Brown defined costume jewelry as more than 50 years old—most from the 1900s, and bearing non-precious stones. “It stemmed from the premise that the wearer was costumed from hat to shoes,” she states. “Jewelry went along with that, and was made to be worn while her valuables stayed locked in the safe.”
Ironically, the worth of precious metals today endangers jewelry itself, Brown contends. An antique gold wedding ring in grandma’s dresser might be scrapped and melted down for the sheer value of the metal. “I’ll tell women to like what they buy, because they may own it for the rest of their lives.”
As a public speaker, Brown holds the degree of Distinguished Toastmaster. In 2004 that expertise combined with her savvy on costume and vintage jewelry, to bring an irresistible invitation. She would address The Vintage Fashion and Costume Jewelry Club’s International Convention in Providence, Rhode Island.
Following her Providence speech, she received a bid to bring the same information to Los Angeles where she’d incorporate it into a series of videos. Those led to a suggestion to put the material into book form. Her first, “Unsigned Beauties,” imparted ways to identify older jewelry pieces’ structure and value, and whether they’d ever been repaired. This led to a series of four more, hard cover volumes under contract with the same publisher, Collectors’ Books, in Paducah, Kentucky.
“They call me ‘the Antique Lady,’” Brown says, “but I got the nickname, ‘Sparkles’ from my late husband, who said wherever I saw jewelry, my eyes sparkled.”
She adopted the label into her pen name, to distinguish her from another Marcia Brown who authored children’s books.
Viewers of the Antique Road Show telecasts have heard her voice in 30-second intros. She’s also appeared on numerous telethons. Today she thoroughly enjoys her work as official promoter for the Southern Oregon Antiques and Collectibles Show. “Now in our 39th year,” she says, “We do the shows in May and September. We’re non-profit, and probably the largest all-volunteer show west of the Mississippi.”
The Club members put up displays at libraries in Feb. and March.
The exhibit in Eagle Point Library’s showcase caught director Charlene Prinsen’s aesthetic eye, and resulted in a request for Brown to address the patrons on Feb. 17. At that visit, the versatile expert will be available to appraise up to two costume jewelry pieces per spectator.
For more information, please phone library at (541) 826-3313.
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent