort was made to develop new products, especially in portable appliances, using new principles of design. Yet an ominous cloud of doubt still hovered over the company's future.
The complicated closing chapters of Landers, Frary & Clark can be well summarized by these excerpts from an account of those developments which appeared in the New Britain (Connecticut) Herald, April 21, 1965:
Concern over the future of L F & C in New Britain, its birthplace, reached large proportions in 1957 with the purchase of the modern Eastern Metal Products plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas.... President Bret Neece advised stockholders on March 3, 1958 there would be greater utilization of subsidiary facilities.... Final days of true local control of L F & C were early in 1959. Frederick W. Richmond of New York, called a modern "empire builder" and "financial wizard," came onto the L F & C scene in 1958 by way of a "blind offer" to buy stock. The Franklin National Bank of Long Island made the offer.
Richmond, still in his thirties at the time, headed an investment firm which wound up with one hundred thousand shares of L F & C. Richmond soon became chairman of the board.
He was unseated in June 1960. A group, headed by another New Yorker, Harry T. Silverman, became the largest shareholders....
Silverman expressed confidence at the outset, predicting the number of employees would double within a year. Approximately 1800 were on the payroll then, about one-half the 3600 peak.
By the Spring of 1961 Silverman, the chairman of the board, the president and other holders of large blocks of stock, turned their ears to offers.
On March 30, Silverman announced a tender to acquire controlling stock of L F & C by J. B. Williams Company, a leading producer of pharmaceuticals. Within six weeks J. B. Williams had ownership of 80% of some 404,000 outstanding shares.
Matthew B. Rosenhaus, president of J. B. Williams, came to New Britain before the stock was actually acquired. He spoke optimistically of the future. Williams paid $22 per share or approximately $9 million for the stock. The total investment of the Rosenhaus group, Silverman estimated, would be $25 million. Williams officials have maintained L F & C has been a losing proposition.
The efforts to diversify, to strike out in new areas continued. In 1964, for example, with much fanfare, it introduced what was said to be the first, mass-produced, pure nickel electroformed coffeemaker under the brand name of "Permatel." Research and development for this project cost $500,000 and cost of installing production equipment was $1 million.
But a year later it was all over. Landers, Frary & Clark was now another famous name that had passed into history where, with the years, its former fame would soon fade away.

Trifari history

Since the 1920s, Trifari has been one of the most respected and admired producers of costume jewelry in the United States. Founded in the 1910s by Gustavo Trifari, the Italian-immigrant son of a Napoli goldsmith, the company has designed jewelry that’s been worn by countless high-profile clients, from Mamie Eisenhower to Madonna.
The success of Trifari, and the reason for its collectibility today, is most often credited to French designer Alfred Phillipe, the company’s chief designer from 1930 until 1968. His use of invisible settings for stones, which he originally developed for Van Cleef and Arpels, added a level of craftsmanship and technique that had not been previously seen in costume jewelry.
Among Phillipe’s countless contributions are the Trifari Crown pins from the late 1930s to the 1950s. The crowns were so popular that Trifari incorporated a crown into its mark in about 1937. Authentic Trifari jewelry is typically marked with "Jewels by Trifari," "TKF" (for Trifari, Krussman & Fishel), or "Trifari," depending on when it was made.
Some of the Trifari Crown pins feature eye-catching, brightly colored cabochons. Others are composed entirely of clear crystal rhinestones for a monochromatic effect. Naturally, a series of Coronation Gems was produced in 1953 to celebrate the ascendancy of Elizabeth II to the British throne.
Trifari’s Jelly Belly pins of seals, poodles, roosters, and other animals appeared in the 1940s. Each animal’s "belly" consists of a solid Lucite "pearl" with settings of sterling silver or gold plate. Although any Jelly Belly from this decade is going to command a good price, the poodles are especially rare.
Other categories of vintage Trifari costume jewelry to look for are the vintage floral pins from the 1930s and the fruit and vegetable pieces from the 1950s. In particular, collectors like the miniature fruit pins (apples, pineapples, grape bunches, and strawberries, to name a few) from the late 1950s through the 1960s. These single pieces, usually finished in a matte silver or gold, were worn by themselves or in groups. Also popular are the patriotic pins from the 1940s of American flags and red-white-and-blue eagles.
Like all manufacturers during World War II, Trifari was unable to use metal in its products due to rationing. This forced Trifari to switch to sterling silver during the war, which tripled prices for Trifari products (although that didn’t seem to hurt sales). Post-war, Trifari wanted to go back to less costly, maintenance-free metal, but its audience was now used to silver. To hype the return to a cheaper base metal, the company began advertising a "revolutionary" new metal called Trifanium, which was a made-up name for their basic metal — unlike silver, it could be given a no-polish rhodium finish.
The campaign worked so well that by 1953, Mamie Eisenhower felt perfectly comfortable to break with tradition and wear costume jewelry to the inaugural ball. To match the First Lady’s pink satin gown (studded with 2,000 rhinestones), Alfred Phillipe designed an "orientique" pearl choker with matching three-stranded bracelet and earrings, each laden with eight pearls. Three sets were made: one for the First Lady, a second for the Smithsonian, and a third for the Trifari archives. Mrs. Eisenhower was so pleased with the ensemble that she had Trifari make jewelry for her second inaugural ball in 1957.

Coro history

Coro, a partnership between Emanuel Cohn (the "Co") and Gerald Rosenberg (the "ro"), began producing jewelry in New York in 1901 and continued through the 1970s under the marks Coro, Coro Craft (later Corocraft), and Vendome, among others. Although Vendome was the company's high-end line, some of the most sought-after pieces today are the Coro pieces, especially the Duettes, the company produced in the 1930s and 1940s.
The reason for much of Coro’s early success was Adolph Katz, who became the company’s design director in 1924, and Gene Verri, who designed for Coro from 1933 until 1963. Katz created Coro’s en tremblant floral pins, which featured tiny metal springs that allowed elements of the pin to vibrate or tremble when its wearer moved.
Among the most collectible vintage Coro pieces today are the Coro Duettes from 1931 to the 1950s. The Duettes utilized a frame based on one designed by Cartier in 1927. Like the Cartier frame, the Coro version had two openings in it, one for each pin. Pins could be attached to the frame to be worn as a set, or detached from the frame to be worn individually.
The first Duette designs were Art Deco and monochromatic in style, but subsequent pins include pairs of enameled owls with aquamarine eyes and pavé-set rhinestone bodies, crowned cherubs, horse heads, and an Indian brave and squaw. Though their popularity ebbed in the 1950s, today a vintage Coro Duette, particularly one that trembles like the Quivering Camellia, is highly prized by contemporary collectors.
Corocraft was the next step up in quality, price, and prestige from Coro. Under the Corocraft brand, Coro introduced a line of Jelly Belly pins that were similar to those made by Trifari, right down to the Lucite "belly." Whereas most vintage Coro pieces were built on metal frames, vintage Corocraft pins and bracelets were often made of sterling silver or plated in gold. As for the rhinestones, Coro Craft ads from the late 1940s refer to these as "Diadem Jewels" to give its line of cut glass the allusion of royal lineage and status.
Vendome, which was introduced in 1944 and replaced Corocraft in 1953, was the top of the Coro line. This was serious, simulated bling, featuring rhinestone-studded chokers, cabochon-festooned silver-plated bangles, and, by the 1960s, a set of six gold-plated pins designed by Vendome’s Helen Marion, who was inspired by the work of the great Cubist artist Georges Braque.
Like Coro, which had embraced Lucite for both its Jelly Bellies and individual pins, Vendome also used Lucite. But instead of treating the material as just a clear or translucent replacement for a glass bead, Vendome designers shaved and formed Lucite into organics shapes in unexpected colors. For example, one floral pin with matching earrings features delicate blue-and-white Lucite petals atop verdant-green Lucite leaves.
Key terms for Vintage Coro Costume Jewelry:
Cabochon: A stone that has been shaped and polished instead of faceted. It usually has a flat back and a shape that is round or oval.
Diamante: Another word for rhinestone.
En tremblant: A trembling effect on a piece of jewelry achieved by mounting coiled metal springs to the piece’s fitting. Brooches and other piece that have this effect are usually called tremblers.
Pavé: A setting in which numerous small stones are set so tightly together that they create a uniform surface.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vaseline Glass

Just What is Vaseline Glass, Anyway?
By Dave Peterson
It was 1997, and I was looking at some baseball memorabilia on eBay when I saw the following posting: "Please see my other auctions, including vaseline glass!" I thought to myself: "Why would someone want to collect those little bottles that contain petroleum jelly?"
I saw a piece of yellow-green glass in one photo and another photo of the same piece of glass that was taken in a dark room with a UV blacklight. Wow! It was bright neon green! I had been looking for something new to collect other than baseball memorabilia and this seemed like just the ticket. I figured that even a novice like myself could buy a blacklight and could verify that a piece of yellow glass was really vaseline glass before buying it to make sure I was getting the real deal. I had just officially started "paying for my education."
I started going to antique stores and continued to roam around the Internet, looking for any information I could find on this amazing glass that did tricks. In short order, I found an Internet email group that had about 100 members of vaseline glass enthusiasts, and my enthusiasm grew as I continued to learn about this amazing glass that changes color.
I was able to piece together the history of this glass, and this is what I found. A Bohemian named Joseph Riedel separated uranium salts from pitchblende in approximately 1835. He added these salts to glass as a colorant, and the result was a bright yellow-green glass that he named Annagelb (after his wife, Anna, and the German word for yellow, gelb). This was during the Biedermeier Era in Europe. (The word Biedermeier is derived from two fictional bourgeois characters, Biedermann and Bummelmeier, in the satirical verses of Ludwid Eichrodt.) It was extravagant glass for the middle classes. The glass during this time was about 40% lead and was referred to as flint glass. The decorative cuttings were elaborate and excessive.
This color was just one more color to add to the palette of the glassmaster. Riedel also made a uranium-based color he called Annagrun, which was a bright green and is also reactive to a UV blacklight. Other glass companies took note of this new colorizing agent, and soon factories in Europe, England and the United States were making this color. In the United States, the generic name became "canary" for this yellow glass. During the time period from 1840s to 1870s, the primary manufacturers of this color were Boston & Sandwich and the New England Glass Company. McKee also made a few patterns in canary.
Because it is uranium being used, it will make a Geiger counter click, but 98.5% of the radiation emitted is beta waves, which dissipate within 18 inches. A person receives about the same amount of radiation standing in the sunlight. There are old stories that the glass workers died young from making uranium-based glass, but there is no documented case of an increase in thyroid cancer when comparing glass workers and the general public. Exposure to radiation affects the thyroid before anything else.
In 1863, William Leighton, working for Hobbs, Brockunier and Co., invented a glass formula that substituted soda and lime for the lead. This could be used with colorless glass as well as colored glass. It transformed the glass industry around the world. One of the main motivations to invent a new formula was because lead was in short supply, as the United States was in the middle of the Civil War. This new formula made glass five times cheaper. When uranium dioxide (depleted uranium salts) was added to the glass batch (about 2% of the total weight), it did color the glass yellow, but it was not the same rich color of the leaded canary glass. During the early 1880s, there was a period of four or five years that all the glassmakers offered their glass in clear, plus amber, blue and canary. (This has since become known as the ABC Period.)
There was also a new petroleum ointment on the market during this time period called vaseline, and the formula for the jelly at that time was the same color as this soda-lime formula of yellow glass, so coincidentally, people started calling the yellow glass vaseline glass. The oldest reference I have found in print is from N. Hudson Moore's book, Old Glass: European and American (c. 1924). On page 349, she writes, "All the pieces shown in figure 207 are in this royal purple and canary yellow, which, by the way, no real collector would ever call vaseline, a dealer's term."
It is obvious from her statement that the terminology was in use (at least by dealers) by 1924. Vaseline glass has now become a generic term that is used in the United States, which goes to show that the English language is always changing. What was once considered uncommon terminology has now become the norm. The only worldwide collectors club for this glass, The Vaseline Glass Collectors, Inc., uses the following definition:
"Vaseline glass is a transparent, yellow-green glass that will fluoresce a bright green color when exposed to any ultraviolet light source, due to the addition of a 1%-2% amount of uranium dioxide in the original glass formula. The transparent quality may be obscured by treatments such as opalescent, carnival, iridizing, stretch, satinizing, sand or acid etching, casing, inclusion and cutting treatments. Hand painted and applied decorations are also acceptable. These treatments do not change the original transparent quality of the glass. The name vaseline glass is due to the similarity of the color to that of petroleum jelly as it appeared in 1901."
Since 1840, the glass has been made off and on (depending on popularity and perceived marketability) by glassmakers, except for the period from approximately 1943-1958. During that time, it was the Cold War, and the U.S. Government banned uranium salts from any commercial use. In November 1958, the government reversed that ban, and in 1959 companies such as Imperial, Fenton, Fostoria, and others went back to making vaseline glass. Today, the companies that batch their own uranium-based glass are Fenton, Mosser, Summit and Boyd. Pairpoint also makes some on a limited basis. Other independent glassmakers will also make vaseline glass, but they primarily use cullet (glass waste) from factories such as Fenton. Of these independent shops, Gibson is probably the largest.
If one looks on eBay for vaseline glass, they will find anything that glows labeled with that name. I have seen auctions for green vaseline, custard vaseline, teal vaseline and even glass that glows a peach/orange color being labeled in this fashion. According to the most widely used definition, vaseline glass has to first be yellow-green and THEN has to glow a bright neon green under a blacklight. If it does not pass the first condition, then the second condition does not apply. Another way to look at it: all Camaros are cars, but not all cars are Camaros.
A few sellers started using the term green vaseline to sell their green Depression glass (as it got more people to look at their auctions by word searching), and others started to pick up on it. Full time dealers are just as apt to show it in their shop as vaseline glass. I cannot count the number of shops I have gone into that have a blacklight shining on green Depression glass. There are a lot of different glass types that will glow neon green under a blacklight: green Depression, some custard glass, Burmese glass, some teal glass and Bristol (green opaque glass).
To add to the confusion, every company uses their own marketing names and will change them if they think it will improve sales. Some names that have been used by various companies include: topaz, mustard, canaria, jasmine opalescent, yellow opalescent, Florentine and citron. In England, vaseline glass is a sort of wispy, opalescent glass. Their "Primrose Pearline" (made first by Davidson, and then by Sowerby; Greener; Burtles, Tate; and Molineaux & Webb) is what we call vaseline opalescent. In Australia, anything with an opalescent edge is called vaseline glass, including blue opalescent. In Germany, any glass that glows is called uranglas (uranium glass), and they do not differentiate between yellow, green or teal.
Vaseline glass collectors collect this glass because of its personal appeal and its novelty, and they can call their own possessions anything they so desire.
Now that the history has been discussed, let's take a look at today's marketplace. When true antiques are seen in antique malls or live auctions, it is one or two pieces here and there. There ARE, however, a lot of modern pieces being made by Mosser, Summit and Boyd, with more high-end glass coming from Fenton. At any given time, there are at least 500 pieces of glass labeled as vaseline on eBay. Fine pieces are a bit more scarce to locate, and damage-free antique pieces are the most difficult to locate.

More than 50 companies made pressed vaseline glass in the United States during the Early American Pattern Glass (EAPG) era. Interest in vaseline glass has also been in cycles. Starting with the 1840s, there were high points in the early 1880s, 1900-1905, 1924-1927, 1941-1943, 1959-1962 and then post 1972. Each time period had companies that tried to revive the color, and other companies would also market it at the same time, due to interest. Each factory had their subtle differences in formula and coloration, inclusive to that time period. For instance, a piece of Fostoria vaseline glass made during the 1924-1927 period looks nothing like the yellow opalescent Heirloom pattern that they marketed in 1959-1962. The absolute best way to learn about this special glass is the same as it is with any other collectible: read, read, and then, read some more! Only by studying, handling the glass, and getting a feel for who made what and when, does one begin to appreciate the subtleties of the various companies and time periods when the glass was made.
Another excellent way to get involved in this hobby is to join the only club for this glass, Vaseline Glass Collectors, Inc. At the club's convention (held annually; this year in Pittsburgh, Oct. 7-8), specialties such as Murano, Bohemian, English blown glass, Moser or Tiffin are apt to turn up.
The new collector invariably buys anything that glows and within a short time realizes that he/she has accumulated a lot of glass, but there is no theme or direction to their collection. This is what one collector once told me was "paying for your education."
A collector (new or advanced) needs to also decide what direction they want to take their collection. It may be a particular pattern or company. One might become enamored with toothpick holders, Victorian novelties or salt shakers. Another direction is figurines, such as dogs, cats or even frogs. I know of one collector who has over 200 toothpick holders, all in vaseline glass. Another one collects candlesticks. Yet another collects mugs made from vaseline glass.
When shopping for vaseline glass, notice the color differences. New vaseline glass is generally a very bright, almost chartreuse, color. Old EAPG is a very pale yellow. Primrose Pearline is a deep yellow with a buttery rich opalescent rim on it. Look for honest wear on the bottom. If your interest is in pressed glass, look for sharp detail in the mold work. Quality glass will eventually speak to you, if you handle enough of it. True canary (pressed) flint glass from Boston and Sandwich almost feels soft and warm to the touch, as compared to a piece of daisy and button pattern from the EAPG era.
Before buying (especially on eBay), comparison shop with other dealers. If it is a new piece (1980s to present), there will be other dealers carrying the same item. Read the ads carefully. Sometimes it is not what they say, but what they forget to say that matters. The word vintage has come to mean anything made before yesterday. Some dealers will tell you it was made by an active glass factory and will price it accordingly. Others will refer to it as "damage-free, vintage and marked 'Westmoreland'." All of that is true. However, the dealer forgets to mention that it is a reproduction of a Westmoreland piece that was never made originally in vaseline. As with any collectable, studying your topic pays off in the long run.
Collecting vaseline glass can be a rewarding hobby and the interest in collecting this "glowing glass" grows yearly. It can be rewarding as a hobby whether you collect old or new glass. Hopefully, this article has given some insight or intrigued the reader enough to start his or her own collection!

About the author: David A. Peterson is a founding board member of Vaseline Glass Collectors, Inc. He is also the editor of "Glowing Report", the official publication of VGCI. He is the webmaster for and the author of two books: Vaseline Glass: Canary To Contemporary, copyright 2002 by Antique Publications, Marietta, OH, and The Lost Chapters, the addendum to Canary to Contemporary, copyright 2004, self published. The author can be reached at