Butterfly Pins

  1. Green and Purple Stones on Metal

Quarantine Diversion #132. I have an antique/vintage butterfly pin collection of about 40 pieces dating from the late 1800s to the 1960s, from many countries. Unfortunately, I did not record all the info when I got them so I’m unsure of some without markings now, such as this one. The early suffragettes in Britain used the colors Green, White, and Violet (GWV) to represent “Give Women the Vote.” 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment in the U.S., giving women the right to vote. So I am appropriating this pin to that cause…Stay tuned for 30-some other vintage pins as this quarantine and heat go on and on…

2. Turquoise, Coral, Marcasite on Sterling

This is the first butterfly pin I purchased, thereby starting my collection. I was already interested in vintage jewelry (all jewelry really) so I decided to make this collection more specific…not just buying any old thing but to limit it specifically to butterfly pins, thereby making it easier to find them online and have a more cohesive grouping. Most of the ones I bought were on eBay but probably at least half of them were gifts from several other people. I’m not collecting anymore but I do like this collection. This is turquoise, coral, marcasite in sterling silver with a gold wash. It is marked “Sterling Germany,” and was dated to the 1930s. I like to imagine Lilli Marlene wearing it in dark, smoky Berlin bars pre-World War II. Of course, Lilli Marlene is a fictional character so…

3. Schreiner 

This is vintage butterfly pin #3. This would probably be dated to the 1950s. My collection is not overly valuable (mostly silver and other metals with a few gemstones and rhinestones); however, this is probably the most valuable one. My husband gave it to me, from an antique mall in town. It is marked “Schreiner New York,” which is still very collectible costume jewelry. Schreiner (in business from 1939-1971) used quality art glass and specialty stones mounted differently than other designers. This one is a “trembler.” The mounting is on the lower wing and the top wing moves when the wearer moves (you can see the springs). One of my old bosses, who considered herself a maven of high society, told me you always wear a butterfly pin on your shoulder as though it could fly away so this one does give that impression.

4. Through 8. Filigree

These filigree beauties date from late 19th to early 20th century. I like to think some are from the 1890s or earlier. All are stamped “800” on the back, meaning they are 80% silver. That particular stamp was only used on jewelry from the European mainland so they have traveled farther than I have. The 4 that look gold are gold-washed and two are enameled (specifically cloisonné). For some reason, I think the one that is not gold-washed is the oldest. I didn’t purchase any of these; they were all gifts. Three or 4 were from my friend, Jere, and the other remaining 1 or 2 were from my cousin, Deborah. Pretty little critters…

9. Norway Holmsen

This butterfly pin is one of the very few I have with a maker’s mark which makes it fun to learn a little about the artist. It was made by Aksel Holmsen. It is stamped “Norway Sterling 925S” with his mark of crossed jeweler’s tools. It is most likely from the 1950s. The wings, body, and eyes are Guilloché enamel. You can see the fine detail in the veins on the wings. I’ve seen Holmsen’s small butterflies (1 3/8″ x 5/8″) in several different colors online, which is how I purchased it. Holmsen was from Sandefjord, Norway and worked for the well-known silversmithing company David-Andersen before starting his own studio.

10. Through 12. Mexico

Frida says all these butterfly pins are from Mexico. Good thing we’re quarantined because of the pandemic plus the heat here in AZ as I just spent hours poring through books on Mexican silver trying to find out more about these pins. I have all those books because I also have a collection of vintage Mexican silver (jewelry and non-jewelry), most of which is identifiable other than these 3 that were already in my butterfly collection before I started with Mexican silver. So I refreshed my memory on Mexican silver but to no avail for these pieces. They’re all marked “Mexico,” they’re all sterling, and the 2 small ones with abalone have maker’s marks on them. However, the marks are really worn and I can’t make them out even with a loupe. Grrrr. So I’m going to say they’re from somewhere between the 1930s and 1950s. Pretty non-specific.

13. Through 17. Lucite

Some people believe butterflies are fairies in disguise. My cousin, Deborah, gave me this quirky fairy during my butterfly collecting period so she is part of my collection. She’s quite striking. In fact, I think most or even all of these pins pictured here may have been from my cousin, too. I figured all 5 were either bakelite, celluloid, or lucite…so I did a simple test on them that I’ll put in the first comment if you have any old plastics you would like to test. Now I think they all must be lucite, developed in 1937 by Dupont, and widely used in costume jewelry in the 1940s and 1950s. None of these have any sort of markings on them so I’ll go with those dates. The upper large butterfly and the lower golden butterfly both have imbedded glitter which would make them “confetti lucite.” The butterfly on the far right is mostly metal but has a little circle of lucite below the eyes. They’re a whimsical bunch.

18. Through 20. Sparklers

I might be part corvid because I’m attracted to shiny, sparkly objects like these. The only one of these 3 pins that is marked is the one with green rhinestones. It was made by Apex Art Novelty Company and they had their heyday in the 1930s. Looks 1930-ish to me. The one on the right seems unusual to me and looks like it could be from that era, as well…but, sadly, I have no clue about it or the other one.

21. Through 23. Ladies of Spain

Two of these pins are from Spain and are marked as such on their backs. The lower left one has no markings but the colors and backing are similar and, really, if I don’t group these pins, I’ll never be done showing them. The one on the right side is also a “trembler.” The wings move when the wearer moves. Unlike a previous trembler I showed, there are no springs, there are just hinges that allow the movement. I honestly have no idea what period these would be from…

24. Through 27. Two Sets of Twins

So…I purchased 2 of these pins, one was from my cousin, and one my mother had from somewhere or other. But I’m not sure which is which. I think I purchased the larger of the jade and coral pins on the left but, other than that, I don’t know. Once again, I wish I had kept records of the descriptions of the ones I bought, at least. Of the jade and coral ones, I’m not certain that they are truly jade and coral. I think the larger one might be but maybe they both are or maybe neither are. Pins that look like these are sold often online and they are always described as “jade and coral” but who knows? Not I. The other 2 look similar to each other but none of these 4 have any markings. I did used to wear both of the jade and coral ones on a very “jungle-looking” blazer I had…made me feel “earthy.”

28. Czechoslovakian Beauty

Either my mother or my cousin gave me this colorful beauty. Czechoslovakia is known for its beautiful rhinestones…Czechoslovakia was the source of several types of costume jewelry and, during the period between the 2 World Wars, quantities of glass beads, faceted and molded glass stones and stamped metalwork were produced and exported. Stamped gilt metal filigree jewelry resulted in an ornate look reminiscent of the Victorian Revival period. I’m going to date this to the 1920s-30s. I also have a beautiful floral pin that belonged to one of my grandmothers from there with enameled foliate and rhinestones. I’ve worn this pin several times. I’m partial to rubies, my birthstone, even when they’re fake.

29. Amethyst and Pill Box

My mother gave me this pin that she purchased at an antique store in northern Indiana/southern Michigan, an area bizarrely (imho) called “Michiana.” Stamped “925,” it is sterling silver, amethyst, and marcasite and has 2 loops on the back so it can also be worn as a pendant. I have no idea of the date (definitely after 1940). Maybe ’50s, I dunno. I think it’s very pretty, though.

The other piece is a Judith Lieber for Neiman Marcus pill box that I bought during my butterfly collecting period for some strange reason. Actually, I know the reason but it’s embarrassing but I’ll confess…I worked for a woman who could easily have been the subject of “The Devil Wears Prada” at the time and she was always heading over to “Neiman” to get her latest Louis Vuitton bag or David Yurman chunk of jewelry. I guess I was wrapped up in $$ very briefly. I actually hate Neiman Marcus, though, and this is the only thing I ever got from there but I got it used online (dated before 1998 when Judith Lieber retired). These are still all over eBay and Etsy for more than I paid, though, so I should sell it and buy something I care about now. There, one of my dirty secrets exposed.

30. Through 32. Metalmarks

Do you ever get bored with some little project you’re doing? I’m getting tired of these butterfly pins but it’s drawing to a close very soon. You’re probably relieved, too, if you’re still looking. So there is a family of butterflies called Metalmarks and these are all marked metals! None of these have any maker’s marks on them but the gold one, in particular, looks very old on the back, solder marks, etc. The copper colored one I purchased because I wanted to round out my collection with something different. I believe it was described as copper and Native American. I don’t think it’s either, really. I think it’s more likely fake Native American made for the tourist trade. None of these thrill me too much other than I like diversity in my collection.

33. And 34. Hints of Black

These 2 butterflies are grouped by color only. They’re pretty, aren’t they? The one on the left with the sparkling green eye must have been a gift as it’s not ringing any bells for me. The one on the right I definitely bought online. It’s a tiny thing but really lovely. The technique that is supposedly used on it is called “jappaning.” This is a heavy black lacquer with gold designs and pictorials that contrast with the black base color. It often imitates Asian art and I think the delicate floral pattern looks Asian. I wore this quite a few times. The little blue head sets it off nicely.

35. Through 37. More Sparkles

The only one of these that is marked is the upper right one. It’s marked 1/20 12KGF, which is a mid-20th century mark, and some other things I can’t read. So it’s gold-filled but the most unique thing about it is that if you pinch the two wings together, it opens these 4 little claw-like things on the back that grip onto what you’re wearing. You would not want to wear anything delicate and clip this pin onto it but it’s okay with a heavy fabric. The one on the upper left has an iridescent stone and one of its little rhinestones is missing. That happened when I wore it once. Iridescent rhinestones were invented in 1956 by Daniel Swarovski’s grandson and Christian Dior so I’m going to date it around then. And the bottom one, I have no clue other than it’s quite pretty with those grayish stones. Maybe it’s around the same time as the others.

I’m done showing you my butterfly pins! I actually have more but they were given to me by people who knew I had a collection and just saw them somewhere not realizing I was looking for older ones. They’re not really vintage other than I’ve had them for 15 years now so one of these days they’ll qualify.

Sizzle and Sparkle

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Last year about this time when it was sizzling hot, I wrote a couple of blog posts on some of my jewelry (amber and turquoise). At the time, I “promised” I would post about some more pieces that I thought were interesting: antique, vintage, handmade, or had a story to tell. I also posted a few months ago about a bracelet I own with a mysterious past (I’ve still never found any answers 😦 ).

So, here are a few more pieces, all in silver. The above is a new acquisition made by Tucson artist, Michelle Spanyard. She also does Tucson map jewelry as well as a lot of other beautiful designs. If you live in Phoenix, Michelle sells her jewelry through Practical Art.

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This is a raw chunk of lapis lazuli set in silver by Janice Stiles, a Phoenix artist. I got this at an art fair a couple of years ago.

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I totally love this deer pendant, made by Navajo artist Jimmy Jensen. I got mine in Sedona but you can buy them online.

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So these 2 pieces above have a story to tell. My grandmother had the ring in her jewelry box and I used to love trying all her jewelry on. I begged and pleaded with her to give me this ring and she finally did although it was too big for me then (this was many, many decades ago). Later on, I wore it in college a lot but then put it away and forgot about it until a few years ago when I rediscovered it. It’s pretty large and sort of dramatic. So…a few years ago, when I was on a major Mexican jewelry kick, and buying stuff off ebay, I came across the bracelet by chance. It’s from Taxco, the Mexican silver capital, from about the 1940s. They look really nice together and you would think they were a set but, actually, the ring is Navajo.

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Shortly thereafter, I found the above earrings on ebay that match well. They are large, larger than the ring, and they are from Taxco, too, from the 1940s-1950s. I generally wear them with the necklace above, Navajo etched silver beads, which I bought locally about 35 years ago so now they’re “vintage,” too.

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The above pieces are all vintage Taxco, the pin from the 1930s. The earrings are trimmed in bronze and the pin has inlays of turquoise or malachite, made by Los Castillo. There is actually one for sale on ebay right now but the price I paid was nowhere near what they are asking (so maybe I made a good investment).

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And this necklace and earrings set are also both from Taxco. The necklace is new, the earrings are old. The necklace, sort of hammered links, is a recent acquisition from the Phoenix Art Museum Gift Shop. I definitely have a weakness for jewelry, but I’ve given up my ebay buying, although I do look occasionally.

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My next jewelry post may be about my antique/vintage butterfly pin collection…

Dueling Brownies

Brownies 3

Brownies 1

Brownies 2

The camera on the left was Tony’s parents’ camera, the one on the right was my parents’.

Brownie Babies

The camera on the left was Tony’s childhood camera; the one on the right, the Bullet, was mine…today is a good day to date myself.

Argus 1

This is the infamous Argus “Brick,” first introduced in 1939 but produced until the ’60s. I got this one at my neighbor’s yard sale years ago. I think it is probably from the ’40s, from what I’ve read on how to date them. Apparently it’s made from Bakelite.

Argus Lens

It came complete with dust to make it more authentic…(so I kept it that way)…

Argus Flash

…and a flash…and a leather case.

CP301

This CP 301 was made in the ’60s by Konica and sold by Montgomery Ward. It has a pretty Seiko lens.

CP301 2

That is my unintentional vintage camera collection. There are also several newer film and digital ones that don’t quite qualify as vintage yet (although I guess any film camera would, technically).

Solid Camera Solid Cat

Solid camera, solid cat.

Do you have some vintage cameras? Any really old ones, maybe 1800s? If you do, I’d like to see a link.

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.

Candace