Vintage Expert | Barbara with TruFaux Jewels
Apr 3, 2015 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
We love introducing you to extraordinary vintage shop owners – people who are just as excited about history as we are, who can offer helpful tips and insights, and who have a unique perspective to share. Today we welcome vintage expert, Barbara Schwartz with TruFaux Jewels. She channels her passion for color, quality, and Art Deco into both her shop and blog. As a steward of vintage and a member of the Vintage Fashion Guild, Barbara studies the historical context that accompanies each piece she adds to her shop.
For example, one of the things we’re obsessed with is how fashion morphs over the years when women take on new roles in society (we’ve blogged about it here and here… truly, the list could go on!). Barbara cares about this dynamic too and considers it from the moment she curates her inventory to the second when a customer decides to add it to her own collection. That level of dedication is pretty cool and we know you’ll love learning more about her inspiration (as well as perusing the goodies in her shop)…
I know I’ve loved jewelry my whole life, especially because my great aunt (with whom I had a very special relationship) always gave me fine jewelry on important occasions. She also bought me costume pieces when I was a child. I think I got interested in vintage because I inherited several family pieces. My great aunt gave me a Victorian brooch with seed pearls and a magnificent gold watch on a long chain that had been her mother’s – the cover has the initials “BS” engraved on it. Although our first and last names were different, we shared the same initials, so I guess the watch was meant to be mine. When I started buying vintage, I bought Victorian and Edwardian pieces.
Keep up to date on all things TruFaux and fab by joining Barbara’s mailing list for announcements of new blog posts, website updates, and other TruFaux Jewels news. Please note that your information will not be shared – everyone’s privacy is taken very seriously.
A few words on inspiration
How did your vintage love affair start and why is Art Deco your favorite era?
As a small child, I was bequeathed a sapphire and diamond Art Deco ring that had belonged to my mother’s younger sister, who died when I was three. My grandmother (who was very important to me and who died when I was 10) gave the ring to my mother to hold for me, and she gave it to me when I was 16. I wore that ring every day for many, many years. (I’ve had the shank replaced twice.) I still wear it when I accessorize with blue tones. I don’t think I really appreciated the style of the ring until I was much older – no one I knew had anything like it. As a younger person, I wanted what other people had. But as I’ve matured, I’ve wanted what no one else has.
Because my husband is an architect, I know I became more interested in design when we got together. We both love everything Art Deco. In fact, we bought a Sheila Metzner photograph of the Chrysler Building when we saw it exhibited because the tower is lit in a way that looks to me like an Art Deco diamond bracelet in the vertical position. (See the second photo on this website.)
I adore your TV series posts. What other modern shows/films do you find inspiring? What’s on your “must watch list?”
I really enjoy period pieces. One of my all-time favourite films is Gosford Park, for many reasons. For one thing, the jewelry is absolutely spectacular. You already know that I’m a Downton Abbey fan, because I’ve written about it twice. I just finished watching seasons one through six of Mad Men on Netflix. Although my collection doesn’t include 1960s pieces, I found myself intrigued by the colours of the decade in terms of the women’s fashions and the interior décor. Of course I looked for the jewelry, too.
I have the box set of The House of Eliott which I want to start watching, as it’s more in line with my period. And years ago PBS did a series called Love for Lydia, which was set in the 1920s. I watched it in the ‘70s when it was first broadcasted, and I saw it again a couple of years ago when I bought the boxed set.
People on Jewelcollect have mentioned another PBS series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which are set in the 1920s. One thing I’ve noticed with period series is that the DVDs often have extras about the costumes and the “making” of the shows. Other favorites include Foyle’s War (1940s) and The Bletchley Circle (1950s).
You’ve focused a couple great posts on Elsa Schiaparelli – why is she one of your favorite designers?
I think I got interested in her when I went to an exhibition of her fashion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2004. I’m from Philadelphia originally, and that museum is one of my favourite’s. I got to see the Schiaparelli exhibition with my favourite aunt, who is quite the fashionista and who has always personified elegance. When I started this business and had to buy inventory, I was drawn to many of Schiaparelli’s pieces – the lava rocks and colour combinations are unrivalled. When I started writing and lecturing, I found many of her fashion and early jewelry pieces on museum websites – the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my favourites. They have a dress by Schiaparelli that has buttons in the shape of grand pianos! There’s so much whimsy in her work.
Who inspires your personal vintage style sense and why?
I don’t think anyone has inspired my personal style. As I mentioned earlier, my aunt has always inspired me to dress well and look elegant (or at least try), but my taste is very different from hers. I think I was a “late bloomer” in terms of finding my personal style. I tend to go with very classic clothing and usually wear three pieces: pants, a top, and a sweater or jacket. I love when all three pieces match. Then I add another colour or colours with my jewelry, shoes and bag. People who know me can’t wait to see what jewelry I’ll be wearing when we get together. In fact, I often pick the jewelry I want to wear first, and then build my outfit around it.
All about TruFaux Jewels
What do you typically carry in your shop?
I have bracelets, earrings, brooches, clips (including double clip/brooches) and necklaces from the 1920s through the 1950s. I also have several vintage purses, but I haven’t yet added them to my website. I have to do more research, as they are not my area of specialty. I’ve focused my efforts on getting all of the jewelry on the website first, and I’m getting there.
How do you approach curating your inventory?
When I was selecting inventory, my main rule was that I had to like the piece, even if it wasn’t necessarily my style. I looked for pieces that are unusual. Shoppers won’t find a huge selection of American makers such as Trifari, not because I don’t like their work, but because other shops/websites specialize in those pieces. I do have a lot of Coro/Corocraft Retro Modern brooches, only because I was drawn to them.
I tend to like European pieces. When I started collecting Art Deco jewelry about 25 years ago, I only bought German pieces made of sterling with marcasites and usually another type of stone. To me, German pieces (with or without marcasites) have a certain “look”, which I still like.
What do you enjoy most about running your shop?
At first I liked looking for inventory – the “thrill of the hunt”. Now that I have enough inventory, I really like to help clients choose the right piece. Just last week a friend who bought Art Deco earrings from me a year or two ago wanted to buy her son’s fiancée a pair of earrings to commemorate their engagement. Debra asked me to meet them with a selection of earrings and some other pieces. The young woman ended up buying an Art Deco crystal chicklet-style bracelet because it was unlike anything she has and because she needs a bracelet to wear when she dresses up. When she hesitated, thinking she wouldn’t wear it often enough to justify the choice, I suggested wearing it to Sunday brunch, and she was instantly convinced.
I also like putting things together. That’s why I started my collections on Polyvore, which feature contemporary fashions with my vintage costume jewelry. I often emphasize neutral, classic clothing which can be made into multiple outfits by changing the accessories. And I like putting together individual pieces of jewelry to wear together – I seem to have a knack for finding things at different times/places that go together remarkably well.
Any items that you see flying off the shelf (so to speak) or trending as of late?
I have found that earrings sell well, followed by necklaces and bracelets. Brooches seem to be generally unpopular, but I think that’s because many women don’t know how versatile they are. I’m planning an informative “how to” blog post to highlight just how easy and fun it is to incorporate brooches into multiple ensembles.
You mentioned that you enjoy the relationship between women’s history and fashion. I do too! What do you want your customers to experience/feel when they buy one of your items?
I’d like them to appreciate the pieces in terms of their uniqueness and the high quality of their design and construction. Remember, these pieces were incredibly well made to still be so wearable decades later. I want the women to feel elegant, special and unique when they wear a TruFaux Jewel, as I’m sure the original owners felt. I want them to channel the look of those days when women dressed up and the right accessories were critical to complete an outfit. Today one can follow trends but do so with a twist of individuality. I think jewelry is a statement of one’s personal style in the same way ties are for men.
Barbara’s top advice
Any advice for our readers as they shop online for vintage jewelry?
People need to know what they’re looking at. By that I mean that just because a seller says a particular piece is “X” by so-and-so and was made in year “Y” doesn’t mean that information is correct. Many sellers on eBay, for example, are very mis-informed because a) they aren’t vintage costume jewelry collectors themselves, b) they’ve relied on incorrect information on the Internet (so much is so wrong), and/or c) they intend to deceive. If a buyer isn’t sure, she or he shouldn’t buy from someone whose reputation is unknown.
What are some staples or “must haves” you would recommend for a vintage lover’s closet?
For anyone who wears earrings (whether her ears are pierced or not), I think earrings are a real jewelry wardrobe staple, offering so many colour choices. The decision to wear a bracelet, necklace, or brooch is a matter of personal taste. The beginning collector may enjoy buying clear crystal pieces because they go with everything.
Check out Barbara’s tv interview for more great vintage styling tips.
We’ve talked about color theory and fashion in previous posts, what are your thoughts?
Every woman has a palette that is most flattering to her complexion and hair colour. I know that I look best in deep blue-based colours, such as burgundy, emerald green, navy and other blues, blue-based reds, etc., because I have fair skin and brown hair. Pale colours give me a “washed out” appearance, and yellow-based colours only emphasize the faint yellow tint to my skin. For some reason, I can wear citrine, peach/pale pink and carnelian (which is very orange) jewelry, including earrings. But I wear these shades of jewelry on clothing in colours that flatter me, and it all works! So that’s why I write about and illustrate wearing accessories in trendy colours that one might not wear in clothing.
Cause A Frockus would like to thank Barbara with TruFaux Jewels for her inspiration and advice!
For our readers: what’s your favorite vintage era and why?