Box of Tricks

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Nosiness is probably my biggest vice. I don’t mean the Hyacinth Bucket-esque desire to know the ins and outs of neighbourhood or workplace gossip, and I definitely don’t mean asking too personal questions. No, I’m talking about the little things that give us insights into people’s personalities and pasts, without the lengthy ‘getting to know you’ process.

[That said, if you left your private journal at my place I would almost certainly read it]

Possessions are naturally a good place to start. One of the best bits about visiting people’s homes has to be checking out their bookshelves: speculating on whether items are cherished keepsakes or old uni texts that have somehow survived the exodus to mum & dad’s box room. Does x own Sylvia Plath’s complete poems because she identifies with her mental health struggles? And is that travel memoir there because she visited the same place?

Luckily if you aren’t a regular dinner party guest, the internet offers many opportunities to be nosy. One of my favourite kinds of online content is ‘inside my wardrobe’ features, where interesting people air the best bits of their clothing collections. The Coveteur has a good take on this, replacing the bookmark on my browser where MyDaily (RIP)’s ‘My Vintage Wardrobe’ pieces used to sit.

Unfortunately, my wardrobe is shared with a boy, which doesn’t add to its aesthetic appeal. So today, instead of clothing, I’m going to lift the lid (quite literally) on my jewellery box and show you some of my favourite pieces.

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40s Bakelite button earrings

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Any vintage lover worth their salt should own a few pieces of Bakelite. An early plastic, this was particularly popular during the 1930s and 40s, and can be found in many other art deco era objects like telephones, furniture and radios. There’s actually a Bakelite museum in Somerset that claims to be the largest collection of the stuff in the UK.

Unlike the trashy plastic jewellery you so often find in high street shops today, Bakelite comes in many gorgeous, deep hues and can be intricately carved. This pair were a Christmas gift from my sister. I tend to wear them when I need a burst of colour with a dark outfit.

50s Brass Renoir earrings

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Renoir was a big name in brass costume jewellery in the late 1940s-50s. I’ve seen the brand on sale at antiques fairs, but I bought these on etsy for around £10 after seeing them on an Instagrammer’s favourites list (whoops). While they certainly need a polish, they’re a sophisticated everyday staple.

30s (?) Glass earrings marked ‘Western Germany’

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These earrings are a good illustration of why you should do your research before purchasing any vintage goods. According to the original listing, these are 1930s in provenance, but I’m not convinced as their shape and colour don’t seem quite right. Google offers conflicting information so if you know more about jewellery made in Western Germany, let me know!

New 50s style Bamboo earrings

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Vintage reproduction brand Bow & Crossbones make a lot of great, versatile pieces and these are one example. Meant to evoke the tiki trend that was popular in the 1950s, I wear them several times a week. Best of all, they cost just £5.

30s Glass drop earrings

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Unlike the last pair, these showstoppers only come out for special occasions. They’re made from blue faceted glass and are typical early 20th century screw-ons.

As far as earring fixtures go, screws and paddle backs are the only kind of clasps I can deal with: clip back styles squeeze my earlobes to the point that I can’t wear them for more than a few hours.

In contrast with much of my vintage jewellery, these glass earrings were purchased from a home-grown London seller although I can’t tell if they originated here. Its a comforting idea that they’ve been passed down through the ages within the same city.

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