Photographs by Davies + Starr; Courtesy of Banana Republic (necklace)
Trolling for Vintage
DIGGING OUT THE GOOD STUFF
If you’d rather rummage through boxes at a thrift store than buy new, there are ways to make sure your piece won’t fall apart in a week. Eva Weiss, co-owner of vintage boutique Beauty Crisis, explains.
Heft says a lot. Generally, the older the piece, the heavier it will be. Twenties-era pieces were made of more substantial “pot metals” like brass and steel. After World War II, designers started to use aluminum and plastics.
Look for a name on the back of the settings. Signed pieces from well-known designers like Miriam Haskell, Hattie Carnegie, and Sarah Coventry will be better assembled than no-names. Check the back of the clasps or the balls of the rhinestones.
Learn your clasps. Many older pieces used simple hooklike C-clasps, but those came undone easily and fell out of use. Around the sixties, clasps started to get sturdier, more like the lobster-claw forms common today.
Grime should not be a deterrent. Take it to a watch cleaner—typically cheaper than jewelry specialists. You can also clean it at home with light steel wool. Buff off any surface tarnish (gently; these metals are often patinaed), or swab it with a Q-tip moistened with rubbing alcohol.
Prime Hunting Ground
Stores and fleas with excellent track records.
157 E. 23rd St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-529-5955
Housing Works is reliable for big designer pieces from the seventies and eighties. Saturdays are best, since the store puts out its finest stuff after close on Friday to attract weekend browsers.
St. Nicholas of Tolentine
80-22 Parsons Blvd., nr. Union Pkwy., Jamaica; 718-591-1815
If you can’t make it out to this parish flea market by two o’clock on the weekends, don’t bother. Crowds flock here for unusual finds like nautical- or animal-inspired bracelets or necklaces from the twenties through the eighties.
Church of the Resurrection
85-09 118th St., nr. Lefferts Blvd., Kew Gardens; 718-847-2649
Tables and tables of earrings, necklaces, and rings for as little as 50 cents. This is a great resource for budget gifts. The church affiliation yields an unusually high selection of crosses. The next sale is October 18 and 19.
Italian Charities of America
83-20 Queens Blvd., nr. Van Loon St., Elmhurst; 718-478-3100
Hit and miss: Sometimes there’s a jewelry-store owner unloading a trove; other times, it’s a jumble of junk. There’s a good chance you’ll find a few hefty necklaces from the twenties and thirties. Next flea market: September 27.