One Woman’s Vintage Pin Portfolio

A memory from long ago:  My mom and I  are wearing our pajamas, watching QVC and sitting on her bed with all of her Joan Rivers brand jewelry strung out in front of us.  I’m trying on long, long strands of gold-colored glass pearls, mom is picking through a shallow drawer full of egg pendants.  Joan Rivers and host Kathy Levine are trying things on, too.  They’re on the TV in mom’s room, and as mom and I are putting on little fashion shows for each other, Joan and Kathy are chatting and laughing.  Kathy reports what ring sizes are still available, and then explains what the bee pin signifies when given as a gift.

The TV fades to background noise as we become distracted by mom’s own collection.  But then Kathy delivers news that snaps my mom to attention:  “The bee pin is on Easy Pay!”  Mom looks at me for encouragement to make the buy.  “You’ve got to do it,” I say as I hand her the phone.

Joan Rivers Bee Pin
A Joan Rivers bee pin. (Not my mom’s).

Another memory from years later:   Princess Diana is in the news.  There’s been a car accident in Paris, and, while no one knows the extent of her injuries, the violence of the collision and the damage to her car is so extreme that survival seems unlikely.  I’m spending the night at my parents’ house, and mom and I are oblivious to this story of global interest.  There’s a late-night jewelry show on QVC—it’s Diamonique this time—and we’re busy.  It’s only during a break, when mom does a channel scan with the remote, that we find out what the world already knows.

My mom has collected costume jewelry (and some fine jewelry) as long as I can remember, and the hunt for new pieces has been a running theme throughout her life.  QVC has sourced her hobby, to be sure, but her pieces have come from literally everywhere.  To this day, if you go shopping with my mom, she will return home with a pair of earrings, a charm bracelet, a choker.  Her internal jewelry detection sensors are so refined that she can pick up the scent of a solitary necklace from fifty paces in the most unlikely locales, like hardware stores, bake sales, and carpet remnant outlets.   No one knows how many pieces are in her collection at this point (I don’t even think she knows), but she has fantastic taste, and many items are sparkly stunners.  

Sparkly Stunners
Some pieces from my mom’s collection. The bracelet and blue pin are old (my mom has had the pin since high school!). The butterfly pin is relatively new.

My favorite pieces are those she has acquired from flea markets and antique stores.  Until a recent visit, I had no idea how many of these vintage jewels she had.  Picture it:  there we were, sitting on her bed, stacks of jewelry trays around us, studying each item just as we did when I was a kid, letting all of the sparkle feed our imaginations: we’re princesses getting ready for the ball, explorers discovering lost treasures, heisters surveying our haul.  

When I first approached my mom for “a few pieces” I could profile in my blog, my scope was fairly broad;  I just wanted to feature vintage items that appealed to me.   But there were too many things that appealed to me, so I decided to narrow my focus to pins.  What follows are some of my favorite vintage pins in her collection.

Vintage Pins
A few of the oldest pins in my mom’s collection. I particularly like the little mosaic pin. You see this style fairly often in antique stores. The delicate scroll frame is like lace.
A cabochon brooch. I love the way light travels through these pretty glass stones. I wish there were matching earrings.
Circa 19xx pins
I’m crazy about opals, and while the stones in this pin are glass, I absolutely love the look. I have a periwinkle sweater that really demands this pin.
The aurora borealis bouquet in the foreground is a pin my mom claims I bought her. I don’t remember this at all, but she tells the story that we had been shopping one day in an antique store years ago and she admired the pin. So my friend LeAnn and I later went back and bought it for her. This was perhaps a couple of decades ago. Well, it’s a stunner, isn’t it? Incidentally, the purple and fuschia “grapes” pin in the background also has a long history: I used to play dress up with it when I was a little girl.
Circa19xx Pins
We’re not sure how old the iridescent pin is. All we know is it isn’t new.
Circa19xx Pins
Another pin from my mom’s high school days. She said she used to wear this silver rhinestone pin on sweaters.

Like any hobbiest, one of my mom’s favorite things to do is just take out her pieces and arrange and organize them.  Can you blame her?  I’ve never been the jewelry enthusiast my mom is, but my love of design and color draws me to examine each piece like I would an artifact in a museum. They’re little pieces of art that call for placement in pretty vignettes.  Is there a better way to spend a rainy day?

Until next time…

Jennifer Passariello


  1. Susan L. Robinson

    No other phrase describes this better than the overworked OMG! I can’t believe how this blog, especially the jewelry, speaks to me! And, I can’t believe that as long as I have known you, we never discussed your Mother’s love for jewelry. As a child, I would spend hours and hours going through my grandmother’s costume jewelry collection. Touching and admiring each piece. She had an entire dresser drawesr full of boxes of matching earrings, necklaces and brooches. Each piece was in its own box lying on a piece of cotton. Now I have my own jewelry cabinet! One of my guilty pleasures is opening the draws and admiring them. I love this, Jennifer!

    • jkpassariello

      Isn’t that funny? I didn’t know you loved vintage jewelry either, before today! I love your “guilty pleasure”; I can totally relate!

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