Researching Vintage Stuff

Next to finding and buying vintage stuff, researching it comes up high on my fun-o-meter. Honestly! I love finding out more about the things I buy. Sometimes I’m just looking for sold and current prices. Other times I need help with maker’s marks, material, age or even use! I figure the more information I have about a piece, the better it is for me and potential buyers.

Mid-Century Carved Bar Pins…Made Of??

I spotted an eBay listing for 6 small, carved pins. There was no mention of what the pins were made of. I didn’t bother asking the seller because I suspected he didn’t know or he would have included the information. But IMHO they looked like Bakelite! After a bit of back-and-forth negotiation on his “make best offer,” we settled on a price, I paid and they arrived last week.

Alas, after testing them with Simichrome polish (the pink polish turns yellow on Bakelite), I discovered they are not Bakelite. Drat!


I examined them with my jeweler’s loupe and could see subtle, uneven graining, though not ivory cross hatching…which is a good thing as there is a ban on selling ivory.

One last test…I took a red hot pin and tried to poke it in the back of one. It didn’t go in. So not celluloid or other plastic. Ah, these are carved bone. Mystery solved.

Mid-Century Bone Bar Pin from Japan

Little Danish Fish Plate…Who Made This?

I found this little plate at a rummage sale this past autumn and finally got around to researching it. The back is marked Denmark and has a stylized maker’s mark. I googled “Danish pottery marks” and quickly found that I had a Herman A. Kahler piece. Cool! 

Strand of Pearls…Real or Faux?

I’ve seen a lot of faux pearls in my day, but I wasn’t sure about this strand. They had a look and feel of quality and came in a box from an established jewelry store, Grebitus & Sons in Sacramento.

First I looked at them under my jeweler’s loupe. Hmmm. They looked perfect. Too perfect. I wasn’t seeing any natural imperfections or variations. They also didn’t feel gritty against my teeth.

24″ Strand Faux Pearl Necklace

But I still wasn’t sure. There were six spare pearls in the box. (Would a real pearl necklace come with six spares?) I decided to sacrifice one to the “scrape test.” The knife revealed a glass bead. Okay, so not real, but still a classy strand.

Still a Few Mysteries

Sometimes though, despite hours of research, things remain a mystery. Take this short (3.6” tall) bit of brass that weighs a whopping 4 pounds! We are guessing that it is a votive candleholder as it has a not-too-deep well that would fit a candle. But I haven’t found anything similar online. Is it really a candleholder or part of a ship’s fittings or??

Well, off to research (and list) more stuff. 🙂

Hope your new year has started off with lots of great finds and your own fun research!


  1. I have had a lot of difficulty with brass lately too (an old clock)! Google can be fantastic for most things, but for some really old or unique makers marks I feel like it may be worth it to try and research in a book. Best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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