DELAND, Fla. – It has often been often said that the antiques business is the ultimate recycling activity, but several dealers who set up at events organized by Florida Antique Shows/Puchstein Promotions have taken the idea to the next level. They are recycling the antiques themselves or at least parts of them into new forms and uses that preserve some vestige of the original antique, yet appeal to modern needs and tastes.
Three such dealers were set up at the Jan. 22-24 edition of the Deland Antique Show at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in Deland, Florida.
Bruce and Vickie Pantii of Breezy Palm Trading Company have a thing about plastic. More specifically they have a thing about Bakelite, the early plastic developed by Belgian chemist Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1907. The Bakelite formula was acquired by American Catalin Corporation in 1927 to produce the phenolic resins that are the basis of the durable plastic.
While Bakelite has many commercial and industrial applications, one of the most popular uses was developed in the 1930s when it was adapted to make costume jewelry. Today, the most popular and most expensive of those articles produced prior to World War II are the carved bangle bracelets and figural pins.
Bruce Pantii said that 10 years ago 90 percent of his sales were vintage items and that his customers were requesting Bakelite bangles with polka dots. Few were available, so he decided to make them. Now 90 per cent of his business is custom-made, signed “wearable art” made of pieces of Bakelite. He starts with a plain vintage Bakelite bangle and inserts polka dots made from Bakelite stock, usually 10-inch tubes originally used as stock to make bangles that he has squirreled away over the last twenty years. These new-style bracelets retail from the low hundreds for standard widths up to $500 for the wider ones. To make a more affordable bracelet, five years ago he began casting bangles from a type of acrylic he calls “Vibrulite.” He decorates the bangles with Bakelite dots or bow ties. These sell in the $150 range. Pantii is selling both the medium and the art by recycling old Bakelite stock.
Want to buy a really junky, old, used-up manual typewriter that no longer works? Neither does anyone else. But Roy and Rhonda Barske of Typewriter Jewelry are probably interested. Twelve years ago they started selling antiques and collectibles but couldn’t sell their inventory of used typewriters so they decided to recycle them. How? By using the letter in the keys. They are especially fond of old Coronas because they have the best fonts. They started by removing the Bakelite or celluloid keys with good fonts and incorporating them into custom made sterling jewelry using custom-made molds. They started with bracelets and have extended the line to include necklaces, earrings, pins, rings, cuff links, money clips, badge holders, keyrings and other commissioned items. Pendants and rings range from $25 to $45. Bangles are $35, and full bracelets with multiple typewriter letter keys are $80 and up. If a customer requests a style or item that is out of stock, Roy will make it within 30 minutes out of extra stock carried to shows. One nice source of business for the Barskes is weddings. They custom make pieces for wedding parties and showers at the request of prospective brides and grooms.
John Atkinson of Boston wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth but he is working on it, one spoon at a time. Actually, he used forks, too, but skips the knives because of the hollow handles. He converts old silver-plated or sterling flatware into silver jewelry with magnetic clasps. He couples the interesting design patterns on the handle of forks or spoons into a custom made bracelet with a clasp. He started as a finder of matching silver patterns but ended up with boxes of unused or unmatched silver items. He then realized he could turn a spoon handle pattern into a key ring and his customers would always have a sample of the pattern they were looking for.
From there he expanded into bracelets and rings and will custom make items on request as you wait. He sells silver bracelets for $20 and silver keyrings and rings for $5. He also has a wide variety of patterns from which choose.
Many of Atkinson’s customers want patterns from a certain year. His main complaint is that good stock is getting harder to find. Most patterns from the 1960s were too plain to repurpose as decorative jewelry, and not as much silver is on the open market today. He has excellent silver pattern reference books and can probably match your silver pattern from his inventory and custom design a ring or bracelet. He said that many people use his service to recycle pieces of family silver rather than passing along entire sets.
These innovative dealers and many others exhibit at the Antique Shows of Florida/Puchstein Promotions venues and the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival. For a complete listing of dates and venues, visit www.floridaantiqueshows.com.
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