Friday, September 14, 2012

The Skinny -- Van Dell Jewelry

From Broadwater Rose Jewels
The mysterious world of vintage jewelry is full of twists and turns.  Marks can be hard to read, and company's names reduced to vague initials.  Histories on the jewelry companies are lost or incomplete.  And forget about trying to date a piece or find out more about the jeweler's other collections.

Before I list a piece of jewelry in the Etsy shop, I do research.  I had never heard of Van Dell, but was intrigued when I found a pair of black and white cameo screw back earrings, set in sterling silver.  The mark was clear and prettily done.  But when I went to research the company, it was hard to find anything about them.  So for today's "The Skinny", I'm going to share with all of you the info I have been able to find out about the Van Dell Corporation (which ain't much...).  

It began in Providence, Rhode Island in 1943 (or 1938, depending on your source), with an emphasis on making high quality collections of costume jewelry, as well as sterling silver and gold filled and gold plated pieces.  Van Dell wanted to make designs that imitated fine jewelry, retaining a more delicate feel than a heavy, costume feel. They used rhinestones and simulated gemstones, as well as cultured and faux pearls.  They were also known for their hand carved cameos and ivory pieces.  According to Vintage Jewelry Lane, "Some of their early pieces sold for $65 or more in the 1960s, which was quite expensive for the time."

From The Art Floozy on Etsy

Van Dell is recognizable for their cameos, delicate floral pieces, faux pearls, and carved ivory.  Their ivory jewelry was marked with red and gold foil hang tags.  Rhinestone designs were often originally sold in sets, and are worth more if you can find the entire set or the original box.  The jewelry will be marked Van Dell, and have a stamp stating if it is sterling or gold filled.  Although not a high end designer, Van Dell does have a following, and can sell for a higher range of prices that your average costume jewelry.

From Morning Glory Jewelry
 The company was sold to Hallmark in 1970, and in 1998, was bought by the Colibri Company, based in London.   They also own Krementz jewelry, which has a similar design aesthetic. Van Dell jewelry is still being made today.

From our Etsy shop!

 Thanks to Vintage Jewelry Lane for the info!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On the Radar -- Pep Rally

Photo from Honeys Treasures on Etsy

I've explained how much we Blackbird girls love our monthly dose of periodicals.  Well, one magazine in particular, Country Living, is both our favorite AND our nemesis.  More on the nemesis part later.  That's a different post entirely.  If you don't read Country Living, you should.  Especially if you're a collector.  Their design aesthetic is not necessarily what you would think of as "country".  It's really more eclectic than that -- mixing mid-century, industrial, cottage, and other styles together all the time.  I think they are at their best when it comes to highlighting collectibles and decorating with collections.  Even better than Martha Stewart.  And that's really saying something, because anyone who knows me, knows that Martha is my homegirl! 

Anyway, this summer, we decided to start buying some school related items for our Etsy shop.  We had already found some yearbooks and some pennants, but on our infamous buying trip to Ohio, we bought some patches to add to the mix.  The pennants and a yearbook sold in our booth at a Vintage Flea, and we've been selling the yearbooks steadily in the shop for the past month.  Well, lo and behold, what's featured in Country Living this month, under the headline, " The Old College Try"?  Yep.  School stuff.  Patches and pennants, yearbooks, and other miscellaneous college collectibles.

1950s Wool Blankets, Country Living, October 2012

If you want to know what the trends are in collecting, just take a look in this magazine.  Seriously.  If it's not a trend before the magazine is published, then just wait -- a few months after something is featured, it's on EVERYONE'S radar.  Working as closely as we do with collectors and their junk, we Blackbird girls start to notice patterns in what people buy.  And when things start flying out of the shop -- we know it's been featured somewhere.  And here in the south, it's usually Country Living.

From Red Line Vintage
From It Is What It Was on Etsy

Whether you are looking for your alma mater or just want to add some school coolness to your decor or wardrobe, there's tons of options when it comes to college memorabilia.  And since we told you that it's hot here at Four and Twenty (well, and you know, it's also in Country Living), it's going to start showing up more and more.

Check out our school junk at our Etsy shop:

From Blackbird Antiques NC on Etsy

From Blackbird Antiques NC

Monday, September 10, 2012

Junk Love Monday: A Little Mood Music

We both come from musical families, and we have strong, sentimental connections to the music of our childhoods. We also love cool album art, so it makes sense that we have a pretty large record collection. This is a fairly organic collection of our merged tastes. We don't seek out certain ones. We don't even look at the vinyl selection at most of the thrift stores that we find. It just has to strike us in the moment, and then we're down in the floor, getting our knees filthy, sorting through the hundreds of Herb Alpert and Sing Along With Mitch albums to find the music that we love.

Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti

Anyone sorting through our record collection would think that a  lunatic lives in our house. We have Pink Floyd filed alongside Julie Andrews and Gladys Knight & the Pips. Bing Crosby lives among a random selection of Led Zeppelin, Broadway musical soundtracks, and guilty pleasures from the 80s. We have an extensive collection of the Beatles (hers) and Elvis (mine), and I probably own twenty different Frank Sinatra albums. I'm probably the only person in the country who compulsively buys Henry Mancini records. There is even a Gordon MacRae-covers-the-Beatles album that is so, so bad. (I can never take the song "Michelle" seriously ever again.) We also cannot resist cute cover art, so we have a very random selection of albums that we never listen to, but can never part with. And this doesn't begin to cover the ridiculously large collection of 45s, for that jukebox that we're going to find someday.

Men at Work

 I grew up in the era of cassettes, so I cannot resist the urge to purchase vinyl versions of my favorite hair bands. I also blame Ted Nugent. As a skillful plunderer, I long ago discovered my parents' secret stash of records. We had no record player for the majority of my childhood, but I used to pull them out and flip through them when nobody was around, and I was fascinated by the cover art. The one that was always on top of the stack was Ted Nugent's Cat Scratch Fever. He looked crazy, and if you flipped the album, there was a woman scratching his chest hard enough to draw blood. She had bright red fingernails. I will never know why, but that album haunted me. Why is she scratching him? Why is he bleeding? Why does he look so crazy? I finally got someone to tell me what "cat scratch fever" meant, and that is where I'm going to close this chapter of the conversation. I'll just say that I decided not to ask questions for a while after that.... Now I'm a sucker for Mid-Century album art.

Henry Mancini

Anyway, we love our records. We decorate the Christmas tree to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and Louis Armstrong ('Zat You, Santa Claus?). If I'm home alone on a rainy afternoon, I like to make some hot tea and read while Henry Mancini softly scratches away in the background (which could mean that I'm secretly an old lady). A bad day might put me on the couch, in the dark, listening to Julie London sing "Cry Me a River" over and over again (so, apparently I'm secretly a masochistic old lady). Time to clean the living room? Then we've got to put on some Queen. Baking cookies means Broadway. And there's nothing like a Gershwin mix to make you feel like you're in a Gene Kelly movie, which is never a bad thing.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bonus: Yes, We Do Windows

You would think that our favorite part of working at an antique mall is all of the junk that we can buy and take home. Actually, the thing that we look forward to the most is working on the front window displays. We've been contributing to the windows for quite some time, but for the last two years we've allowed ourselves to branch out with our designs. Yes, there will be a display that mimics a Victorian sitting room, or a lady's boudoir, or an explorer/travel theme, but then you might walk up the sidewalk to discover an abstract, and very graphic, black, white, and blue display of vintage sign letters and glassware. We take inspiration from movies (our most recent Victorian display drew its inspiration from the new Sherlock Holmes movie), books, magazines, and other things that catch our attention. We like to make the window displays over the top, so that people stop on the sidewalk to take pictures, or even come inside just to tell us it's cool. That travel window? It had suitcases stacked ten feet high. And that pales in comparison to the "over the top" that we've been doing for the last year.

We, along with a co-worker who joined the top secret window team last summer, change the window displays 6 or 7 times a year. The longevity of a particular display depends on season, as well as the fact that feature items in our displays tend to sell. We replace them as quickly as we can, but there are only so many upholstered chairs or green vases to be had, and then it starts to look barren. We spend weeks, if not months, planning future displays. It is an obsession. We spend our own money; we do the windows off the clock; we start at night and stay until the wee hours of the morning, so that it seems like the work of little nocturnal elves. Sometimes, we spend hours upon hours at home preparing props, dyeing fabric, or engineering a new way to highlight a particular item.

Creativity is a requirement, because we are limited by what is in the store at any given time. You can't do a Mid-Century living room if there is no Mid-Century furniture in the store right now. If our vision is based on a wall of tightly packed portraits (which we did for Halloween one year--very creepy), then there had better be at least 30 portraits in the store. Some items are critical to the display, so we have to keep a Plan B handy in case one of those items sells. That bench is perfect! If somebody buys it, we had better know exactly what can replace it and still look cohesive with the rest of the display.

This post is intended to review the windows of the last twelve months, and our intention is to write a post for each new display from now on. So here is a recap, starting with late last July:

July/August 2011: Mid-Century Under the Sea window
A staggered, sculptural stack of Lane coffee tables in various sizes and shapes, covered with 1950s and 1960s pottery, & glassware. We covered the pegboard wall with strips of bubble wrap, painted on the reverse in different shades of blue, alternating in a random pattern. We dyed fabric in greens and blue-greens and made "seaweed" to hang from the ceiling (loosely based on an Anthropologie window that we had seen). We draped seaweed over and around the accessories, which were in blues and oranges. We made a Mid-Century style mobile with sleek orange fish and hung it from the ceiling. It was a huge hit. Unfortunately, no pictures survive.

September/October/early November 2011: Train Station window
We found a piece of brick-patterned paneling in the attic, and used it on the floor. We stacked two painted wooden tool boxes (six feet long) to make a bench. We rigged an old door across the nook with a vintage "tickets" sign, and put a small stack of suitcases beside it. A bonus discovery of a vintage painted "Pay Here" sign hung above the door.  Train lanterns and railroad signal lights hung on the walls, along with a beautiful vintage Railroad Crossing sign.

Christmas 2011: Country Christmas Kitchen window
Big tree, lots of ornaments, pine cones, berries, etc. A 1930s enamel gas stove, with red and green mixing bowls and spice containers on a shelf above. A rocking chair with a bowl of popcorn/cranberry garland spilling out. 1930s toys under the tree. Platters of cookies and bowls of cookie cutters.  But no pictures of it!

January 2012: The Alice Window
Without a doubt, the most famous window that the mall has ever had. We cut panels off of a big roll of white paper, and transcribed the Mad Hatter's tea party story in different sized letters, using different fonts, in black ink. We attached these to the pegboard wall. We put black and white tiles on the floor. A red velvet drapery hid the corner nook, and we made a 14" high golden-yellow door to put at the bottom. In front of this went a tiny dollhouse-sized table with a small key and a tiny glass bottle. The center of the window held a glass and chrome table covered with teacups and teapots. A yellow shelving unit held more cups, etc. Funky chairs surrounded the table, including a large gold wing chair. We sold the wing chair five days later, and replaced it with a cream one. That one sold less than a week later, and we replaced it again. That one sold within ten days, and marked the end of Alice's reign, as we didn't have any more chairs to put there. People still ask about this one. Pictures do survive of this window. Here's a sample, and the rest can be found on the Collector's Antique Mall Facebook page.

February/March 2012: A Photographer's Living Room
We gathered every panoramic photograph in the store and clustered them on the walls, and used a large Mid-Century hutch to hold more photos and vintage camera gear. A locally-made lamp using a vintage tripod and camera lit the display from the corner.

March/April/early May 2012: Is There A Doctor In the House?
Vintage medical posters, a doctor's cabinet, various medical tools and signage.

Doctor's window

late May/June/July 2012: the ROY window
Nothing but red, orange, and yellow from top to bottom. The unique feature was the orange fridge.  Definitely an eye-catcher.

August 2012: Asian Fusion window
We once again pulled out the giant roll of paper, cut it into panels, and painted Asian-style fish onto it. Parasols, fans, some figurines, a bamboo ladder, a Henredon silver chest, and various green and amber jars and accessories filled in around a bamboo-patterned Windsor chair. We used a bank of vintage post office boxes to mimic the feel of a Chinese apothecary cabinet. The Henredon chest sold fairly quickly, and has been replaced by a small Arts and Crafts style tapered bookcase.