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Painted Porcelain Jewelry and Buttons

A Book on a Fad Dating Back to the Late 1800s

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Painted Porcelain Jewelry and Buttons

Painted Jewelry and Buttons

- Pamela Wiggins
Way back in the late 1800s through about 1915, porcelain painting was a great fad for ladies throughout the nation. Thousands of American women purchased inexpensive materials and turned them into unique works of art, including jewelry and buttons.

But as with most fads of yesteryear collected today, the skill of the maker and subject matter has a lot to do with how desirable the piece will be on the secondary market.

A Collector Books title by Dorothy Kamm, who penned many articles on the topic for various specialty magazines, addresses the collectible nature of these treasures and depicts many lovely examples.

Although the type of jewelry shown in Painted Porcelain Jewelry and Buttons isn't currently considered rare or extremely high priced in most cases, it does remain attractive and makes a beautiful, affordably priced collection.

One reason jewelry of this nature is still plentiful may be the plain oval and round shapes and rather generic floral painting that oftentimes covers them. They don't have a really distinctive Victorian look, with the exception of pieces sporting ornate gold work along the outer edges or an occasional portrait piece featuring an Art Nouveau styled beauty. Those portrait pieces are generally priced higher than the floral pieces when in good condition.

Some of the shapes of this jewelry are very typical of the turn of the 20th century, however. Small horseshoes and half moon pins were produced in many different materials, including these pieces fashioned of porcelain and delicately painted. Late Victorian and Edwardian women generally wore these little gems at the throat on high collared dresses or blouses.

Scenic Porcelain Brooch - ca. Early 1900s

- Pamela Wiggins
But as with many other collectibles, one small piece here and there doesn't get much notice. It isn't until these items are grouped into an attractive display that folks take another look and that's where a book like Kamm's really makes a statement.

Leafing through this reference book, which includes fairly accurate pricing on most pieces, some hard to find examples are shown among the fairly common pieces. These include scenic brooches, which are truly miniature works of art. Of course, the portrait pieces can also be very detailed and desirable.

Collectors of this type of jewelry also know an extension of the portrait brooch as the “flapper” pin.

Hand painted porcelain flapper pins feature lovely women with a distinctive 1930s look including short hair, more revealing clothing and a bit more make-up than Victorian portraits. Flapper examples are among the newest jewelry in this category, but are very desirable.

In addition to tiny pins and larger brooches, Kamm features other related painted porcelain pieces to compliment a jewelry collection. Among these items are cuff links, stickpins, pendants, buttons and hatpins.

Hatpins featuring hand painted porcelain tops can be some of the priciest items among this type of collection. It's hard to find one for under $100 now days.

Even buttons can cost a pretty penny, in some cases as much as a brooch. But if you run across a set of buttons with a matching pin or set of cuff links at a bargain price, snatch them up. Most of these list in Kamm's book for more than $300 per set.

Another thing to look for is artist signed pieces. These are usually just initialed somewhere on the front. Collectors prize signed pieces, especially if the work is by an exceptionally skilled painter.

Some negative things to check pieces for would be chipping, excessive gold wear and poor quality in the execution of the painting on the piece. All these can bring down values quite a bit.

All this information and more is included in this interesting guide. If you've picked up a few pieces of porcelain jewelry here and there or just want to learn more about it, take a closer look at this book available on Amazon.com (although it's now out of print).

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