Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thrifted Jewelry

Jewelry is one of my favorite things to buy at estate sales. Preferring to wear artful, original, handcrafted jewelry, it is basically my only option as far as affordability goes. I would love to buy new handcrafted artesian jewelry like this, this, or this,  because there are some amazing amazing artists making incredible pieces, but because the materials artisans use  often aren’t cheap plastic crap, and their skills and time are valuable, their products are typically way out of my financial league. And don’t get me wrong their prices are very reasonable, especially compared to similar department store or chain jewelry stores, but those not quite as regrettable so are also way out of my range.

Although I do give in to a hip pair of earrings or two from Express every now and then,  I try to limit my cheep store bought jewelry purchases. I would rather save that money for one cool piece from a local artist, and fill in my extemporaneous jewelry collection with thrifted pieces.  Here are a few I’ve found over the past few months.

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These earrings are my cheapest pairs at 5, 5, and 2 dollars from left to right. The first two were purchased at an estate sale of an eccentric women who had over 500 pairs of real gold and silver earrings in her modest house.  Both are real silver and the middle pair also contain real turquoise. The studs are little flowers pressed in to resin from Peru. Purchased at a yard sale from a wonderful new age women who insisted they were my destiny. Who am I to argue, especially for 2 dollars.

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My favorite necklaces have also been thrifted. The dark wooden beads are my favorite, followed closely by the grayish one made of some kind of seed. These necklaces all were thrifted for either 1 or 2 dollars.  Even Forever 21 can’t beat that. With thrifted jewelry I get quality unique pieces at unbeatable prices.

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This is real ivory carving from the 1920’s. It was purchased for 18 dollars at an estate sale this weekend. You can tell it is real up close by the variations and striations in its color   Real ivory is of course taboo, and for very good reason. I debated on weather or not to purchase it; the gentleman hosting the sale told me, to throw it away, and not get all of the use we can out of this piece would be disrespectful to the life lost. It convinced me to buy it, but I don’t know if he just helped me with talking myself into something beautiful.

On the car ride home, I remembered the Apron Thrift Girl dealt with the same dilemma on this post. According to her post, eBay has banned the sale of ivory, which may be why I had trouble finding examples of this necklace to gage an estimated worth. I did find a plastic version on eBay listed at 45 dollars, so I can imagine this could go for up to 100 or more, but really have no idea.

Because it is so old, I don’t feel quite as guilty. For 18 dollars I just couldn’t pass up the stunning flower. There were 4 or 5 equally beautiful ivory roses priced from 20-30 dollars, but a tinge of guilt made me resist purchasing all of the items. I won’t be re-selling this piece, so I don’t feel the guilt of making a profit,off of a darling elephants tusk, but if I had bought them all I can’t say I wouldn’t have thought about re-selling them at 100 or more a piece, and then a stronger guilt may have set in.

Exploitation of people, animals, and the environment happens throughout the globe, and on many ends of the consumer spectrum unrealized by most of us. There are many people much better than I researching what they buy. I do struggle though with what is right and wrong, and how I can economically and ethically make the best and most practical choices. If the necklace weren’t almost 100 years old, and also weren’t absolutely stunning, I may feel differently, but I feel good that realistically very little profit was made from its re-sale, as it was 1/2 off on the last day of the sale, and I will feel honored by and conscious of the animal when I wear it.

Ethically I try to stay away from diamonds, mostly buy local, don’t shop at Wal-Mart, eat organic food when possible, mostly plants,  try to eat only humane meats(although my vegetarian friends might argue that is an oxy moron), buy and use eco friendly cleaning products, recycle and compost, car pool and drive a small car, but realistically I realize despite these modest efforts I am still extremely unethical in a lot of ways in my consumption, and am most defiantly not perfect in these efforts either.

Striving to continuously to do and be better is always on my mind, but usually I come to the conclusion I will never be perfect in all regards. Personally, I believe re-use to be one of the best and easiest ways to be a more ethical consumer.

However, I can do lots more, and am not sure if buying this ivory necklace is ultimately worse or better than some of my other choices. We all make hundreds if not thousands each day, without studying or fully realizing many of the implications of our purchasing power from where we do our banking to what kind of coffee we buy. It is practically impossible to accurately gage the outcomes of our choices …..but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. But it’s a struggle.

What do you all think? What habits have you established due to your own internal ethics? What do you fudge on, and where also do you draw the line in your own lives? Do you ever feel guilted by other people to change your ways, or do you feel guilted most by your internal guide?


  1. Kelsey, thank you for writing this! My understanding is that the "inner guide" that guilts you is really the critical mind, using some form of ethics or morality to beat up the part of you that enjoys the ivory piece. The real inner voice has no interest in criticizing, has no hidden agenda and is truly compassionate - unlike the critical mind. So, the critical mind seeks a perfect, ecologically-correct decision-maker! And it beats you up when you don't make what it considers to be the "right" choice. And even if you make the right choice, it is ready to pounce on your next decision!
    This is like trying to get to the horizon. No matter how many steps you take, you never get there. So the walk will be very frustrating...and never ending in its anxiety, especially when the critical mind tells you that you MUST reach it!
    The mystics talk about "choiceless awareness," where there are no ethics and no morality as such. The next moment is decided by THIS moment, without going to a schizophrenic mind that insists on making a dichotomy out of every decision. For the mystic, there is no mind to make that a problem, so the next step is just...the next step!
    The problem for you is not that you are somehow wrong...or could be your decisions about the ecology, the animals, human beings, etc. The problem is in the nature of the critical mind itself and how it makes life miserable.
    So the work is learning to identify the critical mind at work, and challenge what it has to say, instead of accepting that somehow YOU are the problem!

  2. Hi there, I just found your blog (I thought through thrift share Monday, but now can't find the link) and thought I would say hello. I also blog on my thrifty finds, although sadly we don't really have yard sales or estate sales over here in the UK. Like you, I love jewellery, and have lots of pieces I've picked up here and there.

    The ivory rose is beautiful, but I understand why you're torn over it. I think the problem with vintage ivory, or furs for that matter, is that even though the deed is done, and the animal is long dead, the wearing of it still promotes the idea that ivory or fur is desirable and glamorous, thus fuelling demand. Mind you, I've heard that said of fake fur, and I'm not sure I subscribe to that theory. Fake is fake is fine, as far as I'm concerned. So, I probably wouldn't buy ivory, but if I inherited any I wouldn't dispose of it.

    Despite not wearing real fur, I do wear leather, and eat meat. Does that make me hypocritical? I don't know. I suppose I figure that leather is a by product of an animal I eat anyway.( I should also admit that when I stayed with a friend in Russia, I was forced by her grandmother to wear a fur coat. I wasn't thrilled about it, but it would have offended my hostess to have refused). So many ethical problems - we can only do our best!

    I will follow your blog. Perhaps you'd like to come and visit mine?