Archive for February, 2006

Do-It-Yourself Weiss

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Sometimes superglue and a bag of ABs are a blank’s best friends… Here four Weiss brooch wannabes have at-home makeovers. (The question of the hour is: After you see the “before”, will you still love the “after”?)

1) “Signed Weiss” Ladybug Blank

Voila! Ladybug for Sale!

2) “Signed Weiss” Pinwheel Blank

Pinwheel Clone with Stones!

3) “Weiss” Butterfly Blank

What a Deal!

4) “Weiss” Xmas Tree Blank

Ho Ho Ho

Now for a quiz on today’s material: Type “Weiss brooch” into the eBay search bar and scan the 775 listings that come up to see how many Weiss ladybugs, pinwheels, butterflies, and Christmas trees just like the ones above you can find…

Are we having fun yet?

Cookie Cutter Counterfeits 2

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

If the tidal wave of eBay-trafficked “new Weiss” has confused and even permanently contaminated the vintage costume jewelry market, it’s also sloshed an enormous cash flow through the sprawling, tangled, two tiered network of those who’ve been selling the fakes. I like to think of this network as a consortium of Tupperware parties on the Dark Side, with the ethically challenged hostesses drawing their living room drapes against prying eyes while working nonstop to boost their sales levels.

If you take a good, analytical look at this network (as both eBay and law enforcement seem unwilling to do), you learn that things don’t just begin and end with the first tier sellers dumping their bogus goods on eBay newbies and unwary collectors (though such hapless souls certainly do form part of the customer base). Rather, each first tier seller has a core group of loyal, high volume, repeat customers, who build on (and who knows, perhaps match or exceed?) their suppliers’ hundreds of thousands of dollars in gross sales. (And these second tier fake Weiss sellers typically have more than one first tier supplier, which is why I use the adjective “tangled” to describe the associations in this crowd…) Now, I’m not suggesting that the second tier go-getters are always or even usually in deliberate cahoots with those they buy from (though they seem to get awfully chummy after doing some repeat business together), just that their keen noses for opportunity have led them to scoop up batch after batch of fakes for resale, returning as needed to replenish their supplies.

Cookie Cutter Counterfeits 1

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

Almost as much as the gasp-inducing workmanship (all those choice Austrian crystals, meticulously hand-set, with anywhere from dozens to hundreds of tiny metal prongs bent to secure the stones in place–the mere thought of it gives me a case of vicarious eye strain…), what collectors of Weiss and designers like him prize most about their costume “gems” is that they’ve had to hunt a bit to find them. And therein lies the yummy paradox–that something mass-produced (through labor-intensive methods) becomes more unique over time, with the rarest (and often best-known) designs most valuable of all.

On the other hand, finding six or seven hundred eBay listings daily, for months on end, for brand-new, cheaply made, cookie cutter “signed Weiss” brooches fresh from the Rhode Island or Asian factory (crudely cast from a mold and then “set” with bulk-purchased rhinestones and glue at home by enterprising scammers)–well, that’s not yummy at all.

Baubles for Bubbe

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Now, when I talk about “real” Weiss being devalued, I’m not referring primarily to lower market value, although that’s certainly been a consequence of the rampant fakes and one my friends and I gnashed our teeth audibly over. For me, though, the real tragedy is the muddying of our sense of where Weiss fits into the American costume jewelry legacy. I love fingering (and wearing) my sparkly, rainbow-candy vintage brooches, earrings, etc., as much as the next half-crazed flea market/antique show/estate sale addict. But what’s hooked me on a deeper level is knowing that some of the brightest stars in the American costume jewelry firmament were Jewish. In fact, according to Tracy Tolkien in her terrific A Collector’s Guide to Costume Jewelry (not a price guide but an art book focusing on trends and influences), the industry’s growth during the Depression coincided with an influx of refugees from Nazism who happened to be fine jewelers, and whose overqualification for their new jobs contributed much to the aesthetic arms race between the jewelry factories. That may be a historical footnote to most collectors, but to me, it’s part of my American Jewish heritage, and something I feel a little ferocious about preserving.

Welcome to

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Welcome to, where I’ll be sharing rhapsodic meanderings, droll anecdotes, and bits of arcane but fascinating history about the vintage duds, baubles, and paraphernalia that I collect enthusiastically and also recycle for a profit (at my online store, The Peacock’s Eye!)

Chapter one of this blog was to have been a vintage bildungsroman of sorts, starting at the true beginning of things, when my mother’s clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics were objects of desire, study, and a packrat-like mania. That entry must be postponed, however, because I’ve just spent the past 3 months fighting, along with 3 other vintage “jool” buffs, to rescue authentic “Weiss” costume gems from drowning in the flood of cheap, newly-manufactured fakes spilling out of eBay into flea markets, antique malls, and private collections nationwide and abroad.

I was lucky enough to meet my three friends and sister “detectives” online, while trying to sort out the mess around a lot of 60-some-odd vintage rhinestone pieces I had purchased on eBay for holiday resale, and which turned out to contain 5 fake “signed” pieces. The three women all happened to be members of an eBay jewelry trade/collectors’ interest group I’d recently joined, and before too long we found ourselves spending hours a day researching the counterfeit Weiss fiasco, sharing our results with one another by phone and through email, and strategizing about how we could get an indifferent eBay to get the thieves out of its marketplace and keep “real” Weiss jewelry from being permanently devalued.