Mrs. Beadsley’s Jewel Box: Adventures With Animals

Mrs. Beadsley Vintage Jewelry

It’s been a busy summer and I’ve had a short vacation from writing my column. However, I have been extremely “jewelry” busy in the last two months.

Two weeks ago was the 3rd annual Santa Fe Opera costume assistants shopping party at Mrs. Beadsley. It was a lot of fun as usual.

A month ago my hubby and I took a road trip through Colorado. I did some treasure hunting in every small town we passed through. And, if I’m not mistaken, a few Los Alamos ladies have started to spruce up their wardrobes and collections with vintage bling this summer. This has kept the shop very busy.

Let’s talk a little this month about a fun area of design in vintage jewelry: animal jewelry. In general, designs in old jewelry can be traditional, avant garde, modern, pretty, classic, girlish, mannish and downright weird. Styles are always changing and evolving. Old styles seem to come back with a few changes every decade or two. And some styles seem to never go out of style.

Animal jewelry has always been popular, from the Victorian era until now. I have a stick pin in the shop that is topped with a cute little bulldog with ruby red eyes.

In the 20s and 30s art deco and nouveau styles showed up in wolfhounds and greyhounds and Afghans. In the 40s Scotty dogs were popular and poodles show up in 50s jewelry. Beagles and dachshunds show up in the 50s and 60s.

Of course not just dogs, but every sort of critter was a motif for vintage jewelry. Cats show up in jewelry in every era. One of my favorites in the shop is a Siamese cat brooch from the 60s.

Speaking of cats, the big cats have been a perpetual favorite. Lions and tigers and leopards show up constantly in vintage jewelry but particularly in the art deco and nouveau eras and again in the 80s. The big cats of the 80s were big and bigger, as were most things at that time. These four inch and more monsters are generally bright gold and silver-tone and encrusted with lots of rhinestones.

Snakes are another motif that is interesting. Queen Victoria was very fond of snake jewelry.  Prince Albert gave her a ring with snakes that became one of her favorites. I have a dress clip from the 30s in the shop that is a snake. The other snake pieces I have are from the 60s.

Butterflies are a perpetual favorite. The earliest piece in the shop is from the 30s I think. This brooch is extremely art deco in shape with typical jewel-colored rhinestones. There is a full case of butterflies in the shop but very few dragonflies. The majority of the dragonfly brooches are from the 20s and 30s. They are a very art nouveau motif, but not that popular since.

Bird designs have always been popular in jewelry; from brooches to necklaces and pendants. Every sort of bird was made in jewelry it seems. There are flying birds, tropical birds, farm birds and sea birds such as seagulls, pelicans and flamingos. There also are eagles, ostriches and every sort of cage birds.

Owls have always been popular in jewelry due to the fact that they represent knowledge. They show up in Victorian designs as well as more recently. In particular, there are the large owl pendants of the 60s and 70s that are fun to wear. The only kinds of birds that do not show up in jewelry are the “bad birds” such as buzzards and vultures!

Fish are great for jewelry designs and there are goldfish, dolphins and whales. Turtles are also well-represented in vintage jewelry in brooches and pendants. The large animals such as horses, cows, bears, deer, elephants and even hippos show up on brooches and once in a while on pendants.

Some of the more unusual animals found in vintage jewelry design are spiders, flies, moths and worms. I even have a slug brooch at the shop!

Come by the shop to see many of these awesome animal brooches and jewelry. They are fun to collect and fun to wear. I have always loved them and you might too!

Mrs. Beadsley is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Lowenstein can be reached at 505.795.6395. The shop is at 2101 Trinity Dr., Suite G, in Los Alamos.