Category Archives: Vintage Vignettes


Quintessentially American: The Romance of Native American Jewelry

Silver cuffs set with smooth, giant turquoise stones. Copper bands ringed with thunderbird icons. Roadrunner pins and bolo ties. They evoke cacti and adobe dwellings, Route 66 and tumbleweeds, Georgia O’Keeffe and John Wayne.

We’re thrilled to offer a new-old find: an eclectic assortment of vintage Native American jewelry made by The Bell Trading Company of Albuquerque, New Mexico.  You may be surprised to learn that this style of Native American jewelry—ubiquitous with the American West—only dates back to the late 1800s.  And from the get-go, it was made for tourists: first train travelers, then road-tripping Americans on vacation. This was before truck stops and the Interstate system, when two-lane highways offered glimpses of the scenic, untamed nation that was already becoming a thing of the past. Trading posts sprang up to capitalize on souvenirs-seeking tourists, who couldn’t get enough Native American jewelry.

It’s not hard to see why. In Navajo beliefs, turquoise is a piece of the sky itself, bringing good thoughts to its wearer. In combination with silver or copper, it calls to mind wide, open skies and the vast bronzed rockiness of the landscape below it. This is not just jewelry. It’s a state of mind.

Heirloom Finds founders Kim and Jeanne came across this collection while antiquing in Southeast Ohio, of all places. An owner of a Southwestern-style trading post had sold his remaining stock of Native American jewelry, a lot which had been waiting for 30 years to be discovered. So this cache truly is a rediscovered treasure!

The Bell Trading Company employed Navajo silversmiths to create their jewelry and the firm operated from 1935 until the late 1980’s.  The artisans who created this jewelry had well-paying jobs and were held in high esteem. They utilized the silver, copper, and turquoise that was available locally, but they also added other elements, such as jet, coral, and abalone. Popular motifs—thunderbirds, roadrunners, feathers, and the half-man, half-eagle Knifewing deity—pulled from the mythologies of tribes such as the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo. Like jazz, it’s a truly iconic American art form, timeless yet modern.

The variety in this selection runs the gamut, with a find to suit anyone’s taste: simple metal bands to elaborate bold boyfriend rings, tastefully subtle bolo ties that can be worn as pendants, and roadrunner brooches with rich inlays. The statement pieces can go dressy or casual, be underplayed or emphasized for this year’s hot look-Southwest Glam.  And, in classic Wild West fashion, they always go well with denim. Delicate or bold, traditional or contemporary, it’s easy to make this quintessentially American artistry part of your signature style.


By Sara Bir

Vintage Bakelite Jewelry

Bakelite Beauties

Bakelite Jewelry – those clunky, funky plastic baubles that always remind us of pinup girls and Rosie the Riveter. Introduced in the first decade of the 20th century in New York by chemist Leo Baekeland (who was actually trying to make a substitute for shellac), Bakelite was used for both industrial and decorative products, but reached its zenith with the fabulous fashion jewelry of the World War II era. With most metals in short supply due to the war cause, jewelry-making materials were limited and designers turned to this incredibly durable and bright plastic.
Cherry Bakelite
The heavy plastic lent itself to big, bold, modern designs that perfectly suited the “can-do” attitude of the legions of women working in factories and offices across the US. Companies such as Catalin and Prystal turned out loads of beads, bangles and baubles from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. And home hobbyists even learned to carve the plastic blocks into unique jewelry creations.
bakelite bow
Wearing vintage Bakelite treasures today inspires the same “joie de vivre” we see in the pinup girls of yesteryear. It also demonstrates a bit of fashion bravado, as most Bakelite jewelry is anything but timid. The oversized, whimsical carved brooches, bangles and necklaces crafted of this quintessentially retro plastic will definitely get you noticed!

By Jeanne Peters

toggle rope

Toggle Your Chain

When we look at satisfying your fashion needs, we realize that some ladies love the heirloom feel of vintage looks. So we’re ready with a collection of old and new jewelry finds that will suit your wallet and your fashion fancy. Just take a look at the comparison that we’ve drawn up.

This week’s Vintage to New comparison is all about the toggle chain. Toggles got their start back in the mid to late Bronze Age, but they were used more like the safety pin to hold together cape-like clothing. Their popularity in jewelry is a rather new development that really took off in the 1960s.
toggle rope

Vintage: Starting out as a costume piece in the 1960s, this piece has made it into our Heirloom Finds collection by a stroke of luck, and it’s going for gold with its gold tone pendant and rope chain. Its healthy helping of pastel jewels and faux pearls take center stage, but this 1960’s pendant necklace is really all about its unique toggle chain and flawless vintage quality. Get a good look in full detail here.

Present-Day: Its look-a-like isn’t vintage, but might as well be with its worn look and ‘60’s style. Still sporting that toggle clasp, this costume piece has a worn gold tone that gives it its heirloom feel. Like the ‘60s necklace, it also has a disc pedant with faux pearl embellishments. But it takes a step toward the trendy with its two tone make and iconic Maltese cross. Get a better look at the Better for Wear collar here.

By Melanie Lamb

Art Deco Flapper

Gibson Girl Be Gone-The Rise of the Flapper

The American girl of the late 1800s and early 1900s. She had a massive up-do of long hair, an impossibly thin waist, and curves to write home about, but by the 1920’s she’d had her day. Women were dying to trade that classic Gibson girl garb for fresh flapper fringe that was both boyish and liberating for the female body.

Coco Chanel set the stage for the modern flapper look, and boy did people catch on quick. Women shortened their dresses, bobbed their hair, dropped their waistlines, and pitched the corsets. No more were the curving lines from the previous era, all the girls were after the straight-ironed look with loads of geometric designs and a splash of global influence.

Women weren’t throwing out all their tricks, just reinventing them. The Roaring 20s stayed true to their name with their jewelry roaring in a bigger and more brilliant way. The exciting jeweled bandeau became the newest addition to accessories, while earrings grew in size and linear forms. And don’t forget that classic draping of pearl strands.

It was an explosion of new fashion choices for women, and proved to be a time of great freedom and reinvention for the modern woman. The fascination with the art deco look of the roaring 20’s is still alive and well today in pop culture. Just take a look at the many Gatsby themed weddings or the ever popular flapper Halloween costumes of the past few years. Recently, many Hollywood and television sensations, including Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, have immortalized those classic times. So much, that Tiffany & Co. brought back to life their vintage collection of art deco jewelry for Luhrmann’s film.

Although many people idolize that blue Tiffany’s box, the price tags are enough to shock the fringe right off your dress. If you are looking for a more cost-effective version of some art deco, Gatsby inspired gems, make sure to check out our collection at Heirloom Finds. Our wallet friendly jewelry is a great choice for accessorizing your Halloween costume or even glitzing up your holiday attire this year. Maybe even throw a Jazz Age New Year party while you’re at it!

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By Melanie Lamb