When Tommy Solis shows up at the annual Antiques and Collectibles Market each year, he sets up his booth and proudly hangs above it a banner that proclaims “Penny and Tommy Solis, Belle Chasse.”
Penny Solis died in 2010, but her husband promised to continue the name.
“She swore she would come back and haunt me if I didn’t,” he said.
Tommy and Penny Solis (the latter in spirit) will offer their wares at the 24th annual Antiques and Collectibles Market at the Pontchartrain Center, 4545 Williams Blvd., Kenner, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 17. Admission is $6. Sponsored by the Crescent City Depression Glass Society, the market has diversified its offerings dramatically in recent years.
When the local Depression Glass Society hosts the National Depression Glass Association convention Saturday and Sunday at Kenner’s Pontchartra…
In fact, Penny Solis got into the vintage jewelry business as a hedge against the ups and downs in the popularity of Depression glass, her first foray into the world of collecting.
“Someone introduced her to buying on the internet, and the next thing I knew, she was buying jewelry in bulk,” said Tommy Solis, a native Louisianian who retired from the oil industry in 2015. “She’d go through the bulk orders one piece at a time and pick out the good ones and sell them at the markets we’d go to. We would make the shows a series of mini-vacations. Now I only do two a year: the one in New Orleans and another one in Texas.”
Tommy Solis said he has not added to the collection but has been faithfully carrying out his mission.
“The last thing Penny bought was a big container of Lucite bangles in every color of the rainbow,” he said. “That’s one of the special things I’ll be selling next weekend.”
In fact, few of the market's 25 vintage jewelry vendors had the business in mind. But once they got into it, they were all hooked.
Cindy Faison went to her first Depression glass show in 1983, seeking colored cups to go with a crystal punchbowl.
Lynda Moreau and her business partner, Beth Landry, both licensed tour guides, share a fascination with history that led them to the world of antiques. Their shop, Medium Rare, specializes in antique and vintage jewelry.
“We like to find jewelry that we can sell for a sane price,” said Moreau, who also operates estate sales. “It has to have been made sometime between 1837 and 1910 to attract my attention. What I love about the jewelry from that period is that it is so beautifully made."
A native of Winnfield, Moreau came to New Orleans in the 1970s to pursue a degree in history, a passion that gave rise to her attraction to Edwardian and Victorian mourning jewelry.
In the Edwardian and Victorian eras, the hair of a deceased loved one was often carefully woven and displayed in a beautiful piece of jewelry.
“Some people feel weird about jewelry pieces that involve braided hair, but I think they are lovely," Moreau said. "Funeral directors tell me of family members who want a chance to take hair clipping from a loved one, so what’s the difference?"
Moreau and Landry do most of their buying in England, traveling several times a year.
“I can’t tell you how many people have volunteered to carry our suitcases when we go on a buying trip,” she laughed.
Carolyn Long, an accountant and tax consultant by trade, became involved with Nola Pearl Girls after meeting public relations consultant Danae Columbus. The Nola Pearl Girls shop at 816 Baronne St. displays Long's vintage and antique jewelry along with necklaces that Columbus makes.
Long said Pearl Girls merchandise ranges from the 1700s to the 1960s.
“A lot of it is fine jewelry — gold and stones — but a lot is made by costume jewelry designers who are collectible, like Miriam Haskell, Eisenberg and even Oscar de la Renta,” Long said. “Eisenberg started out making dresses, but when those didn’t sell too well, they started including a pretty brooch with the dress. Eventually, they gave up on clothes completely and started making jewelry only.”
Over time, the collection outgrew the physical shop, so the Pearl Girls started a shop on Ruby Lane, a high end online marketplace for fine art, jewelry and collectibles. The partners have about 1,000 items on line.
“We have plenty in the shop; a lot of our customers come in for earrings and walk out with a vintage dress and purse,” Long said.
Donna Davidson Sewalk was enjoying her morning coffee and reading a story in The Advocate about an art exhibit in New Orleans when an image pu…
She recalled a younger shopper who looked at the price tag on a special set of jewelry and was shocked by the high price — groaning that she'd sold the same set, owned by her grandmother, at a garage sale for a dollar.
“And that,” said Long, “is why you never sell anything without knowing what it’s worth.”