Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Guest Post : Doris's Jewellery Box

Second up in the series of Guest Posts is the lovely Doris from Switzerland.  Doris and I became friends when she sent me several blocks of lactose free swiss chocolate after I was diagnosed with coeliacs disease.  Who wouldn't love her for that!


 Mid-century hand-carved tropical mother-of-pearl brooch

Beccie was one of the people that helped me a lot finding my own "vintage way of living". She certainly had an influence on my fabric purchases (i.e. hoarding vintage fabrics, thank you Beccie!) and helped me overcome my fear of buying true vintage items. So when she asked us to write some guest posts, I thought it would be an act of friendship to help her, showing some gratitude for all the wonderful inspiring posts she had written for us so far, even in times when she was unwell.

So, what's easier than writing about something you love? I deeply love sewing. But I also love collecting vintage stuff, most of all jewelry. I always had a soft spot for such things. I think wearing necklaces, earrings and such is not only an accompaniment for your outfit, but originates from a primal urge to feel beautiful. (Good excuse for all the ladies who have to discuss their jewelry purchases with their husbands...) Yes, you never can have enough jewelry to wear.

Add some bling-bling to your vintage outfit – true 40s/50s rhinestone jewelry

So please enter - have  look at some of my most precious items. Precious doesn't mean they cost a lot, nor are they made from precious materials, but they are rather special or mean a lot to me.

Part of my Scottie and terrier dog collection. The white one on the right does even glow in the dark... I love them!

I find most of my items online. I live in Switzerland, and it's very difficult to find vintage stuff from my preferred periods  - the 40s and 50s - in my country. I'm not sure if all the nice stuff is still hidden in some cellars, family collections or wherever, or if people threw those things away. Fact is: It's almost impossible to buy pre-60s vintage items in general and vintage jewelry in particular.

Reproduction jewelry made by The PinkBungaloo
(Thanks Doris! I've just added her store to my favourites - Beccie)

Of course I could buy reproductions, 80s does 40s stuff and such. Most people wouldn't know anyway. And I DO have some very nice today's reproductions I bought from talented people who recreate 40s style bakelite-type jewelry at affordable prices. But I really love to wear things I know are true vintage. They have a history, and it's thrilling to find something in almost new condition or even dead-stock (why was it never worn or sold?), or a certain piece that makes you wonder what happened to it's previous owner. True vintage items all have their own history. I'm a historian, and it's my weakness for the "little man's history" that adds a lot to my jewelry collection. It doesn't have to be a precious necklace with rubies and diamonds, but rather a pair of brass earrings with rhinestones, a matching set with earrings and a brooch made of shells, a wooden Scottie dog brooch or one of those many souvenir brooches made of celluloid. 

Mid-centrury souvenir brooches made from celluloid and early plastics. I love the amazing details!

1940s celluloid bow brooch

But jewelry is not only a fashion item, it's a reflection of history in general as well. Historic events, social and economic changes certainly all had an impact on the designs and materials used in jewelry. 

In the early 20th century, the middle-class developed a demand for affordable jewelry, and the industrial revolution contributed a lot to the rise of jewelry mass-production. After the great depression, jewelry had to be even more inexpensive. Base metals, rhinestones, lucite and other types of early plastics as bakelite and celluloid were the main materials used. The war in Europe and later the Pacific led to a shortage of resources. Many metals were used for war time production and couldn't be used for jewelry. On the other hand, early plastics allowed new jewelry designs. During WW2 there was a strong military influence on costume jewelry: insignias, airplanes, tiny soldiers or sailors, but also designs that showed the wearer's support for a husband or a son in service were a common sight.

WW2 Victory brooch with Morse code for V, and  WW2 inspired jewelry I made from vintage findings

During and after the war, natural materials as raffia and shells were used in jewelry. Many servicemen brought tropical jewelry home to their loved-ones. Due to the developing tourism industry, travels to exotic destinations like Florida, Hawaii or the Bahamas became affordable for an increasing number of Europeans. No wonder many women owned some of the typical shell jewelry during the late 40s and the 50s.

Mid-century bone earrings and shell jewelry

Mid-century Christmas shell jewelry, still in box and mint

Enamel flamingo brooches

Of course, jewelry worn by the film stars was always a source of inspiration for the jewelry industry. I like especially the impact Carmen Miranda's rather exotic outfits had on the many types of fruit salad jewelry.

Czech fruit-salad inspired glass earrings

I have found so many wonderful things browsing the internet for those special finds matching my taste and my wardrobe (and my purse!). In the meantime I have far too much and sell many pieces to like-minded friends. From time to time I find dead-stock parts that allowed me to recreate "new" jewelry items made from true vintage materials. It’s an amazing feeling to bring those findings to life, so they finally, after so many decades, can fulfill their original purpose: contribute to a womans beauty and style.

Enameled jewelry, 1950s brooch with clip-ons, and 1940s screw-backs

1950s jewelry, made from metal, plastic (vinyl), rhinestones and faux pearls

Asian inspired 1940s "Faux ivory" molded celluloid clampers and screw-backs

Maybe some of you would like to share your jewelry boxes with us as well - I would be delighted to see them!


Wow Doris!  Thank you so much for showing us a few of your favourite pieces, and teaching us a little about the history of costume jewellery.  I am envious of your collection!



  1. You have an impressive collection Doris. Thank you for sharing with us.

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