Vintage jewelry focus of museum program

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Peter Zacharias knows a thing or two about vintage jewelry.

Zacharias owns Goldmakers, a downtown jewelry store, where he's been hand-crafting adornments for more than 20 years. When people come in to commission a piece of jewelry, he says, they usually gravitate toward historical styles.


Richard Gwin/Journal-World Photo

Peter Zacharias, owner of Goldmakers, 723 Mass., is an expert on vintage jewelry. He'll share his knowledge on Wednesday at Watkins Community Museum of History's April session of Know Your Antiques.

"There's not much demand for original work," he says. "The last few years, there's been a resurgence of interest in a number of historic styles."

Zacharias is happy to oblige. He's traveled the world, looking at old jewelry in museums and scouring books on the subject, so he can recreate that sense of nostalgia that people seem to desire.

Needless to say, he's become something of an expert on vintage jewelry.

He'll share his wisdom at this month's session of Know Your Antiques at Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass. Zacharias will discuss trends in jewelry and its production from the 1820s to roughly the 1940s.

The most popular style during that span was Victoriana, created from 1850 to 1880. There's a lot of it floating around today, Zacharias says, because it was the first jewelry to be mass produced. He explains that jewelry was very expensive until the 1860s, when presses, molding processes and other technology made producing the popular, embellished Victorian style relatively inexpensive. The lower costs were passed on to the public.

Victorian jewelry is characterized by natural themes, Zacharias says, pointing to a jeweled bracelet set in flower forms.

"In the Victorian era, the style is what we would consider very overdone," he says. "Extra glitz appeals to a lot of people."

A popular Victorian sub-category was mourning jewelry, made popular by Queen Victoria. It consisted of gold or silver jewelry with black stones. Lockets and brooches in this style often included locks of hair from the deceased, along with a photograph or an inscription of the loved one's name and death date.

Examples of mourning and other vintage jewelry will be on display at the session. Zacharias will bring his microscope and reference books. Attendees are encouraged to bring pieces of their own vintage jewelry for an Antiques Roadshow-style assessment.

What: April session of Know Your Antiques, with vintage jewelry presentation by Goldmakers' owner Peter ZachariasWhen: 2 p.m. WednesdayWhere: Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.Cost: Donation suggested

Zacharias studied metalsmithing at Kansas University, where he graduated in 1974.

"I've known Peter for more years than I like to admit, not because I have his quality of jewelry, but because I admire his craftsmanship," says Irene Reynolds, volunteer coordinator of the museum's Know Your Antiques sessions. "I find his stories and comments about life in America fascinating."

The session will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Admission is free, but a donation is suggested.