Spotlight: Art Deco

Art Deco is a movement that was not just limited to interior design, but also influenced designs in buildings, fashion, jewelry, and art, among others. It began in the 1920s, in France, and spread across the globe. In the United States (and perhaps elsewhere, but we’ll stick to this geographical location since I’m most familiar with its timeline) it died out a bit during the 1940s and saw a resurgence around the 1960s.

It is during this timeframe that you’re probably most familiar with the term art deco. It can be described as elegant, functional, and modern. (“Modern” as seen from the perspective of someone who lived during this time. Now we would refer to this style as retro – that curvy and sleek looking décor that was popular in the Mid-century era.)

Art deco is weird. It’s ornamental and strange, often a bit outlandish and downright ugly. But it can be a cool design, especially if you have a room set up in this style – it’s very unique and eye catching. Although the materials are not limited to the following, you often see lots of aluminum, stainless steel, and chrome, along with Bakelite, inlaid wood, and just plastic in general.

The design is very geometrical and symmetrical. Curves were popular, but they’re less natural looking (which would be more along the lines of an Art Nouveau style). It’s more about solid colors than patterns, and most pieces are formed into shapes, rather than having patterns with shapes in them.

Although we could pull examples from several different types of media, I find that it’s much easier to see this style when looking at lamps. The ones you’ll find below are all from our own shop and can be described as art deco – elegant, modern, functional, geometrical, and symmetrical.

(Note: As with most things, defining an artistic movement is difficult and not at all straightforward. Some of these lamps are undoubtedly of this style, while others have simply just taken certain elements from it.)

Do you like the art deco style? Which one of those lamps jumps out at you the most?

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Spotlight: Mid-century

I have a feeling a few of you are giddy for this topic just by reading that title. It’s true, today I bring you a super cool and well-loved topic: Mid-century!

[Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. This isn’t my usual go-to era, even though I do love the designs. And, as always, there are exceptions to every rule and things that just don’t always fit. This is a general overlook and should be treated as such!]

If this metal lunchbox doesn’t make you think of the 1960s, I don’t know what will!

What is Mid-century?

The full name of this movement is referred to as Mid-century Modern. Modernism itself began as early as the 1930s, but really picked up steam in the 1950s, and sort of fizzled out by the 1970s. When you think Mid-century, think the 1950s and 1960s (which is quite easy to remember, given its name).

What are the characteristics of Mid-century?

Chances are that if you’re in the vintage business, MC designs are pretty easy to spot. Even if you’re not, there’s a good chance you’ve seen plenty of pieces in movies and on television.

A fairly typical portrayal of the MC color palette. (This is all Melmac!)

MC is colorful – teals, yellows, green, pinks. Usually they’re subdued, pastel. Whereas the ‘70s held your typical earth tones (lots of chocolate browns, mustard oranges, and olive greens), MC is much more upbeat and fun.

Furniture tended to look a little futuristic (though now we see them as “retro” designs). Very sleek and rounded, sophisticated, curvy, and functional. It seems a little silly, but the cartoon The Jetsons blends this futuristic, yet retro feel perfectly (at least in my mind!).

There are also certain patterns that just scream Mid-century. Atomic and starburst designs are probably the epitome of this era. There were a lot of floral designs as well, but don’t think groovy, flower-power that you’d see in the ‘70s. MC flowers were smaller and classier.

Here’s an atomic pattern on a Pyrex teapot.

Why should I care?

Personally, I think all people should care about the history of their country and the world. But besides that, this was an extremely prosperous time for the United States. It was post-WWII and the time of the baby-boomers. Innovations were popping up left and right and life was good.

This era also had a direct influence on architecture, design, and fashion. There are so many iconic figures (think Jackie O) and influential designs that came out of these decades that they left their mark on our history. It’s safe to say that the ‘70s and ‘80s (and ‘90s and 2000s) wouldn’t have been what they are today if it wasn’t for these two decades. Time is a linear progression (as much as my Doctor Who heart disagrees) and if you take away one part of that timeline, everything else will be affected.

Plus, MC will make its way back around. In a lot of ways it already has. Shows like the insanely popular Mad Men have seen to that. I’ve also seen red carpet fashion mimicking ‘50s-style dress. And, hey, those were classy and cool designs, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

Barbies from the 1960s are perfect for looking at trends in fashion!

What cool Mid-century items do you think I should keep an eye out for?

If it has an atomic design, pick it up. Whether it’s a Pyrex coffee pot or a pair of curtains. That design is a staple in an MC home and you will find a buyer for it.

Melmac is also super important. This was huge during the 1950s and the 1960s and it’s still quite collectible today.

Anything with an MC color palette will also be popular. Turquoise is probably the most identifiable one, so look out for that. If you can find Melmac in this color, that’s a double score.

Mid-century jewelry is also nice. Modest hoop earrings or classy pearl designs. Anything in turquoise or pink. Anything that feels reserved, yet beautiful and a little fashion-forward. Retro designs are being made every day, so you don’t necessarily have to go vintage to get the same feel.

Pearls are forever classy, and were definitely a staple in fashion accessories during this time.

Awesome Mid-century blogs that you shouldn’t pass up!

Like I said above, I’m not an expert. I’m interested in this era, but I don’t know everything there is to know. I’ve got the basics down, but there are some people who live this life day in and day out. Three of my favorite bloggers are down below. Please check them out, tell them hi, and soak up the fabulous information they post on their blogs every week. You won’t regret it!

That Mid-century Fella

Mid-century Thrifty Gal

Oh, for the Love of Vintage (Black Dahlia)

For all three of you: thank you for writing about Mid-century, and teaching me more about it every day. If you’ve got other tips or tricks, please feel free to leave them in the comments below (especially if I have something wrong, but I did try to do all my research very carefully!). My circle of blogs is still quite small, so if you know of any other awesome MC blogs, feel free to pass those along as well.

How do you feel about Mid-century designs? Are they cool, or are they too retro for you? Do you own any nifty MC items?

Spotlight: Trifari

Trifari is a company that has been producing costume jewelry since the 1920s. It was created in the early 1900s by Gustavo Trifari, an Italian immigrant. The jewelry that came out of this company was beautiful, elegant, and well made. For this reason, it has been worn by many high-profile celebrities and people of importance.

You may recognize the above necklace, which was part of a set, from this My Weekly Score post. Kunio Matsumoto was just one of the many designers that worked for Trifari and added their brilliance to various designs.

One of the most famous designs that Trifari was known for were their crown pins. They were so popular that Trifari eventually incorporated a crown into the signature they stamped on the back of their pieces. They even had “Jelly Belly” pins in the shape of animals that had a solid Lucite center. These are very popular even to this day, and generally go for a pretty decent price. (We haven’t been lucky enough to come across these ourselves, but check out the Google image search.)

I love Trifari because the pieces are always classy and well-preserved. Some of the smaller companies haven’t weathered the decades too well, but Trifari is just made up of quality costume jewelry. The designs are always gorgeous and they have something for everyone.

Here are some awesome examples that we’ve come across lately:

Do you have any pieces of Trifari? What’s your favorite one?

Spotlight: The Victorian Era

The reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901 defines the Victorian era of British history. That’s nearly the whole of the 19th century!

When we sell items that we reference as being Victorian, it often just means that it’s from the mid to late 1800s, not that it’s necessarily from England. We’ve sold dresses, jackets, buttons, jewelry, and more. These are quality antique pieces that are very beautiful and highly collectible. As the years pass by us, older antiques are lost or destroyed, so plenty of collectors try to hold onto them for as long as possible. Many of these items are more than 150 years old and need to be looked after!

Victoria had a long reign as queen, so while Victorian fashion was not static, it is fairly easy to pick out the typical characters of this era.

  • Dresses were long, layered, and with narrow waists and bell-shaped skirts. Corsets were common.
  • Women wore large hats, often covered in feathers or flowers. Bonnets were popular as well.
  • Men usually wore waistcoats, vests, tailcoats, and trousers with a top hat to finish it off.
  • The American Civil War occurred between 1861 and 1865 and falls under this category. Therefore, any military clothes, weapons, or accessories can also be considered Victorian.
  • Cameos, while not always Victorian in nature, were extremely popular during this period.
  • Better techniques in glassmaking were developed at this time in history, so there was a rise in glass stones (instead of precious or semi-precious stones) that made jewelry more affordable.
  • In 1861, Prince Albert died and Queen Victoria went into mourning. Black was the “in” color and all of England followed her example. That’s why when you think of the Victorian era, black parasols, black dresses, and black jewelry often come to mind.

Here are a few examples of the items that we’ve come across:

This is called a mourning or piano shawl. It’s handmade and is probably 100% silk.

This is a Victorian piece of ephemera – a card to be exact. It’s always fun to see what’s written inside.

This is a pretty typical jacket from this period it time.

here are some beautiful glass Victorian buttons.

Is the Victorian era one of your favorites in terms of fashion? Have you come across any similar treasures?

Spotlight: Sarah Coventry

As I said in last week’s post, I’m going to start switching up our themes for Monday. We’ll still have the How to Sell series, but I’m also going to include some other things that we’ve learned over the years of selling on eBay. I want to start off with my newest idea: Spotlight.

Spotlight posts are going to take one company, one pattern, one era, one something and give you the history on it. As a seller (or a collector), it’s always important to know as much as you can about the items that you resell or collect. Not only does this make you sound more competent, but it’s also fun and interesting!

We’re going to start off with one of my all-time favorite costume jewelry makers – Sarah Coventry!

“Americana” brooch

Charles H. Stuart had already created Emmons (another jewelry company) by the time he decided to make Sarah Coventry into its sister-company. SC was named after Stuart’s granddaughter and started production in 1949. The primary means of selling their jewelry was to have home fashion shows, which continued until 1984.

Throughout the years, this company has used several different marks and stamps to identify their pieces. You can find the history of the company that I detailed here, plus a breakdown of the different stamps and when they were used at this link here.

There are so many things I love about this company. The first of which is quality. They produced costume jewelry – which means that no previous or semi-precious stones were used – but they had some spectacular designs and some really wonderfully made pieces. If you’ve got a really great piece of costume jewelry in your hand, there’s a pretty good chance that it was made by Sarah Cov or Emmons. And since the same guy owned both companies, that should give you some insight into how he ran his business.

Speaking of designs, check out some of the pieces we’ve come across. Aren’t they beautiful? Sarah Coventry tends to be bright and fun without being gaudy. I think costume jewelry has a bad reputation for being a little over the top, a little outdated, and a little on the hokey side. Not SC. These designs are timeless and there are plenty of people who still enjoy wearing these.

SC also has some pretty spectacular sets. They’re often very classy looking, and not too outlandish. One of my favorite is this gorgeous and sparkly one you see below. I also particularly like it when I can find the name of the set. This one is called, “Contessa.”

This set is called “Contessa.” We had earrings and a brooch.

How do you feel about Sarah Coventry jewelry? Do you own any pieces? Recognize anything we have here?