These Butterflies Are Not Free to Fly, Fly Away

Almost everyone has a collection (or several) of things that they enjoy or find compelling. Once you begin collecting something, you usually end up being a mini-expert on the topic.  I have a few collections, some intentional, some that just happened.  For instance, I love cats and have had them most of my life.  Friends and relatives often give me cat-related items.  I like all these knicknacks, pictures, items of apparel, etc. a lot but it wasn’t really my intention to become a collector of cat stuff.

However, I have been interested in antique/vintage jewelry for a few years and, although I had a few assorted pieces, they didn’t fit into a theme so I intentionally chose to begin collecting antique/vintage butterfly pins.  I knew they would be fairly easy to find and I could learn more about old jewelry through them.  So I went to an antique store and found my first one:

This little beauty is from Germany in the 1930s, made of gold-washed sterling silver with marcasite, turquoise, and coral.  I can imagine the story it has to tell and only wish I knew it (visions of “Lili Marlene”).  That is part of the allure of old things–they have a history, even if we don’t know it.

I continued to look in antique stores and on ebay for “deals,” and then I was also fortunate enough to have friends and relatives give me them as gifts.  There are now 22 of them and most get worn from time to time.  They almost always elicit a comment or compliment.

I now have several books on antique and vintage jewelry and like to find out information about all of them, judging by their marks, their style, their clasps, what they are made of, or all of these.  Each one is a little mystery to solve.  These 3 may be the oldest of the bunch.  They are all silver filigree with marks that indicate they were made in Europe in the very late 1800s or very early 1900s.

These 3 are from Mexico, made of silver and abalone or turquoise.

Of these 5, the top 2 are from the US, in the 1950s, by well-known costume jewelry makers, Schreiner New York, and Coro.  The center one is from Spain using the damascene technique, the lower right one is from Czechoslovakia, made of rhinestones, and the lower left one is still a mystery to me as it has no markings and I can’t identify the metal–it looks oriental because it has lilies painted on the wings.  It may possibly be a technique called “shakudo.”

I love these sparkling purple-stoned butterflies: the one on the left is metal with rhinestones, probably from the WWII era and the other one is silver with amethyst, maybe the 1970s-80s.

There’s a pretty little white-enameled butterfly from 1950’s Norway by Aksel Holmsen with sharp detail in the wings.  There’s a copper Native American butterfly from the 1940s-50s.  Another has jade wings and coral eyes.  There’s a wide variety of stylistic interpretation by their makers of the butterfly but I love them all.  I’ve thought of making a small journal with a photo of each one and inventing a story about all of their pasts…

Antiques Roadshow (my favorite TV show) is coming to Phoenix this summer and I’ve applied for tickets.  I think you can take 2 items per person for appraisal, although collections may count as one.  If I get tickets (chosen randomly), maybe these little guys will be accompanying me.

If you collect something, I’d love to hear about it or see some photos.  And maybe I’ll blog about some of my other collections in the future.


3 thoughts on “These Butterflies Are Not Free to Fly, Fly Away

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