Friday 12 June 2015

Thrift Sale-ing...

It's late spring here and the lawn and garage sales are in full swing. I've furnished and unfurnished my own apartments across Canada and in Italy at lawn and apartment sales, the Goodwill, Sally Ann, Value Village, junque stores and their ilk for too many years to count. Thanks to friends, I'm currently amassing quite a collection of old wooden mug trees which are really, really handy for displaying bracelets at the market.

Like a lot of you, I scan the jewellery tables for overlooked treasures. I'm not very good at seeing the potential of some things -- I've always been strangely resistant to the idea of taking perfectly good (albeit totally useless) things apart, but I'm getting there.

These are my two latest finds: a sterling silver amber ring and a dragon, phoenix and butterfly pendant. What is more interesting to me than The Great Score is what I can learn. The first thing I learned was that I MUST start carrying with me at all times a small and powerful flashlight and a loupe because of what treasures I can miss.

I almost passed on buying both the almost black and gungy "amber" ring and the "glass" pendant.

I examined the inside of the ring and saw no .925 stamp, which made me suspicious about the "amber". Was it just plastic? It wasn't heavy enough to be glass. I held it under the lamp at the sale. Because I noticed the sheen and also that the high dome wasn't slick and polished like glass or even plastic would be, that there were tiny old, smoothed-over nicks and gouges in the surface, I figured, mmmm, mebbe, mebbe not. But at the very least, it's pretty, and I bought it.

Good thing, because when I got it home and started polishing the band, lookee what showed up invisible under the black gunge:

The .925 stamp was on the outside of the band. I called a friend of mine who buys a lot of estate jewellery and she immediately told me that a .925 stamp on the outside of the band indicates it's made in Poland, and therefore it would be genuine Baltic amber.

My second score was this pendant that I thought was glass and who knows what metal but I kinda thought silver...

But yet again, under the poor light at the sale, I was convinced it must be green glass, and in the end I only bought it because of the dragon and phoenix: I was born under the sign of the dragon, and I'd read many years ago that the phoenix is the dragon's most auspicious partner sign.

I also bought it because it was double-sided and it looked cobbled together and I prefer wonky, handmade things to slick, commercially produced items, no matter what they are. The dragon and phoenix were cast, and I'm presuming likely Chinese because of the tiny cloud that binds their feet at the top (their hands are touching at the bottom and they're looking at each other) and were very obviously cut from some other larger design. They're of a completely style than the butterflies, which are twisted wire and are possibly Bali or Indian silver?

Once I got home and under good light, I clearly saw the banding deep inside the green, meaning this is a huge lump of uniformly milky agate. Dyed, according to what I found online, but oh well. It's still a very beautiful colour and it's not splotchy like a lot of dyed stones are these days.

I'm intensely curious about where this came from. All the metal bits look to be silver, polishes up nicely, but there are great lumps of solder everywhere, and as I said above, it's definitely been cobbled together from many different cut-up pieces. There are what I think are called sprues still poking out here and there that were never filed down. The entire soldered-together medallion on both sides is domed over crossed flat metal strapping over the agate that's also been soldered into place. 

I'm currently looking up the symbolism of the different parts of the medallion. If anyone has come across something like this, I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for looking!

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