Discovering the stories behind antiques and vintage items is like finding long-lost hidden treasures. It’s fascinating to know these treasures can hold secrets that date back for decades.
Antiques vs. Vintage
First, let me clarify the difference between what is considered to be antique and what is considered to be vintage.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an antique is something “existing since or belonging to earlier times” and vintage means “dating from the past.” According to an article on Martha Stewart’s website, an antique is anything over 100 years old, and vintage is anything prior to 1999, but less than 100 years old.
To me, the distinction lies in the eyes of the beholder. And finding these hidden gems, is like finding a hidden treasure.
Searching for Hidden Treasures from the past
I love to search for antiques and vintage items hoping to discover a hidden gem. When I was very young, I used to go antiquing with my grandma. She loved to browse the antique malls looking for what she would always call “treasures.”
In my Simple Trick to Polish Tarnished Silver, I talk about the treasures I have discovered at various estate and yard sales. I have also found some amazing antiques and vintage items at our local antique market called Third Sunday Market.
When I find a hidden treasure, I love to try and find out more about its history and uncover the secrets it might hold.
My most recent discoveries are the most special, because I’ve gained a wonderful friend in my search for hidden treasures.
My neighbor, Mary, recently passed away, but I had only met her once. At one time, Mary cared for an elderly woman, named Elizabeth Hughes. Elizabeth was known as a “junker” and antique collector according to her obituary. She left all of her belongings to Mary.
Mary’s sister, Becki, has been going through the house and holding estate sales selling all of the antiques and vintage items that Mary had hidden away. Becki and I have become friends, as I have uncovered some of the most special keepsakes that once belonged to Mary and Elizabeth. Many of these items truly are hidden treasures that have been packed up in a basement for many years.
One of the oldest pieces I purchased is a three-drawer chest. Inside one of the drawers was a newspaper article from 1957. According to the snippet, the chest belonged to Elizabeth’s great grandmother.
While cleaning the chest, I discovered a label on the back that was a tad difficult to read because of the age. After deciphering what the label said, a quick Google search pulled up an ad in a newspaper from 1888 for the furniture company on the label. Wow! Just wow! This piece of furniture dates back to the late 1800’s. This hidden treasure is definitely an antique.
Sterling Silver Flatware
Another antique I purchased is Mount Vernon by Lunt silver flatware. After some Googling, I found out this flatware dates back to 1905. It also has an H engraved on some of the pieces, which I image stands for Hughes (Elizabeth’s last name). However, several of the other pieces have various dates and/or various initials engraved. I wonder if pieces were added to the set throughout the years?
As I was polishing my beautiful new silver, my husband, Russ, made the comment about how many people have eaten off the silverware. I replied, “Imagine the stories this silverware could tell!” It fascinates me to think about the dinner parties and the conversations that happened long ago. So many secrets I’d love to uncover from these hidden treasures.
Of all the treasures I bought, my favorite is the gorgeous Copeland Spode Rosebud Chintz bone china. This stunning dinnerware was made in England, and it dates back to 1928. According to the definitions I mentioned earlier in this post, this fine china is considered vintage.
I also picked up some other pieces of glassware such as pink thumbprint glasses and dessert bowls, along with other various vintage serveware.
After researching the history of this dinnerware, it seems the Rosebud Chintz pattern was influenced by an 18th century textile pattern. It was printed on the china, then had a hand-colored underglaze. The Rosebud Chintz pattern was discontinued in 1971, but is still a highly sought-after china pattern.
Copeland Spode china has impressed date marks on the back of pieces made between the late 1800s and 1963. I haven’t looked at all of my pieces, but I have found that some were made as early as 1937. I’m hoping there might be some pieces that are even older, but I have a fairly large collection of these hidden treasures to go through.
I love learning about the history of the pieces of china I bought, but what intrigues me the most are the stories this dinnerware could tell. Stories from dinner parties dating back to 1937.
The china belonged to Elizabeth, and I wonder if she owned all of the pieces from the beginning, or did she add to the collection throughout her life? How many friends did she sit around the table with laughing, talking about their lives, enjoying delicious food, and sipping cocktails? Oh, the stories this china could tell.
Crystal Wine Glasses
I have saved the best hidden treasure for last. These beautiful crystal wine glasses are definitely my most sentimental purchase. The reason they are so special is because they belonged to Mary and Becki’s mom.
As I mentioned earlier, Mary was my neighbor that passed away, and Becki is her sister that is now a friend. In Mary and Elizabeth’s honor, Becki and I made a champagne toast with her mother’s crystal glasses. Cheers to Mary and Elizabeth for all of the treasures and stories they left behind.
I will always wonder about the stories these pieces of history could tell, and I will always be grateful to Becki for sharing these keepsakes with the world.