I sort of fell backwards into my love affair with “incredible wearable works of art” in the form of antique and vintage costume jewelry.
As an occupational therapist and single mom doing traveling therapy I wanted something fun to do in my leisure time in new places; so I offered to start collections for my two college age daughters, Christi and Tonya, but it had to be something very small and portable as I took job assignments all over the US and carried my entire household from place to place in my van. Christi wanted salt & pepper shakers and Tonya wanted vintage jewelry.
I left from Sarasota, FL for my first travel assignment in Spokane, WA. In Twin Falls, ID on the way there I purchased someone’s entire lifetime collection of S & P’s at a Desert Industries Store. It was between 400-500 pairs; so we maxed out in S & P’s in one stop. When Christi saw the beautiful and unusual jewelry pieces I brought back for her sister she decided she would rather have jewelry too. Luckily they have very different taste and rarely wanted the same pieces.
When I found my first “treasure” of an unmarked 14K ring with a very large six point black star sapphire stone for $30 – – – I was hooked and have been “Junkin for Treasures” ever since. That was 20+ years ago. By the way Tonya still has the ring.
When I would go to auctions, garage/estate sales I would often buy large lots of jewelry to get several pieces for their collections. Sometimes I would sell to dealers from this excess to help support my hunting habit.
After five years I had to stop doing traveling therapy to care for my aging parents and this large stash of extra jewelry helped, my then pregnant, Christi to open an antique mall booth and sell on eBay; so that she could be a stay-at-home mom.
I would find treasures that had missing stones, pin backs, earring backs, etc. and wanted to save them from the salvage or craft piles. I started harvesting stones from pieces that were beyond salvage, then someone had some vials of vintage stones I bought, next I met someone who told me about Paul’s Unique and Stella Yellin and Stella taught me all about grading and care of vintage rhinestones. That is how I started accumulating the knowledge; and the hundreds of thousands of stones and vintage findings I have for restoration.
I was a charter member of Vintage Fashion and Costume Jewelry (VFCJ) Collectors’ Club and at the first convention I attended another jewelry rescuer introduced me to Wolf E. Myrow, Inc. in Providence, RI. My greatest joy though was finding Waliga Imports & Sales, Inc. and Bill Waliga. His passion for these wonderful pieces rivaled my own and we became great friends. I was greatly saddened by Bill’s passing the summer of 2007. I will miss him terribly and all the history he had to share about the jewelry trade in the Providence, RI area. I am hopeful that the Waliga family will continue the business and I can look forward to many more years of digging around in their warehouse for vintage stones and findings.
At the 2005 VFCJ Convention I presented a workshop on the Care and Restoration of Antique and Vintage Jewelry.
At the jewelry sale that year Peter M. Dicristofaro, Curator of the Jewelry Museum in Providence came by my table and stated, “You have the most eclectic selection and reasonable prices of all the vendors here and a number of pieces I wish to purchase”.
I remarried in 2003 to a wonderful man I found with the help of the internet who encourages my passion for finding and rescuing antique and vintage costume jewelry.
Within the first year of our marriage we were both diagnosed with cancer.
After our treatments and getting a clean bill of health from our oncologists we purchased a motor home, he retired and I was forced to retire from occupational therapy; so we sold all property and now live full time in our home on wheels. In the past six years we have visited 48 states in the USA, spent 3 months touring Alaska (our logo picture was taken at Denali National Park in Alaska) and visited six Canadian Provinces. We also spent the month of December 2006 in Belize.
We have traveled extensively for the past six years and have now decided to start working a few months out of the year. We are no longer going to be collecting for our three daughters and instead opened this shop on Ruby Lane as a venue for selling the treasures we find while continuing to travel this great country of ours. We will still give some of the most awesome pieces we find to our five beautiful grandchildren to start collections and instill a love of these beautiful wearable art creations in yet another generation.
I have bought and sold on eBay off and on since May of 1998 and have a 100% Positive Feedback rating under the ID-arlyp.
Since opening our shop we have shipped sales to 44 US states and 25 countries of Canada, AE, Australia, Japan, Israel, Russia, Ireland, Italy, Greece, New Zealand, UK, France, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Ukraine, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brazil, Netherlands and Finland.