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Q & A with Duff of Jean Jean Vintage

DSC_7243Jean Jean Vintage is an Etsy shop where you can clearly feel the passion behind each listing--every ring, necklace, bracelet or pair of earrings has an impeccably described paragraph full of details. Knowing that Duff, the woman behind Jean Jean Vintage, has a degree in archaelogoy...it all makes sense!  She started out selling costume jewelry and while her cute baubles sold out quickly, it paved the way to bigger things for the shop.  Recently, Victorian rings and gold bands have been her cup of tea--with a selection that is completely covetable.  

Personally, I purchased a ring from Jean Jean Vintage last year as a Christmas gift for my sister, so I know first hand of her excellent customer service.  My friend Brooke also purchased an incredible garnet double snake ring that we both swoon over.  I am waiting to find my piece of Jean Jean Vintage, and I think you will find yours too!

 

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Everything about antiques and jewelry suits me perfectly, although it took me a while to figure that out. As a kid I was obsessed with rocks (fossil hunting, agate hunting, rock polishing) and in college I was interested in antiquities. I got a degree in archaeology and then realized that there isn’t much work for budding archaeologists in this country! So I started working for small retail business around town doing buying, training, accounting – a little of everything. Pretty soon I wanted my own shop and the only thing I could imagine selling was antique jewelry. I sold vintage costume jewelry to start but now I’m selling mostly fine and antique pieces. When I’m looking at a hallmark through my loupe, restoring an old Art Deco necklace, or researching a design, I totally feel like an archaeologist and a rock-hound kid again.

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If I could travel for the shop I would go to California and Kansas. I love antiquing in those states. But I don’t get around too much, even in my own state, because I have a young son and being a mom doesn’t really jive with poking around antique malls and sitting at auctions. Right now, I really only buy from people that I know – sellers I’ve been working with for the last few years. They know what I like and I trust them. One of my favorite out-of-state sellers knows me so well that she just sends me a shoebox full of stuff a few times a year. Those are good mail days! Acquiring things in such a predictable way (usually by appointment) is super efficient but I really do miss the emotional rush of “the hunt.” I’ll get back to it someday!

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Some of my favorite pieces, personal and for the shop, I purchased from a woman named Diane in Berkeley. My husband and I were out there for sabbatical a couple years ago and her tiny, dusty shop was a few blocks from our place. She was a tough old bird (I think she was 90) and a veteran antiques dealer. She was open one or two days a week and I visited her almost every time she was open, determined to get her to warm to me and teach me a thing or two. Sometimes I bought something, sometimes we just visited. She had a lot of beautiful bakelite and celluloid jewelry, which was sort of a revelation to me. I sold most of it, but I kept one Art Deco bakelite medallion and a bonkers-amazing celluloid feather necklace. Her shop was great. She couldn’t keep up, though, and she closed just a few weeks before we moved back to Michigan. It was pretty poignant to see the last chapter of her business being written.

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Most recently I won four loose, glass intaglio wax seals on eBay. I didn’t have a plan for them, I just wanted them. It was totally an emotional purchase. They were in French and Old English and they had tiny little images to illustrate the captions. They were so special. I ended up having each one made into a custom signet ring and I just sold my last one. It was a really fun project to work on. Those intaglio seals are the stuff dreams are made of, in my opinion. If I ever find a cache of those I’ll need to be tranquilized!

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I had an Early Victorian (1850s) mourning ring that was missing the center panel where there would have once been a little pane of glass covering a piece of hair work. I took it to my jeweler, who is amazing, and asked him to work his magic. He surprised me by using antique ivory, which I never considered but is the perfect choice. The ivory and the coral look so soft – like butter! You can bury me in this one.

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