Treasure Hunting in Wisconsin 2015 -- Part 1

by mary August 9, 2015

During July, I spent 12 days in Wisconsin -- visiting my home town, family & friends, & camping -- and treasure hunting along the way for things to use in making jewelry.

My first stop was a couple of days in Menomonee Falls, my hometown.  While there, I had lunch one day with a couple of friend from high school, dinner with another high school friend, lunch with some cousins, & dinner another night with a niece.

I also visited my old church & grade school.

I was really lucky that they were doing some remodeling inside; as a result, I was able to walk around inside.  In fact, I got a tour from a guy that turned out to be the older brother of 2 of my classmates back in grade school!  It was funny how little some of the classrooms & lockers had changed from what I remembered as a child!

And, I got to walk around inside my old high school, which is now a middle school & was open for summer classes.

Like my grade school, much remained the same, including the gym, lockers & hallways!  A big difference, though was in how the classrooms were set up -- I remember individual desks & now it's all tables arranged so kids sit in circles.

I also walked the trail by the river & waterfall, & the lime kiln part,

I love that the village has preserved the old lime kilns & built a trail along the river!  Here's a view from the trail of the river a bit farther down from the falls.

And here's one upstream a bit.

While I didn't find any jewelry-making treasures this leg of the trip, I had a fabulous time visitng friends & family & "walking down memory lane"!  My next stop was at an antique mall just off I-43 before Manitowoc on the way to visit my friend Pam in Algoma, however, & there I did find several fun things.  But that will have to wait until next Sunday!

As always, thanks for reading & supporting small businesses! 


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Good Guys 24th Heartland Nationals -- Rat Fink Sightings!

by mary July 5, 2015

On Friday, July 3, Steve & I attended the 24th annual Good Guys Heartland Nationals at the Iowa State Fairground.

The weather was perfect & we saw some really great hot rods, custom cars & rat rods!

We also spotted several Rat Finks! Rat Fink was created by Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, who built custom cars starting in the late 1950's.  He also designed & created drawings of cars & monsters, & spray paining t-shirts with his designs.  When he painted monsters driving custom cars, people lined up at his booth.  His most famous creation was Rat Fink; by 1963 teenagers across the country were buying Rat Fink models & t-shirts!

The first Rat Fink we spotted was this Surf Rat on the back wondow of a rat rod truck.

This next one was on the engine hood of a rat rod.

This next one was on the ignition key of a rat rod.

And this last one was on the back of a rat rod.

Of course, we also stopped at our favorite booth inside the Varied Industries Building!

There I found another Rat Fink t-shirt to add to my collection & another Rat Fink charm in a color I didn't have (he's sitting on my hat in the picture)!

Here's a close-up of my new charm . . .

And, of course, I wore my Rat Fink jewelry to the show, including a necklace I made with an official Rat Fink charm that I picked up at the Good Guys show last year . . .

Charm bracelet made with official Rat Fink charms, as well as record, dice, tiki doll, & 8-ball charms . . .

And earrings made with official Rat Fink charms . . .

We sure do love those hot rods, custom cars, rat rods & of course, Rat Fink!

To see more of my jewelry, check out my website at

And, as always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

March Fairgrounds Flea Market

by mary March 8, 2015

This weekend was the monthly flea market at the Iowa State Fairgrounds again.  It was a beautiful day for getting out -- spring is finally starting to tease us here in Des Moines!

Although I did't find a lot of treasures, I did find a few fun vintage things, like these little black & white little photographs of Chicago & color slides of world landmarks.  (pardon the blue cast to all the photos -- I must have had my white balance off)

I'm not sure what I will do with them, but I thought they were so cool & surely there will be some way to incorporate them into jewelry!

I also picked up some old snaps.

Here's a picture of some earrings I made with snaps last year that sold the first time I had them out at a show!

Steve found these cool stir sticks.

Again, I'm not sure what I'll do with them, but they were too fun to pass by!

And, finally, as far as jewelry treasures, I found this piece of chain -- I really like the links & hope to use them in a chain mail project.

Probably the best find, though, won't end up incorporated into a piece of jewelry, but will be displayed with my vintage hats & other vintage hat boxes -- a Christian Dior hat box!  Now I just need to find a Christian Dior hat!  As you can see, Belle likes the hat box too!

For those not familiar with Christian Dior, he was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century.  He's probably most famous for coming out with the "New Look" in 1947, which featured long, full skirts & nipped-in waists.

Here's another picture of Belle checking out my new hat box!

Well, that's it for this month's Fairground's Flea Market!  The April market will actually be at the end of March instead of the first weekend of April, since Easter is the 1st Sunday in April.

And, don't forget to check out my website ( to see some of the jewelry I've added lately!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Mystery Metal Tags

by mary March 1, 2015

I recently made this necklace out of a little metal tag I got at one of my mother-in-law's garage sales.

I got probably a dozen of them with different numbers on them, all together on a safety pin. 

I thought at first they might be tags like you used to get at a bakery or meat counter to mark your place in the line, & when they called your number it was your turn to order.  But that doesn't seem quite right.

My husband thought maybe they were locker tags like we used to get when we were little & went swimming at a public indoor pool & you got a locker to put your clothes in.  But I seem to remember you got a numbered key, so you could lock & unlock your locker; & I'm not sure how you would lock anything with this.

In making the necklace, I decided to use little shell beads from an old broken bracelet, in keeping with the idea of swimming, & because I liked the way they complemented the off-white enamel on the tag.  I also used black lava beads to complement the black numbers.

So, it remains a mystery to me, & I'm wondering if anyone recognizes them or has any other theories on what they were for originally?


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

February 2015 Fairgrounds Flea Market

by mary February 9, 2015

Saturday, February 7, was another flea market at the State Fairgrounds, and I came away with a few fun finds!

First, our dear friend Patti had sent along a bag of old jewelry for her husband Rich to give me.

I'm thinking I will keep the red thermoset earrings for myself, but am anxious to see what I can make with the rest of it. 

Probably my favorite find was this celluloid chain & fan . . .

It's really hard to find celluloid chain at a reasonable price & this was a really nice long piece!  It should work great with some of my lucite or bakelite pieces.  It will be fun to see if there is something I could make with the fan blades as well.

The other 2 smalls I found were these tiny chandelier crystals & a 1970 dog tag from Cedar Rapids.

The crystal pieces are small & light enough that I think they might work in a pair of earrings.

I also almost bought a good size bag of assorted change, but realized I didn't have quite enough money on me for it.  A friend ended up buying it instead & said there really wasn't that much usable chain in it, so I didn't feel so bad after all about not being able to get it.

Another fun day at the flea market & some new "found things" to add to my inventory & to inspire me to make some more jewelry!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Repurposed/Upcycled Jewelry Made with Lithographed Tin

by mary January 18, 2015

Recently, I got a big "treasure" box of lithograph tin scraps from my husband's cousin, Ken Keiran.  They came from old tin doll houses, candy & cookie containers, trays, etc.  Ken uses them to make the wings for birds that he makes out of barnwood for yard ornaments.  I had asked him if he did anything with the scraps & since he didn't, he said I could have them.

I thought I would see if I could make jewelry out of them. None of the pieces were very big, but they had some really great colors & patterns on them, so I decided to give it a go.

I decided to start by cutting little circular discs of various sizes from some of the scraps, then sanded the edges smooth.  Next, I sorted them out & started playing with different designs & combining them with charms & beads.  Once I had a couple ideas laid out, I punched holes as needed to make a necklace & 3 pairs of earrings.

Here's the necklace . . .

I really like the bright colors & flower patterns on these discs, & thought the silver butterflies for the pendant & dangle at the back made a good complement for the flower theme.

For the earrings, I tried several different combinations of discs, beads & charms . . .

One of the things I really like about using these tin discs is that they make really light-weight earrings.

I have quite a few discs left, & am thinking about seeing how they would work in a charm bracelet, & combining different complementary patterns next.  I'm also going to start looking for lithograph tin items the next time I am treasure-hunting at a flea market or garage sale!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses! 


Filed Under: Inspiration | Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Treasures from Saturday's Estate Sale

by mary January 12, 2015

Checked out an estate sale in the neighborhood this last Saturday & found a couple of goodies! 

My first & best find was this small pennant from the 1937 Iowa State Fair!

I thought it would make a fun background for one of my cowboy themed charm bracelets.

The other thing I found was a plastic shoebox of odds & ends . . .

I'm not sure what I'll do with most of the things in it, but there were a few items that looked promising, plus I can always use a plastic shoebox!

I especially liked the little token with the rabbit coming out of a hat, & the button from a 1941 tournament.

I also found another soft plastic Nativity to add to my vintage Christmas holiday decorations -- not that I needed it, but it's hard to resist when you find one that you don't already have!

Not a lot of treasures, but as my husband Steve always says, "All you need is to find one good thing & it's worth the 'price of admission'!"

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

January 3 Fairgrounds Flea Market

by mary January 4, 2015

Another good day at the Fairgrounds Flea Market.  Although I didn't find a huge number of things, I did have a couple of great finds!

First, I found (actually, Steve spotted them) a box of vintage glass crystal chandelier pieces.

I love working with old chandelier pieces!  Here are a few of the necklaces & a pair of earrings that I've made with crystal chandelier pieces.

Sorry for the quality of this next picture -- it was before we got our new digital SLR camera.

I also picked up a few charms, including 2 Iowa license plates, a hand with some kind of symbol on it, and a playing card nail clipper (I'm hoping to remove the playing card, so I can use it in a charm bracelet). 

I've used the little license plates in charm bracelets before (like the one below), but this is the first time I found Iowa plates, so I was rather excited about that!

And here's one of my charm bracelets with little playing cards -- I think they are some of the cutest charms!

As soon as I get done putting Christmas decorations away, I'm looking forward to getting back to jewelry-making & using some of my new crysal pieces & charms!

As always, thanks for reading; and to see more of my jewelry, check out my website at


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Bakelite jewelry -- vintage & hand-crafted

by mary December 28, 2014

I love Bakelite! I'm always excited when I find a piece of Bakelite jewelry at a reasonable price or some Bakelite charms or buttons that I can use to make into a piece of jewelry!

According to one of my books on jewelry, "Plastic Jewelry", Leo Baekeland developed Bakelite & patented it in 1907.  At first, it was used primarily to insulate electrical goods, but later it was used for buttons & jewelry.  Although plastic jewelry was initially purchased & worn mainly by women looking for inexpensive colorful jewelry; it became more popular after 1925 when French designer Co-Co Chanel used it in her coutour collections.  Bakelite has also been used to make plastic chips.

Bakelite jewelry is quite collectable at the present time, & can be quite expensive.  As a result, I have been able to acquire only a small number of pieces -- but I do love each & every one of them!  I thought I would share a few of my favorite pieces, including some that are vintage & others that are hand-crafted using Bakelite chips, buttons or charms.

Here is a vintage necklace Bakelite cherry necklace.  The chain links & leaves are celluloid.  I can't remember for sure where I got this piece -- either an antique show or Dorothea's Closet Vintage.

And here's a pin with very similar Bakelite cherries & a Bakelite leaf.

And here is a necklace made by a friend, Cheryl Sassypants Morris, out of Bakelite chips & chain, & a mahjong tile. 

Here's one more vintage necklace -- a green Bakelite ladybug -- that my husband Steve gave me for Christmas this year!

I also have several Bakelite bracelets including this vintage bangle made of red Bakelite & wood that I picked up at Dorothea's Closet Vintage a year or so ago.

And this vintage bracelet made with butterscotch Bakelite, blue rhinestones & brass links that Steve got me for Christmas last year.

And here's a bracelet that I made using vintage Bakelite cowboy boot charms & wood & glass beads!

And, here are 2 pairs of hand-crafted earrings made with Bakelite.  I got the first at the Walt Johnson Antique Show at the state fairgrounds several years ago; they're made with Bakelite chips. 

And this pair I made from vintage Bakelite beads.  I really like how both pairs of earrings go with the Bakelite chip necklace!

This last is a card of Bakelite buttons that I got a year or so ago.  I still haven't decided exactly what I'll make with them -- perhaps a charm bracelet & maybe a pair of asymmetrical earrings . . .

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of my Bakelite jewelry -- both original vintage & hand-crafted pieces!  And, as always thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses. 

And, to see more of my jewelry, check out my website at


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Treasure Hunting in Boone, Iowa & November Fairgrounds Flea Market

by mary November 2, 2014

Another good week of treasure hunting!

Earlier this week, we rode the Boone Valley & Scenic Railroad train for one of its last rides this summer.  The day was so nice, we rode in the open car, which I would highly recommend!  The views were great & we were the only passengers that opted for the open air!  Although we were too late for the beautiful fall foliage, we had great unobstructed views since many of the trees had already lost their leaves.

Before boarding the train, we checked out some of the local antique shops, & had lunch at a really cute cafe -- The Whistle Stop Cafe.

Steve spotted these really cool coloring books at the first shop we stopped at . . .

I thought they would make great backgrounds for pictures for earrings . . .

and necklaces . . .

I also found a couple of nice tintypes . . .

At the next shop, an antique mall, I found some vintage snaps, as well as a lovely amethyst pendant . . .

Next, we checked out a combination vintage/consignment shop, & I found an old fur clip, pin & pendant . . .

We hadn't been to Boone for at least a couple of years, so it was fun checking out the vintage shops & even more fun taking the train ride on a beautiful fall day!

On Saturday, we started out the day with a visit to the monthly flea market at the state fairgrounds.  I missed out on a bag of old dog tags, but did find a few interesting fish lures & other odds & ends at one of the booths . . .

And, the couple was there that has lots of vintage/secondary market jewelry, so we picked up 2 large bags of chain . . . (my little helper is Belle, our 5 yr. old beagle!)

I'm looking forward to a nice snowy day to sort through all the chain (& other things) I've accumlated this summer & fall!

As always, thanks for reading & supporting small businesses!  And, to see more of my jewelry, check out my website at!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

About the author

Pauline's Jewelry Box was founded by Mary Nelson in 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I chose the name Pauline's Jewelry Box because my mother's name was Pauline & I have many fond memories of looking through jewelry box & playing with her jewelry

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