Simple materials - great designers ... Auguste Bonaz

Maison Bonaz was started around 1910 by César Bonaz, who founded his firm in Oyonnax, located in the east of France. At that time, they primarily created jewelry to be worn in the hair made of cut and carved horn. Extravagant hair combs were an important fashion accessory, and remained so through the 1920's.

Auguste joined his father's firm, and pioneered in working with newly developed synthetic materials such as Galalith - derived from casein - a protein found in milk, and also Bakelite, but Galalith was his preferred material. Auguste unfortunately died in 1922, and his widow, Marguerite Marie Bailly continued the firm, and made the name of Auguste Bonaz famous.


While the firm produced many different kinds of jewelry, much of it ornamented with pearls, flowers and other embellishments, the most important and interesting of their jewelry are the highly original pieces, unlike anything seen before, which owed nothing to historical jewelry design.

The best pieces by Bonaz strongly reflected the influence of Cubism, the strong color combinations influenced by the Ballets Russes, and the polished surfaces, derived from the new fascination with machines, all associated with Art Deco design.


Galalith could be given almost any color, from solid red, blacks, greens, blues and cream and white to material that resembled jade or lapis. It could be cut and polished to a high gloss. These properties were brilliantly exploited to create striking necklaces and bracelets composed of cut and polished elements strung on elastic so as to create pure, continuous surfaces of strong color, with a contrasting geometric element in the center.  The color combinations are exciting, as is the interplay of geometric forms.


With the absence of surface ornamentation, it was important that the pieces have perfect proportions, and part of the genius of the Bonaz pieces is that they are so perfectly designed for maximum impact.

Despite their jewelry being made of non-precious materials, they exhibited at the 1925 exhibition Arts Décoratifs et Industriels on Paris, the exhibition that made Art Deco famous.

Maison Bonaz produced many other articles of jewelry as well, such as bracelets, clips, and hat and hair ornaments, which were retailed in shops, perfumers and major department stores in France. The striking originality of design and materials made these pieces very desirable in the 1970's, when Art Deco was recognized as one of the most important and influential design movements of the 20 century. 

Necklaces and bracelets by Bonaz were purchased, often in quantity (when it was available), by art collectors and dealers, among the Ilyana Sonnabend and Andy Warhol.
Today, these pieces have become almost impossible to find, but continue to attract attention for their revolutionary design.  

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Simple materials - great designers ... Renoir & Matisse

Among collectors of costume jewelry, copper is usually associated with Jerry Fels, who founded Renoir of California in 1946 and Matisse Ltd. in 1952. <br />Renoir pieces took their inspiration from the Art and Crafts era, when copper was a favorite of artisans producing hammered hollowware. Renoir was known for its solid copper cuffs, as well as its hinged bangles. Decorations on these pieces ranged from twisted strands of copper wire, mimicking the look of rope, to spring-like wire coils that were gently flattened and then polished to produce rows of what appeared to be semi-circular loops.

In fact, playing with geometry was a favorite preoccupation of Renoir designers. The company’s “swiss cheese” bangles came in several styles, some featuring a wide ribbon of copper that had been punctured by holes, others flipping this effect so that the holes stood paradoxically in relief on their copper base. Squares and rectangles, chunky arrows and angle-shapes, and balls of various size were also incorporated in Renoir pieces, as were leaf shapes and other floral motifs.

One of Renoir’s most recognizable designs is the brooch-and-earrings demi-parure based on an artist’s palette, complete with brushes in the thumb hole.

This same design would be updated by Matisse, with enamelling on the surface of the palette to differentiate it from the copper brushes. Matisse palettes came in shades of red, orange, green, and blue.

Like the palettes, Matisse’s maple leaf demi-parures were anchored by a uniform copper outline—in this case, a leaf with a stem that ends in a hypnotizing spiral—with different enamel treatments on top. Of these, the ones that paired gold, blue, or red with black, plus accents of copper berries sitting in relief on the surface of the leaves, are especially memorable.

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Simple materials - great designers ... Miriam Haskell

Some of the best and most collectible Miriam Haskell jewelry was made in the first decades, when Frank Hess was her head designer. 

Frank Hess was the head designer from about 1926 to 1960 and his talent is unrivaled. In the early days of Haskell put no identifying marks on their jewelry at all. As a mater of fact it was not marked until about 1947. Today the early unsigned pieces can be identified from vintage art work and advertisements, and by their wonderful detail, hand work and design.

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Collectibles toys

Between my collections, I have tons of small plastic and rubber little toys and figurines. Here some of the “families” I collected:


Created in 1958 by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, who wrote under the pen name ‘Peyo’ (his cousin's inability to to pronounce his Dutch name, "Pierrot") , they originally debuted in the Belgian magazine Spirou as Les Schtroumpfs.
Peyo was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1928 to an English father and a Belgian mother.

The Smurfs are a fictional colony of small blue humanoids who live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest. Gaining instant popularity, they garnered their own stories in 1959 and began receiving countless forms of merchandising, which included miniatures, games, toys and their own 80s cartoon series. In 2011, these creatures will finally receive a cinematic reboot in their own big-budget live-action family film.

There are more than one hundred Smurf characters, and their names are based on adjectives that emphasize their characteristics, such as "Jokey Smurf", who likes to play practical jokes on his fellow smurfs. "Smurfette" was the first female Smurf to be introduced in the series. The Smurfs wear Phrygian caps, which came to represent freedom during the modern era.

Dupuis, editor of the Smurf comics, first produced smurf figurines in 1959. The first one was a series of three figurines, 5 centimetres tall (Papa, Normal and Angry), followed in the next decade by some larger figurines. Those were only for sale in French- and Dutch-speaking countries. In 1965, Schleich, a German company, made the first truly mass-produced PVC Smurf collectible figurines (the first three being Normal Smurf, Gold Smurf and Convict Smurf (complete with black-and-white striped prisoner's outfit). In 1966, Spy Smurf, Angry Smurf, and Drummer Smurf appeared. In 1969, five more smurfs followed: Moon Smurf, Winter Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Guitar Smurf, and Papa Smurf. In the 1970s, smurfs were also produced by rival German company Bully. The first of these figurines were made as a promotion for Kellogg's, but were afterwards sold separately.
Numerous Dupuis figures were released between 1959 and 1966. Schleich started making Smurf figures in 1965 and still do to this day.
Nothing could stop the success of Peyo's creation - not even his own death. Peyo died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1992. Unhappy though his death was, Peyo had created something much bigger than himself. Peyo's heirs have continued to support the Smurfs with collectibles, promotions and publications in the whole world.


The Snorks was a cartoon that was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in the mid-eighties.  The Snorks cartoon was very similar to that of the SMURFS, but just underwater.  They produced around 60 episodes and had some great merchandise. 

Snorks vs Smurfs: The Snorks are colorful underwater creatures that live in Snorkland. All Snorks have that instantly recognizable snorkel on the top of their heads. The main characters include: Allstar, Casey, Dimmy, Daffney and Tooter. The trouble-makers of the show are the Govenor and his snotty son, Junior. The Snorks had a popular TV Show that ran from 1984 to 1989.

History: The Snorks first came into existence as a comic book series, released in 1982. The comic was created by Nic Broca in Belgium. After a few years, Hanna-Barbera, produced a cartoon series for television which ran for 4 years and 65 episodes.

About Snorks: The Snorks live underwater and have snorkels on their heads which can aim backwards and propel them through the water. The Snorks live in the world of Snorkland and use clams for currency. The hero of the television series is All-Star and his girlfriend is Casey.

The Snork Figures: The Snork figures are very collectable. There are just over 30 different Snork figures to collect. These include the characters: All Star, Baby Billy, Casey, Dafney, Dimmy, Dr Galeo, Governer Wetworth, Jo jo, Junior, Lava Monster and Tooter Snork. All the Snorks are about 8cm tall. Approximately the same size as smurfs, accept that they have the snorkel on the top of their head to make them taller.


The name "PEZ®" comes from the first, middle, and last letters of the word "Pfefferminz", which is the German word for peppermint. The candy was invented in 1927 in Vienna by Eduard Haas III, and was originally marketed in Austria as a compressed peppermint candy. It was originally carried around in tins, but in 1947, the first PEZ dispenser resembling a cigarette lighter was invented. It wasn't until 1952 that character heads were added to the dispensers, and fruit flavors were created.

According to the patent number engraved on the bottom left side, it is possible to date the dispenser:
U.S. Patent 2.620.061   issued in 1952
U.S. Patent 3.410.455   issued in 1968
U.S. Patent 3.845.882   issued in 1974
U.S. Patent 3.942.683   issued in 1976
U.S. Patent 4.966.305   issued in 1990
U.S. Patent 5.984.285   issued in 1999
:Non-U.S.A Patents
German - DBP 818.829
Mexican - Patent Nr 141.242


Kinder Surprise, also known as a Kinder Egg or, in the original Italian, Kinder Sorpresa ("Kinder" is the German word for "children"), is a candy manufactured by Italian company Ferrero, starting from 1968. Originally intended for children, it is also popular with adult collectors and has the form of a chocolate egg containing a small toy, usually requiring assembly.

The toys are designed by both inside designers and external freelancers (for example the French artist André Roche based in Munich) and manufactured by many companies worldwide, such as Produzioni Editoriali Aprile, a small company based in Turin, Italy, run and founded by two brothers, Ruggero and Valerio Aprile.Kinder Eggs are sold all over the world, including the United States, where they are sold in European Markets and Russian Deli stores, despite being illegal.
In Europe they have become a minor cult phenomenon among adults. There is even a thriving collector's market for the toys. There are many types of toys available, but some of the most popular with collectors include the ever-changing series of small hand-painted figures (some have to be assembled); cartoon characters; metal figures; and jigsaw puzzles. Seasonal eggs are introduced around the holidays, such as the limited-edition creche collections (featuring such characters as the three kings, baby Jesus, and assorted barnyard animals) found around Christmas, and the huge ones found at Easter (extremely popular in Italy).

According to the catalog number engraved on the bottom or on the back, it is possible to date the dispenser.

Oodles & Lil' babies

Oodles babies are little kewpie-like babies from the mid 1980's , little plastic figures topped with a DairyQueenish curlique hairdo that formed a loop. Each Oodle had its own facial expression that gave it personality. Every one was made in a different position, which also added to their uniqueness and reminds us of the dolls to come which were actually posable. The creator is Mel Birnkrant.

Lil' Babies were little plastic babies, each doing a different activity and each with a cloth nappy in either fluorescent pink or green, they also came in some wacky colors such as 'neon pink jelly look'.
They were numbered so obviously were collectables.
Lil' babies were made by LGT in 1991 and later, Hasbro. They measured around 2.5-inches high. They were made of very hard vinyl so they were durable. Later on more colorful Lil'Babies were introduced called the Strawberry Shortcake Lil Babies, these included Blueberry Muffin, Angel Cake and of course, Strawberry Shortcake.


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Gambling Jewelry

During the '30ies – in the depression era – one of the popular theme in fashion jewelry was the “gambling jewelry”.

Made with real game pieces, like dice, domino, mah-jong, poker chips and more …

Several items where made in bakelite and other “early” plastic materials, like galalith or lucite.


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Forget-me-not celluloid necklace

Forget-me-not celluloid necklace, made during WWI , with celluloid charms contained into army's field rations, which soldiers sent to their sweethearts home.

These necklaces are very rare and "collectibles", and are featured in "Collecting art plastic Jewelry: identification and price guide" by Leigh Leshner

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Polka dots

Polka dot is a pattern consisting of an array of filled circles, generally equally sized and spaced relatively closely in relation to their diameters.
Polka dots first became common on clothing in the late nineteenth century in the United Kingdom.
In the '30ies, with the success of the bakelite jewelry, start growing a new fashion of polka dot bangles, rings and more.
So beautiful and so demanded by collectors today …
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Bakelite crib toys

The "Baby Bunny" toy was manufactured by Tykie Toy Company of Piqua, Ohio, in the 1940s and early 1950s. The first Tykie toys were produced by Richard B. and Sarah L. Grosvenor in their home in Piqua, Ohio. The couple made the toys when their son, Michael, nicknamed "Tykie, " began teething.
Grosvenor then organized a family business to manufacture toys.
The business operated out of the former machine shop of Grosvenor's father, and the family lived upstairs. By 1944, the firm had fifteen employees and was shipping their products to Saks in New York and Marshall Field's in Chicago. Product names included "Baby Bunny, " "Tom-Tom- Rattles" and "Billy the Bellboy." 
After World War II, the company expanded but production was brought to a halt during the coal strike of 1946, since the Catalin plastic used in the toys was made from coal tar. Tykie Toys re-opened in 1947 and continued to manufacture toys until around 1952.
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Tip for plastic jewelry collectors: how to test Bakelite

Testing by Sound
Listen for the "clunk" when two pieces of Bakelite are tapped together. This very distinctive sound is often heard when two or more Bakelite bangles are worn at the same time.
Testing by Feel
Consider the weight of a piece of plastic. Bakelite feels heavier, more dense when compared to other types of plastics.
Testing by Smell
Rub the item in question vigorously with your thumb until you feel the plastic heat up. Then, before it cools, take a whiff. A distinct chemical odor similar to formaldehyde will linger with most genuine Bakelite. Some noses find better results when the piece of plastic is placed under hot running tap water before sniffing it.
Testing by Sight - Using Simichrome Polish
Simichrome Polish is a non-abrasive cream used to clean metals. You can also use it to test Bakelite for authenticity. Sparingly apply to a soft cloth and gently rub a small spot on the inside or back of the item being tested. If it's Bakelite, the cloth should turn yellow with ease. If a piece is laquered, it may test negative. Black Bakelite pieces often fail this test as well.
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Bakelite jewelry in films

Bakelite jewelry was used by several filmmakers and directors, such as Woody Allen (Radio days, The purple rose of Cairo), Baz Luhrmann (The great Gatsby), Clint Eastwood (Changeling) and more.

From "the great Gatsby".

From the touching Clint Eastwood's film, "Changeling",
Angelina Jolie wearing a beautiful vintage wood and celluloid brooch ....

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