Have you ever thought about jewelry for your hair? Or, rather, jewelry in your hair? Yes! There are some fun cheap things that you can buy in any department store or other retailer. But have you rummaged through your jewelry box? Do you have some really wonderful old brooches that you don’t know what to do with? This is an “Ahhh-Ha” moment for you!

Many times there are beautiful antique combs that are put in front of me or I see them in garage sales. Ladies just don’t know what to do with them. Well, SNAP THEM UP!!! Don’t pass them by. Some are sterling too. Make sure they are in excellent to good condition.

I have old combs and wear them in my hair when the either match or clash with what I have on. Clashing just makes a cool statement. One is a big Art Deco pierced celluloid peacock tail shape with sparkly green rhinestone in it. It’s usually buried at an angle in a French twist and left to peek around the side of my head. There are SO many ways to wear it. Another way is to make a low chignon off to one side and have it peeking out the side. The ways to use it are unlimited.

Bar pins, whether real or not, are another great piece. Pin it in your hair. Real gold, platinum and real stones flip out people because it’s so unexpected. Here, again, the French twist is great for a bar pin. If you’re worried about it coming off, just add a couple of bobby pins on the pin stem and make sure to point the pin clasp end downward. It just makes your hair look fabulous! I’ve had some real ooooo’s and ahhhh’s from a platinum and diamond Art Deco bar pin in my hair. It’s really a sparkler in dark auburn hair and I’ve ALWAYS been asked where I got it.  It’s been fun to say “Out of my jewelry box.”

Got clip earrings with lots of rhinestones? Use those in your hair. Be careful about pulling them out so you don’t pull your hair out. They don’t have to match. Remember to use and odd number of items. And if you don’t use them in your hair, clip them to your plain pumps or ballet flats to dress them up. So don’t forget your toes for a little bling.

What to do with a pony tail? Set your hair how you like it, slick it back and pin a HUGE rhinestone brooch over the top of the elastic or plain bar barrette. That brings up the WOW factor in a hurry! Or clip in some clip earrings on the elastic. They don’t have to be a set, just complimentary together. I have some clip button earrings that have several strands of variegated brown beads falling that have been clipped to the top of a hair elastic. It was a great look.

For you short hair ladies, just clip the clip earrings to a small plain headband of your choice. Here again, an odd number is the best. Don’t set the earrings in the center of the headband, set them off center. Big 60’s paisley earrings are fun. You might just need only one earring if it’s really big.

A Victorian collectible is the hair twist. You see them now put out by Goody. It’s just a little thing set with rhinestones on top with a spiral of wire that’s twisted into the hair. The Victorian Gibson Girls really had something there. This is an old notion with a modern twist….ha ha on the twist. Occasionally, you can find the antique ones. They don’t look like much of anything on their own. But together, they really make an up-do. I have numerous of them. They are one of the obscure things that I collect. Quite a few of them have diamonds, amethysts, zircons and one with a signature of Mauboussin in 18kt gold

Dig into your jewelry box, your Mom’s or better yet your Grandmother’s. Look in garage sales for sweet finds. Check out the local antique mall or resale shop. There are combs, earrings and brooches that are out there just waiting to help bring a little bling to your hair and add a little more sparkle than just your eyes. Sparkles to everyone!


These terms are bandied about and no one actually knows what they are. Is there really gold or silver in your jewelry, flatware or hollow ware items? Are they worth anything? I can’t tell you how much plated, rolled gold or silver plate passes through my hands.

Gold Filled
A piece of jewelry or other object is layered with gold of the specified fineness and is electroplated over a base metal (copper or brass). You’ll always see a hallmark ( i.e. 1/20th 12kt GF) . The 1/20th stands for the gold total weight in the designated item. The GF stands for gold filled. Sometimes there’s an HGF which stands for heavy gold filled.

Rolled Gold
A sheet of very thin gold is fused to a thin sheet of base metal (usually brass) and formed into a piece. Rolled gold wire for chains has a base metal center with tube of gold around it and then pulled through a draw plate for a specified thickness. The gold plate can be seen from the edge or where there’s severe wear. Often, items will have 10 kt. RGP hallmarks or rolled gold plate.

I look for antique rolled gold jewelry items. My loupe is attached to a Victorian ladies 60” rolled rose gold watch chain. So many people make comments on how beautiful it is.

Gold Leaf
Gold’s extremely malleable and can be pounded extremely thin. One ounce of gold can be hammered into a sheet that measures more than 100 square feet (a football field) and only 5/1,000,000th of an inch thick. Gold leaf is about 1/200,000th to 1/250,000th of an inch thick and is primarily used for gilding things like a mirror.

Gold Electroplating
Electricity is used to produce the plating technique. The item(s) to be plated have an electrical current running through it and are suspended in liquid. An item of the karat gold has the opposite electrical current running through it. The item to be plated will draw particles from the gold, through the liquid, and coat the item with gold. Varying thickness can be achieved. Some watches hallmark 20 microns thick. That’s about the thickness of a strand of human hair.

Do note that if an item’s sterling with a gold electroplating or other plating method then it’s called vermeil or silver gilt. Lots of older costume jewelry’s vermeil. Don’t throw it out. It’s worth the silver that’s in it. If it’s vintage, has a signature, or some other way of being special then it can be worth more. You might have a little treasure that you didn’t know about.

Gold or Silver Plate
Usually a piece of jewelry will have a hallmark of GP which stands for gold plate and sometimes HGP or heavy gold plate will be hallmarked. Silver plate, as in flatware or hollow ware, will say silver plate or EP (extra plate). This process has a base metal (either copper or brass) that has the gold or silver mechanically or electrochemically applied to the item. Usually gold is 1/1,000th to 1/1,000,000th of an inch thick. It’s considerably thinner than the gold electroplating process and does NOT wear as well.

I love the old silver plate and the plating’s heavy, very heavy. Please refer to my previous article for silver plate. The new plate wears off quickly. You can find the old stuff at estate and antique dealers, flea markets or through garage sales. These are truly finds. I just bought a set of 10 bone handled silver plate fish knives. They were black and it took elbow grease to make a spectacular Easter gift to my sister. She loved them!

Valuable or not? Vermeil has silver value, not any gold value. If there’s a signature (i.e. Tiffany, Cartier, etc.), period piece (Victorian, Art Deco, etc.), or something unusual…….well…maybe. It just depends. Send a photo and I’ll tell you. Or, take it to your local antique and estate dealer. They might charge for the valuation. Value’s really what it’s worth to you. As far as refining it goes, that’s up for debate. Some people do refine all the fills and plates and some don’t.

You can search for the information on your own. No one puts it all in a nice neat package for you to see it all in one place. Now you know. Take a look, a close look, at what you have. You might not have a treasure and then again, you might!


O cameo, O cameo, where for art thou cameo? There was a time when all I ever saw was cameos. Now I rarely see them and what has been presented, well, the ladies just aren’t very pretty. Granted beauty is in the eye of the beholder but once explained, you too will be looking at a cameo with a different eye.

What is a cameo exactly?
The brown and white cameos of the Helmut shell are what most people think of first. The upper portion or raised portion is usually white and the bottom or background portion is brown. A cameo is always raised in the carving fashion. If the central figure is lower than the background, it’s not a cameo. It’s an intaglio (pronounced IN- tal-leo) and it’s another subject altogether.

A cameo can be made from any material. Soft materials easily lend themselves to the artists’ talents. Materials such as shell, coral, mother of pearl, amber, or lava have been popular. Other materials often used were banded agate, chalcedony, onyx, labradorite, moonstone, malachite to name only a very few. The harder the material to be carved, the finer details the carver can achieve. Gutta Percha is a mixture of rubber and sulfur used in the Victorian era for cameos. It was cheap, easily carved and could be molded into a shape for mass production. The sulfur emits a rotten egg odor when worn next to the skin and isn’t a pleasant odor for any woman in my book….ewh!

Look at it closely. Is it fine, detailed, or jagged? Is it hand carved or laser carved? Let’s use a Greek Goddess as an example. Are her chin and nose pointy or do they softly round? Are the curls in her hair jagged or are they round like a curl should be. In other words, how close to a normal appearance of woman does it look? If it’s a laser carving, it falls into a different category and I only pay for the setting.

Subject Matter
What is the subject matter? Is it a Greek or Roman God or Goddess’s likeness, or a Flapper? Is it a battle scene, Angels, flora or fauna? Is it a carving of a famous Royal for a family member? The subject matter is an important point that greatly influences the value of a cameo.

Is it new or modern? Is it Art Deco (ca.1920-1935), Edwardian (ca.1900-1919), Victorian (ca. 1837-1900)? Victorians loved cameos and many cameos were carved then. Italy was the center for carving. If it was an exceptional cameo the artist signed it and some artists signatures are very valuable.

What is the cameo set in?
Is it in a bezel for a pin/pendant, a ring, a pair of earrings, a bracelet, a box, or a dish? Are there stones in the bezel or on the cameo itself? Is it in gold, silver, 800 silver, filigree bezel, or a mixture of silver and gold to name a few possibilities? Just because it’s a cameo doesn’t mean that it has to be a piece of jewelry. The fancier the holder or if it’s a piece from a famous jeweler or carver the more valuable it will be. Rings, pendants, and earrings are more popular than pins and brooches are.

What makes a cameo valuable?
That’s a many sided question. First thing that I look at is the condition, condition, and condition. Has a shell cameo been stored in a safe deposit box, allowed to dry out, and left with cracks? Have any of the high points like a nose or chin knocked off? Or is it barely recognizable as a cameo due to wear? Poor condition gets low prices. Then next for valuation is the bezel, the material, subject, where it was manufactured, is it a piece of jewelry or other item, is it an unusual item, and the age or period. This is just a few of the things that I look for when valuing a piece.

In our current market cameos are not popular. This provides you the golden opportunity to snap up a good buy. Check out the antique and estate dealers and even garage sales. Antique and estate dealers are happy to show you various kinds of cameos. Cameos are a beautiful sight to behold when they are well executed and nothing is more feminine. Everyone needs a cameo “something” or “somethings” in their jewelry wardrobe.

We all have a plethora of jewelry boxes, bags, and pouches from gifts or purchases. What to do with those things is the question. Sometimes you use them to re-gift the item or a different piece of jewelry. Sometimes we toss out things that shouldn’t be tossed out. Here’s how to tell what to keep and what to dispose of.

Signature Boxes
Those are boxes that you get from a significant jewelry store. An example would be Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bulgari, or Van Cleef & Arpels, to name a few. In other words, anything that was an expensive or branded jeweler will have a box and most probably it will be double boxed.

My sister was about to throw out her and her husband’s Rolex boxes for their 2-tone Rolex’s. Luckily she told me about it and I explained that they have a value and are part of the watch value itself. And, what she didn’t know was just the empty box has a value. Rolex has an inner box and an outer box. Both should be kept. When working in New York Diamond District, the company I worked for specifically would look for Rolex watch boxes and other designers.

Old boxes from fine jewelers that are no longer in business are other boxes that should not be thrown out. Old Bailey, Banks and Biddles, or Black, Starr and Frost, Shreve Crump & Lowe, David Webb, or Peacock would be very good examples. The boxes from the first two jewelers should be pre-1960’s. This would be well before these jewelers were gobbled up by large jewelry chains.

While out on a buy, I look specifically for fitted boxes from the older jewelers. If a piece of jewelry comes across my desk and it has a fitted box, a premium will be paid. A fitted box means that the box was made particularly for the jewelry item contained inside. It’s common to find these boxes dating from 1940’s and earlier. Turn of the last century and Victorian era, it was very common to find these boxes. They are desirable, fitted or not, and they can have a cash value.

Boxes can be made out of many kinds of materials. Most common is paper. Leather, suede, wood, silver, bakelite, shagreen, plastic, or velvet covered boxes are common. Shagreen can be valuable and highly desirable. It looks similar to a blue/green polka dot leather. A signature inside the box always gets a premium.

Jewelry Bags & Pouches
Keep jewelry bags and pouches that have signatures. If there isn’t a signature, don’t keep them if you don’t want to. These little pouches do come in handy for travel and for little gifts too. Here again, it’s all about the condition of the bags or pouches. They need to be in very good to excellent condition.

When and if you decide to sell your jewelry, do take in the box, bag, or pouch. This will give you a little extra cash in the sales. It’s one of the first questions asked about any nice piece of jewelry when it’s placed in front of me for sale. The box, bag, or pouch must in very good condition for me to give extra for it.

Rule of thumb about boxes, bag, or pouches: If it’s common and you don’t want it, then, throw it out and don’t give it a second thought. If it’s in poor, used or in bad condition, then it won’t have any kind of value even with a signature. Toss it. It’s a shame to toss a great signature box in the trash but many blue Tiffany & Co. boxes in bad condition have gone into my waste basket.

Now you have an idea what to keep, what to toss in the trash, and that some boxes actually have a monetary value. With this in mind, you are free to de-clutter or gift your boxes, bags, or pouches. Save the good ones or even sell them! That’s more found money for you!

Our economy has had some serious ups and downs. It’s also reflected within the jewelry industry too and disastrously so. Pearls are still down. Gold’s see-sawing daily but for the most part staying in a range. Diamonds are in their own league by themselves. What’s going on? The experts don’t really know either. I’m certainly not an expert.

What I can tell you is that diamonds, certain cuts, seem to have stabilized. Rounds and Princess cuts are still hot and lead the pack in desirability and price. Pear shape, Marquise, and Heart shapes are still the bottom of the desirability scale. This’s still the deal for you and I would still recommend buying one of those shapes. The primo or good stones of any shape will always sell no matter what. The middle of the road clarity and color and the not so nice stuff just is not selling. That’s where the mass majority of the retail public is. The majority isn’t buying at the moment and hasn’t for about the past year and half.

Gold prices are up, they’re down, they’re up and then they’re about the same. The prices seem to be hovering around the $1100.00 +/-. People are still selling. There’s still a wide variety of people selling too. The reasons for selling range from a little extra cash to acts of desperation trying to pay a mortgage, medical expense, or a utility. Some people selling have been bank executives that have lost everything, a young couple trying to make ends meet, or an older couple selling for medical reasons to name a very few.

As high as gold prices are, the silver prices seem attainable for the average consumer. It’s much, much less expensive. The only thing that makes silver expensive is the labor to make it into a desirable piece of jewelry. Just like putting a thermostat in your car that costs about $10-$15, the labor to put the thermostat in will be around $100. The same thing holds true here.  Silver’s cheap but the labor to work it isn’t.

Pearls are just down, down, down, and down some more. Perhaps the flood of all the cultured freshwaters has been a contributing factor. Who knows though? But pearls remain something that I simply can’t buy cheap enough. There just aren’t any buyers for them. But on the upside, if you as an individual needs, wants, has to have a strand or something pearl, now’s THE time to buy and score a deal for yourself or a loved one.

During World War II the period of Retro jewelry was “it”. Those who were anyone were wearing very large, very chunky, bold jewelry. Times were very difficult then and the jewelry made a statement. The jewels that were mostly used were large inexpensive single stones with an accent of diamonds and other smaller stones. The styles were asymmetrical and architectural in feel. Big shoulder pads were in style for the ladies. Well we’re in a similar style mode and similar difficulty economically too. Shoulder pads for ladies are coming back and large, chunky, bold jewelry is in style. See the similarity here.

Costume is was hot in the ‘40’s and it’s hot again. Even good jewelers now are bringing in good costume lines in order to just get traffic into their stores. The trends follow the Lipstick Theory. The theory is that a woman may not be able to afford shopping excursions for clothing but to augment the wardrobe a woman will go buy a lipstick. A lipstick is by far cheaper than going to purchase clothing. It is a closely watched trend. The prohibitive price of gold is what’s driving the costume trend. Older good costume jewelry was quite often made from sterling. I buy quite a bit of it and tell people that if they have costume to bring it in. It’s always a pleasure to find vintage sterling costume jewelry and tell people they will have more cash in their hand because of it. Check out your Grandmother’s and Mother’s jewelry box for a few chic and trendy items for yourself.

What’s in, what’s out, what’s up, what’s down is ultimately an individual’s expression from their purchasing power as a group. Estate and Antique dealers are still going to be the best bet to find the best deals because of negotiations abilities not available to major chain stores. So, if there’s a little bit of bling that’s a necessary item from your future, you know where and what to look for.

One of the most common questions that’s asked is to explain gold karats or fineness. I wish I had a dime for every time it was explained. You would be amazed at how wealthy my bank account would be. It’s really simple and it’s not rocket science either. Let me share with you.

Firstly, just because it’s stamped a particular karat doesn’t mean it’s really that karat. Quite often, jewelry from overseas is NOT the karat stamped. There have been many pieces of jewelry handed to me that are stamped 22kt. or .916 and once tested, it’s 14kt. How does that happen you ask? Easy. It’s SOOOO simple once you have a tiny little stamp to stamp anything you want or any karat that you want. Not all jewelers are scrupulous. The item in question is made out of 14kt. and then flashed or plated with 22kt. If the vendor or jeweler does that on a large amount of unsuspecting buyers, well, it’s all in the profits gained.

When going to purchase your jewelry or gold from overseas, purchase from a LONG time jeweler or dealer with good standing with the cruise line, local area, or travel agent. This’s where you’re safe. These vendors have their reputations to lose and your trust is very, very valuable to them. Especially, in this economic market. Once a reputation is damaged, as in anything, it’s extremely difficult to recover.

When you buy your gold item, you’ll see the hallmark or stamp on it. It will not be exactly that karat. There is a legal tolerance that the original vendor or manufacturer has to stay within. It differs all over the world. But it has to be CLOSE to the karat stamped. Often items brought to me won’t feel right. The heft in the hand is off. The feel is something one gains over having had a lot of gold run through their hands. Different karats have different densities therefore “feeling”  or hefting differently. If there’s a question about the karat, acid is used to determine the exact karat. Acids never lie and they are fool proof.

The fineness of gold is as follows:

24kt.=pure gold
23kt.=.9583 fine
22kt.=.9166 fine
21.6kt.=.900 fine
21kt.=.875 fine
20kt.=.8333 fine
18kt.=.750 fine
14kt.=.5833 fine
10kt.=.417 fine
9kt.= .333 fine

These are the percentages of gold in the individual pieces. The remainder of the metal in your item will be alloys. As an example, an 18kt. ring has 75% gold and the remaining 25% is alloy. It follows through for the rest of the karats too.

If you have an item that has a “P” after the stamp (i.e. 14KTP), that means “Plumb”. Plumb gold means that it’s exactly the karat it’s marked.  It doesn’t differ one iota. It is a little more expensive but worth the search when looking. When purchasing, I look for that stamp. If it feels right then it’s just added to the karat pile to be purchased.

There are a couple of other hallmarks or stamps that you should be made aware of. When you see a GE or a HGE after the karat mark (i.e. 18kt HGE), that’s NOT gold. Those hallmarks stand for “gold electro plate” or “heavy gold electro plate” respectively. It’s not uncommon for people to bring items in with the karat and GE or HGE in the hallmark and thinking it’s gold. Bad news isn’t always easy or pleasant to tell someone.

Gold karat or fineness is easy to understand and as promised, it’s not rocket science. No genius involved here. So purchase from your trusted jewelers, vendors, or dealers with knowledge that they have your best interests first and foremost.

In my travels, there is so much silver plate that runs through my hands. Some of it’s dreadfully black with tarnish, some has been kept beautifully, and some is in terrible condition. It is unloved and not well thought of. Of which, I find quite surprising, in spite tarnish. Gladly, I’ll take it off of someone’s hands. The newer silver plate is not heavy and the plate doesn’t wear well. I pass on that stuff. The old silver plate is just wonderful with the patina of age and I quickly buy it when it comes in. It’s cleaned up, polished brightly, and then put into my silverware drawer for everyday use.

Have to tell a story here. My mother decided she liked the silver plate in my silverware drawer and asked me to be on the look out for serving pieces. Well, a bee-u-tee-ful cake/pie server came in just before Christmas. It cost hardly anything and was the deal of the day for me. It was very ornate and had a shape similar to a trowel. It’s just perfect to serve with. It was shown to my sister for approval and she looked very longingly at it. Now she wants some of the silver plate and my mother loved, loved the cake/pie server.

The thing about the older silver plate servers is that they are unique, have specific uses, show true craftsmanship, and mix wonderfully with a table set with sterling. Sterling servers can sometimes be a bit pricey on their own. But the alternative of silver plate is practical in price.

Taking care of it is easy. If it doesn’t have a hollow handle, you can put it in the dishwasher. I don’t know about you, but easy is good. The dishwasher cleans it wonderfully. Just put in ½ of the dishwasher detergent unless you are using NEU dish soap. That is THE best dishwasher detergent…..BAR NONE. The other NEU products are just as wonderful. It’s safe for sterling too. Just put a few pieces in the dishwasher basket. Here again, no hollow handles. When finished, put it in a Ziploc bag with all of the air out of it and it will stay polished if you use it for special occasions. Otherwise, just use it and that will keep the polish.

When you get your new-to-you silver plate, polish ONLY with paste polishes. Never, ever use silver dip. It will absolutely ruin the silver plate or sterling and the patina. The patina develops over time. Patina gives silver plate and sterling a glow that can only be achieved through time. The large auction houses only use paste polish. If the auction houses use paste, then I’d be strongly inclined to use paste too…..and I do. I am a sister of the black hand…..the color that your hands get from polishing silver with paste polish.

Old silver plate is ornate. You will find that the back of each piece is decorated, not just the front. Victorian pieces are highly ornate on the back. It’s hard not to appreciate even a lowly little pickle fork that is as beautiful on the back as it is on the front. There is one in my drawer that dates to 1880’s with sweet little Forget-me-nots on the front. The reverse side has the same but what would be the backside of the flowers and leaves. It is just darling.

Now to set your table: Mix everything. There is something to be said for everything that matches on a table. AND, there’s a lot to be said for mixing everything on the table. Last Thanksgiving, I was given the table to set at my sister’s house. I mixed everything all together. Sterling, silver plate, mother of pearl handled flatware, crystal and plain glass were all on the table. My sister was in the kitchen with the pecan pie while I finished the table. It was perfectly lovely. I had brought my servers and other flatware from home. Previous to that moment she wasn’t quite convinced about silver plate until she saw it all out on the table. She was amazed and you will be too.

There were different kinds of servers that were originally intended for very specific uses. Not any more. At Thanksgiving they went to other jobs instead. The thing to remember: There are NO rules about how you use your servers. They can be re-tasked. I use a silver plate bullion spoon for my everyday tea scoop. It’s just the perfect amount for a pot of tea.

You can’t exactly come out on a buy with me to get these lovelies. What you can do is hit your local garage sales, check your grandmother’s silver drawer, or look in antique shops. People just don’t want to polish and you can pick up some deals for little cash. Sometimes you can even hit a jackpot and pick up a sterling item. While looking for that piece, make sure there is no copper or brass shining through. There should not be excessive use either. Look for the items that are in very good condition. Don’t get scared away by tarnish either. You can polish it back to beauty.

Now you, too, know the secret of a beautiful table that’s not going to cost an arm and a leg. A table set with polished silver or silver plate is a sight to behold for a special occasion as well as every day use. The fancy serving pieces will always get comments from a guest. You can just smile and let someone think that it’s sterling that you use for everyday. Besides the nice thing about silver plate is, if it wears out, you can just throw it away without any guilt. Happy hunting!