Dealers Get Creative with Antique Recycling Ideas in Florida

A man’s ring made from apiece of sterling flatware.

A man’s ring made from apiece of sterling flatware.

DELAND, Fla. – It has often been often said that the antiques business is the ultimate recycling activity but several dealers in have taken the idea to the next level. They are recycling the antiques themselves—or at least parts of them—into new forms and uses that will preserve some vestige of the original antique yet appeal to modern needs and tastes.

Three such dealers were set up at the Jan. 22-24, 2010 session of the Deland Antique Show at the Volusia County Fairgrounds in Deland, Fla.

Bruce and Vickie Pantii of Breezy Palm Trading Company have a thing about plastic. More specifically, they have a thing about Bakelite, the early plastic developed by Belgian chemist Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1907. The Bakelite formula was acquired by American Catalin Corporation in 1927 to produce the phenolic resins that make the durable plastic. While Bakelite has many commercial and industrial applications, one of the most popular uses was developed in the 1930s when it was used to make costume jewelry. The most popular and most expensive of those today are the carved bangle bracelets and figural pins.

Bruce Pantii said that 10 years ago, 90 percent of his sales were vintage items. Many of his customers began requesting Bakelite bangles with polka dots, but there just weren’t any left. So he decided to make them. Now 90 percent of his business is custom-made, signed “wearable art” made of pieces of Bakelite.

He starts with a plain vintage Bakelite bangle and inserts polka dots made from Bakelite stock, usually ten inch tubes originally used as stock to make bangles that he has squirreled away over the last 20 years. These new style bracelets retail in the low- to mid-hundred dollars for standard widths and up to $500 for the wider ones. To make a more affordable bracelet, five years ago he began casting bangles from a type of acrylic he calls “Vibrulite” and decorates them with Bakelite dots or bow ties. These sell in the $150 range. Pantii is selling both the medium and the art by recycling old Bakelite stock.

Original Bakelite bangles with newly added Bakelite polka dots.

Original Bakelite bangles with newly added Bakelite polka dots.

A cast acrylic bangle with back carving and inlay.

A cast acrylic bangle with back carving and inlay.

Want to buy a really junky old, used-up manual typewriter that no longer works? Neither does anyone else. But Roy and Rhonda Barske of Typewriter Jewelry are probably interested. Twelve years ago they started selling antiques and collectibles but couldn’t sell their inventory of vintage typewriters, so they decided to recycle them. How? By using the letters in the keys. They are especially fond of old Coronas because they have they have the best fonts.

An assortment of necklaces featuring typewriter keys.

An assortment of necklaces featuring typewriter keys.

They started by removing the Bakelite or celluloid keys with good fonts and incorporating them into custom-made sterling jewelry using custom made molds. They started with bracelets and have extended the line to include necklaces, earrings, pins, rings, cuff links, money clips, badge holders, key rings and many other assorted and clever uses, including many made from suggestions by customers. Pendants and rings range from $25 to $45. Bangles are $35 and full bracelets with multiple typewriter letter keys are $80 and up. If a customer requests a style or item that is out of stock Roy will make it within thirty minutes out of extra stock carried to shows. One nice source of business for the Barske’s is weddings. They custom make pieces for wedding parties and showers at the request of prospective brides and grooms.

John Atkinson of Boston wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he is working on it, one spoon at a time. Actually, he uses forks, too, but skips the knives because of the hollow handles. He converts old silver-plated or sterling flatware into silver jewelry with magnetic clasps. He couples the interesting design patterns on the handle of forks or spoons into a custom made bracelet with a clasp.

Atkinson started as a finder of matching silver patterns but ended up with boxes of unused or unmatched silver items. He then realized he could turn a spoon handle pattern into a key ring and his customers would always have a sample of the pattern they were looking for. From there he expanded into bracelets and rings, and will custom make items on request as you wait. He sells silver bracelets for $20 and silver key rings and rings for $5. He also has a wide variety of patterns to pick from, and many are monogrammed.

Silver bracelets with magnetic catches made from flatware.

Silver bracelets with magnetic catches made from flatware.

Many of Atkinson’s customers want patterns from a certain year. His main complaint is that good stock is getting harder to find. Most patterns from the 1960s were too plain to make decorative jewelry, and there is not as much silver on the open market today. He has excellent library of silver pattern reference books and can probably match your silver pattern from his inventory and custom make you a ring or bracelet. He also uses them to date patterns since many of his customers want patterns from a certain year. He points out that many people use his service to recycle pieces of family silver rather than passing along entire sets.

These innovative dealers and many more can be seen at the Antique Shows of Florida/Puchstein Promotions venues and the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival. For a complete listing of dates and venues, visit its Web sites, www.floridaantiqueshows.com and www.wpbaf.com. You can also e-mail to puchs2@yahoo.com or call at 941.697.7475.

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