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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hair Receivers, Secret Beauty Aids of the Past

Hair Receivers, Secret Beauty Aids of the Past

Although rare today, the hair receiver was a common fixture on the dressing tables of women from Victorian times to the early decades of the 20th century.
 Its purpose was to save hair taken from the hairbrush and comb, which were used vigorously on a daily basis. The hair could then be stuffed into pincushions or pillows.
Since hair was not washed as often as it is today, oils were frequently used to add scent and shine to hair. The residual oil made the hair an ideal stuffing for pincushions because it lubricated the pins, making it easier for them to pierce material. Small pillows could be stuffed with hair, which was less prickly than pinfeathers.
Hair receivers made the creation of ratts possible. A ratt (sometimes spelled rat) is a small ball of hair that was inserted into a hairstyle to add volume and fullness. The ratt was made by stuffing a sheer hairnet until it was about the size of a potato and then sewing it shut.

The Victorians were extremely concerned with their appearances, and a woman's hair was considered her crowning glory. In 1894, an article in The Delineator magazine stated, "The often-admired 'crowning glory' may be rendered almost a disfigurement if disposed unbecomingly, while a tasteful and careful dressing of the tresses, even though they are not very beautiful, will lend a decided charm to a plain face."

The use of wigs was common at this time, for women and men (judges, magistrates, and even soldiers wore wigs into battle). However, these were usually made from someone else's hair. A woman could use a ratt to create a beautiful hairstyle and truthfully answer that this was her own hair.
The widespread use of "extra hair" is evidenced by this instruction from Godey's Lady's Book: "When a lady is in danger of drowning, raise her by the dress and not by the hair, which oftentimes remains in the grasp."
A hair receiver can be identified by a finger-wide hole in the lid, through which hair is poked. They can be round or square in shape and some are footed. Made of a variety of materials, including glass and in later time’s celluloid, some of the prettiest examples are of porcelain. RS Prussia manufactured beautiful hair receivers, and one with delicate floral prints sold recently on eBay for $152. However, you will usually see the finer antique hair receivers hovering in the $100 range, while most are well below that amount.           

  • Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Telling The Difference Between Bakelite, Ivory and Plastic

    Between 1907 and 1909, Dr. Leo H. Baekeland was conducting experiments to create a varnish.  He was using phenol and formaldehyde, generally with wood flour filler, and put the mixture under heat and pressure.  He accidentally discovered bakelite.  It was the first plastic made from synthetic polymers.
    Bakelite's properties were its hardness, durability, nonconductiveness, and heat resistance.  Once it was molded and cast, it could not be melted.  It was often called "The Material of a Thousand Uses."  A little known fact about bakelite is that in 1942, it was considered by the US Mint to make pennies due to copper's use during World War II.  Several designs were even made, but the bakelite penny stepped aside for the Steel penny of 1943.  The mint returned to recycled copper shell casings for the 1944 and 1945 pennies.
    As costume jewelry, bakelite had its biggest boom in the 1930's during the Great Depression.  It was used to imitate tortoiseshell, coral, amber, ivory and other costly materials.  It was attractive to all levels of incomes, including the very rich.  Some designer bakelite pieces were made to sell to fine department stores in the $10 price range.  For the Great Depression, this was a phenomenal price for a piece of jewelry.  Those pieces were generally the brightest, most massive, and most highly carved items.  Due to their scarceness, they are the pieces that command the highest prices today.
    There are many testing methods for bakelite, but not all are recommended.  Most recognized tests are:
      • Friction
      • Hot Water
      • Scrubbing Bubbles
      • Hot Pin
      • 409
      • Lemon Juice
      • Simichrome Polish

    Friction Test
    The friction test is most commonly used when you are at a flea market, yard sale, or antiques store and do not have access to other methods.  You simply rub the piece until your thumb feels hot, and sniff.  Bakelite gives off a very recognizable chemical smell due to the formaldehyde.  In other words, it really stinks.  Do NOT get confused with the smell of attic, or dirt.  The only way I can personally describe it is you feel a "headrush" right between your eyes from the chemicals.
    This test does not always work, of course.  It greatly depends on how well the piece was kept and stored.  Unfortunately, sometimes this is the only test you have the option of performing.

    Hot Water
    Similar to the friction test, in that you are trying to find the tell-tale smell of formaldehyde.  You hold a part of the item under very warm water for about 10-15 seconds.  Then smell it!  If the initial response is to grimace, and pull it away from your nose immediately, it is bakelite!
    This is one of the most successful tests for Bakelite, but again, it is not fool-proof.  If the piece was newly polished, carved, or is highly dirty, you may get a false-negative.  Also, if a non-bakelite piece has been recently dyed or shellacked, you may get a false positive.  Also, beware of getting findings wet, as glue or other adornments could become weak.

    Scrubbing Bubbles
    Dow Bathroom Cleaner was often suggested for testing for Bakelite.  When a portion of the piece was rubbed with Scrubbing Bubbles, you would get a tell-tale yellow streak, regardless of the color of bakelite.  However, this method is highly discouraged, as it has harsh chemicals that strips finish, and can make a nice shiny surface dull and lacking luster.

    Hot Pin
    This is another test that has been strongly discouraged!  The purpose of a hot-pin test was to take a pin that's tip has become red from a flame, and touch the tip to the piece.  The characteristic of bakelite makes it not melt.  However, there would be a dark, unsightly mark on where the piece was tested.  This greatly decreased the value of the piece.
    This test was also preferred to test pieces of bakelite that appeared to be amber.  Amber gives off a faint pine-scent when touched with a hot pin.
    Further difficulties of this test are that thermoset plastics also do not melt, which could confuse someone into thinking the item was bakelite!  Furthermore, if the piece of jewelry was celluloid, not only does this melt, it combusts easily!  You could easily burn yourself with dripping, flaming plastic that will not easily come off your skin or clothing!  People had been hurt and wound up with disfiguring scars.

    409 has become one of the more widely acceptable tests.  It has replaced the scrubbing bubbles testing method.  If you soak a cotton swab in 409, and rub the piece, you will get the tell-tale yellow mark that ranges from pale canary yellow to more orange/yellow.
    The downfall to 409, is a lot of people will confuse DIRT, or dirty pale brown, for yellow and get a false-positive.  409 does not strip the finish of the piece, but still always test on the back.  Also, clean the area with mild dish liquid or hand soap and warm water.  Dry with soft cloth.

    Lemon Juice
    Lemon Juice will not test for bakelite, so to speak.  However, bakelite was often made to look like coral.  A test to tell if a "coral" piece is plastic or real (and then to resume other tests) is to drop a small bit of lemon juice on it.  If it becomes effervescent, it is *real* coral.  If it does not bubble, resume other testing methods.

    Simichrome Polish
    Simichrome Polish is generally said to be the "expensive" method of testing for bakelite.  It is a pale tannish pink paste and is highly valued for its polishing qualities!  Not only is it great for polishing metals, it restores finish to bakelite and other plastics!  You can simply polish the piece, and check the soft cloth.  If it has the yellow, it is bakelite!  Be careful of the "dirt" false-positive, that is also familiar to the 409 test.  If it's not bakelite, you still have improved the appearance and possibly value of the piece!

    Some real ivory has grain that is very difficult to see with the unassisted eye, a 15-20x loupe is a tremendous help - celluloid/Bakelite does not tend to get check-cracks that are long, normally they'll be short (0.150" or less) and erratic whereas bone & ivory .  Depending on the storage/use conditions Bakelite/celluloid may not produce a readily detectable "old Lionel xfmr smell" (excellent analogy Nate) with the finger-rub test.  You can also do the "feel" test, at room temperature, ivory will feel cool to the touch and plastic will feet warm.

    Don't be quick to toss something that is plastic because depending on the item and sometimes the specific type of plastic, it may actually be worth more than it was real ivory.

    Here's some info from a website:
    How do I tell if something is ivory, bone or an ivory substitute (plastic or resin)?

    Ivory is actually the natural tooth of an animal. Teeth continue to grow throughout an animal's lifetime and as a result, they have a noticeable structure and "growth lines" (called Schreger lines in elephant ivory). Look at the piece carefully under a magnifying glass. Under a 10x magnifier, elephant and mammoth ivory will have visible striations or grain that often show up as diamond or "V" shapes or cross-hatching on the surface or edges of polished ivory. Bone lacks such "V" shaped striations. Under magnification bone usually shows minuscule circular or oval shaped dots on cut surfaces. These dots are the tiny vessels that once supplied the living bone. Also, bone exhibits grain-like parallel striations and usually has dark flecks of dirt particles caught in the pores of cut bone -- all not present in ivory. Resins or plastics have a uniform surface, usually with no striations or diamond or "V" patterns, however some manufacturers are now introducing faux ivory with an attempt to reproduce some of these features.

    When looking at a piece, check the bottom or sides for the diamond or cross-hatch pattern typical of real ivory. Then check again for a slight wood-grain pattern, this is also typical of real ivory. Next, check the feel. Real ivory should have a cool-to-the-touch feeling. Resins or plastics may duplicate one or some of these features, but none duplicates them all.

    Also, color often varies slightly (I emphasize slightly) throughout natural ivory (more variable in mammoth) from a creamy white to a creamy yellow-tan or a creamy, light yellow-brown, whereas bone and plastics are either consistent in color throughout, or their color variations may be extreme, especially in stained or colorized resins and plastics.

    The next test involves using an inexpensive blacklight which you can find at most department or home improvement stores. Shine the blacklight on the piece. Ivory develops a beautiful natural patina with age which shows up as a yellow-brown overall color under normal lighting conditions. Under ultraviolet light, where the original ivory surface shows through the patina, the ivory will show up a bright white. When ultraviolet light is shined on resin or plastic ivory substitutes, the ultraviolet light is absorbed and they exhibit a dull appearance. (The light emitted by many long wave ultraviolet radiation lamps is hazardous to the eyes. NEVER look directly at a UV light.)

    You can also take a Q-tip, dip it in alcohol and rub the piece in an inconspicuous area. If the patina comes off and colors the Q-tip, chances are good it's paint or varnish or some other substance that was applied to give the impression of age.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Choosing Your Selling Site


         When we speak of selling on line, the first place that comes to mind is Ebay.  Since Ebay is the largest site it comes with the highest traffic count.  .
          Ebay is not a free listing site, the listing fees vary by the starting bid you will accept.  Do not be fooled by the 50 free listings per month they are not entirely free. Ebay will take Final Value Fees for non store holders up to 11% in early July.. also if you list more than 50 items then when all is said and done they will end up taking at least 20%

         Ebay has very strict listing guidelines, be sure to read the guides posted in the answer center about how to use Ebay.
         Accepting payments on Ebay is limited  currently to PayPal only and to the soon to be implemented shopping cart and no other form of payment will be allowed, therefore a PayPal account is required to sell on Ebay.

         Pricing your item correctly is a real necessity.  Do search the current listings to see what the average asking price is for a similar item.  Next search the closed listings to see what similar items have sold for, this information is on the left side of the current auction listings.  List your item at auction for the minimum price you are willing to take.
         Describe your item fully and truthfully.  If your item is used clothing, describe by stating the actual size, color and brand. If you clothing item shows some wear show this in a picture added to your listing. Be sure to add pictures to your listing, people do not really want to buy what they cannot see. 
       Let the buyer know how you plan on shipping your item and the cost if you are not offering free shipping.
         State your return policy completely.  Bear in mind that what you say may or may not matter if the buyer wants to return the item for a refund, but if the description is stated clearly, in the case of dispute Ebay may decide you are in the right. 
         Ebay as the biggest selling site has very strict policies and if you do not follow them, your listing may be removed, so do your research before listing on any auction site. 


        eBid and Ecrater switch between #2 and #3 on Power Sellers Unite Site however Ecrater is NOT an auction site and this section is devoted to auction sites I will do th e non-auction sites on the next blog. 
        eBid is about half the size of Ebay, but due to the high fees on Ebay is growing rapidly.  So if you are missing your favorite seller from Ebay check eBid chances are you will find them there.  eBid was started as an UK auction site so there are a lot of people from other countries listing on the site and in the forums which is a pleasure to me.
    eBid does charge a Final Value Fee of 2% is you are a lifetime seller or if you want to have gallery pictures there is a small monthly fee.  You can see the seller options and fees at

         eBid, like all auction sites has policies to follow.  All online selling sites depend on search engines for exposure.  If your auction site does not meet Google, Yahoo or other search engines expectations, your site will get no exposure, therefore, policies are needed.

         DO NOT list fake or replicated items.  Not even if you state that your item is a replica.  According to ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement it is illegal to sell replicas, so do not do it.
         The best way to sell on any internet site is to READ, READ and READ again.  Check the rules of the site, the what you can and cannot do subjects are right there.
         Each site has their own way of setting up the listing, don't get frustrated.  Relax and read the listing form again, fill it out completely.  If you still have problems go to the forums you will find all kinds of help there.  The forum posters on eBid are extremely knowledgeable and polite, if they do not know the answer to your question they can give you a link to where you might find the answer.   Watch what you say on any forum as Google not only picks up your listings it picks up forum comments.
         The sales on eBid are slower at the moment than Ebay so be prepared to wait for the sales to start.  You do have to market yourself on eBid as they do not advertise as much as Ebay, come to think of it no other internet auction site advertises as much either.  I market my site through mass emails, blogging, joining Facebook and Twitter.  Use the forums to advertise as well there is a plug your auction thread and people do check it out.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    What & Why Do I Sell On Line


    Why & What Do I Sell On Line?

    Why do I sell on line?

    Have you ever tried to pay the rent, electricity, water etc on Social Security?  Just simply does not work well at all.  About 5 years ago, I went to Ebay to see if they had an item I had been looking for and of course they did.  I checked Ebay out and decided I could do that, so I bought several items to build up my feedback score and then I sold a couple of items I had around the house just to see if I could get the hang of it.  I bought the guides to listing on Ebay and failed to read them, needless to say my first couple attempts selling on Ebay also failed.

    I finally got the Ebay listing facts down as to what I could and could not say in the listing and things started working for me.  I learned what worked well for me and I have stuck with it.

    I guess I now consider myself a small business owner (very small)  I do sell costume jewelry and watches on several different sites.  You can check my stores out at the following locations

    Why do I sell costume jewelry?  Doesn't everyone love the rich sparkle and fire of a diamond ring?  I know I do!  But if you’re like me, your budget won’t stretch to accommodate very many diamond rings.  What to do?  Buy CZ ring that’s what! 

    Cubic zirconia is a man-made stone created in a lab setting out of zirconium dioxide, a natural mineral found in abundance.  The manufacturing process is done under strict guidelines and so the stones will never have any of the natural inclusions that diamonds have. 

    A cubic zirconia ring will not make you cry if you lose it, you just buy another to replace it.