Why should you learn about old jewelry? It's something no one really cares about, right? Isn't it a great idea to go find some old jewelry and break it up, redesign it and make something else? Isn't that recycling?
Sometimes it is a good idea. Sometimes it's straight-out dang foolish. Bear with me, I'll explain the reason for that strong statement:
I have a lot of folks coming to B'sue Boutiques to visit, and they love our stuff and our prices...but still, money is tight. They would LOVE to find a way to start their own design business, but they don't have the cash.
They love the videos and they are over the moon for new ideas, but they are struggling to buy the tools they really need or have enough of the right parts to bring their own design aesthetic to birth. I hear from them all the time. Do you have any tips for me? How did you do it?
I CAN help.
At one time I was cleaning houses for 40.00 a day. My husband was working, but we struggled, too. I had a little boy who had needs and it fell to me, many times, to find the extra money to care for them.
I love old things, I always have. Truly and deeply! I'm your typical sentimental fool; it all started when I was young, visiting my Grammy's little bungalow house:
I can almost smell the cake or cookies in the oven. Grammy was usually at the door waiting for us. I guess I snuck up on her, this time.
Grammy didn't have tons of jewelry, but what she had was special to me and I loved being allowed to go through her jewel chest and have her tell me about the pieces she owned. She didn't have expensive things in the house, but she rarely changed decorating and so, the things I knew as a child pretty much remained in the same place my whole life until Grammy left us at the fine old age of 95, in January of 2011.
I began to look for things in flea markets that Grammy had....the green Fire King bowls, the Roseville ewer, the Iris and Herringbone carnival glass-style depression ware.....Shawnee pottery, old linens, old....whatever. I was quite successful in finding many of the very same things she had, in her house....for mine.
And then I began to realize, I could sell this stuff.
There was no Ebay in 1986-87, no Etsy....dang! NO INTERNET. What there was, was the ANTIQUE TRADER WEEKLY. I couldn't wait to get my subscription! It came in the mail like a huge tabloid newspaper, EVERY WEEK. Full of the best sales, auctions, antique shops...and ADS for WANTED TO BUY.
I studied those ads religiously to find out what people were buying: depression glass, old china, old magazines, lunchboxes, cookie jars! At that time, those things were easy to find at good prices here in Ohio. I'd scour the fleas, antique malls and yard sales every week! Then, I'd write to the addresses in the ads---long hand---and tell them what I had, offering what I had found to them, at prices they couldn't resist.
Usually a week to ten days later, I had a check....and I shipped the goods.
In time I contacted some bigger dealers who had fancy shops in NY, San Francisco, Dallas, LA....they asked if I would like to pick vintage clothing and jewelry for them. Now it got hardcore....they wanted the best for the least and they kept me RUNNING. I did that for a couple of years, everything I found went out on approval to those shops until they'd purchased everything.
In time, though, that got to be a real drag. I really never envisioned this new enterprise as me dumpster-diving for goods for anyone in particular. I am grateful for the time I spent doing it, and for the things I learned---in a VERY hard way---during those years but! I thought. Sheesh. There are LOTS of people out there who would like to buy old jewelry, and there's a ton of it here...and it's a whole lot easier than packing up boxes of heavy vintage clothing, linens and smalls.
So I began to run my OWN ads in the ANTIQUE TRADER WEEKLY, offering approval boxes to qualified dealers or collectors. I would box up the stuff, send it to them, let them pick out what they wanted, send the rest back with a check for what they kept.
There were upsides and downsides to this way of making a living, but all in all, once I'd learned my trade, I didn't screw up a whole lot, and the loss here and there to a bit of theft was handily overcome by profit. You'll have loss and theft in any business, so....it was all good in the long run.
Long story short, in time I began to make my OWN jewelry. That became a 300 piece line with 500 store accounts....still before the internet:
This is a page from the last wholesale catalogue I ever published....in 1997, I believe it was. Humble little pieces, but people come up to me all the time and tell me how they still love their little pins bought at a shop or a show 15-18 years back.
My Grammy had a box full of them. They have come back to me, now, all worn out. She loved them and wore them to pieces....literally.
Anyway, in 1997, I found the internet, became a supply company, and the rest is history.
My point is: I began with a 20.00 bill, alot of pluck and determination, and a kid in a stroller. Off we went and we worked it out. The kid is now a man, his name is Jordan, he works here and will own this business inside the next five years, if our plans work out.
I love my son, my best friend, Shelley who has worked with me the last 13 years, and my family who work here, too: Lauren, Jordan's wife, Rob, my nephew, Andrea his sister, and Donna, their mother. We make a great team. Way back in the day, Donna used to pick with me, now she is back here working with us in this incarnation, how great is that? I love my work. I love the grand people I've met, and I love old jewelry. Old jewelry has ALWAYS been my design muse.
My point is this: Old jewelry can tell you its stories. It can teach you and refine you as an artist. It can make money for you to get you where you're going. OH YES, I HEAR YA: I know money is tight.
This might be a way out for you, to get you where you're going. LEARN ABOUT VINTAGE JEWELRY.
Here is a video to help, grab a cup of joe and I'll show you what to look for and how I sort a box of jewelry: