Part 2: Key Antique Objects Made from Animals and Plants

In my recent post (Controversial Collecting – What on Earth is this object made of?) I touched on the idea that it is worthwhile when you don’t know what you are looking at to really question it or better yet ask someone about its origin.

After all you cannot undo buying something in a market or at a sale as easy as exchange at the shopping mall.

A few years ago I will admit I had an infatuation with collecting all things with an African influence. My entire home was filled with masks, carved knick knacks and a plethora of wooden wonders – you name it, I had it. The Elephant is my favourite animal of all time so anything Elephant in my collection was favoured including gifts I received over the years making reference to the Asian Elephant.

Months ago I recall watching a television show on storage lockers whereby the lock was removed and the people who bought it were astonished to find a bunch of taxidermy animals inside, including a large wild cat. Local authorities immediately had to investigate and rightfully so. Needless to say the contents were not worth what the buyers had hoped. It was a lesson that this kind of collecting can fall into a niche market and the niche is very regulated.

As awareness has been raised globally around the protection of plants and animals I became quite curious to uncover what Antique & Vintage objects may have been made (utilizing these organisms) before certain controls were put in place. It continually shocks me what falls on this growing list.

African & Indian Elephant ivory has been used in many smaller carved decorative objects such as statues. High end piano keys, billiard balls and other musical instruments as well as sports related items also were made of or contained ivory at one point in history. Walrus ivory was also used in the making of small objects while Hippopotamus ivory gained popularity because it does not turn yellow with age. Scrimshaw carvings on the whales’ teeth dating back to the 1800’s were made of Sperm Whale ivory. A few other animals have also been impacted by the use of ivory in ornamental items such as Hogs, Boars and the extinct Mammoth.

The Rhinoceros horn is made of keratin and has been prized for its translucent color when carved and generally assumed healing properties. Meanwhile Tiger parts and products include skins, claws and teeth in the forms of charms, jewellery and various novelty items.

Larger species of Tortoise and Turtle (most noted the Hawksbill Sea Turtle) are associated with tortoise shell accessories. Old brushes, combs and jewellery are on the list as are more new age sunglasses frames. Tortoise shell guitar picks were very common in the twentieth century.

Wild Butterflies in frames, Bird eggs sitting in elaborate encasements and Coral jewellery can most often be found in original form. On a differing noted furniture created by Tropical Hardwoods is also something you can watch out for.

CITES also known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is a key player in the protection of plants and animals. Rainforest Relief raised their hand to bring awareness to the improper use of wood.

Next time when you pick up that strange object in the shape of an elephant make sure you are informed. Knowledge is power -I always say. Part 3 will touch on how to better understand real objects from fake objects.


I picture of a Tiger I painted last year. I love Tigers!
I picture of a Tiger I painted last year. I love Tigers!


Part 1: Controversial Collecting – What on Earth is this object made of?

elepantTables upon tables full of exotic trinkets and fluffy outerwear on hangers as far as the eye can see.

In my travels near and far I have embarked on a multitude of miscellaneous objects. In a few instances items have stood out begging the question, what on earth is this made of?

It may of been furry, shiny, carved, a replicate or have been the parts of a once upon a time living, breathing thing. As time has passed, enforcement has changed and certain items involving endangered species have become illegal to collect.

Antiques made from real animal and plant products are out there and some are much easier to expose than others. Taxidermy “or stuffed” animals are among the easiest to identify. Then you have those synthetic conversation pieces that even the trained eye cannot comfortably differentiate from a fake upon first glance.

Some key questions to ask yourself when your stumble across something that stumps you of this nature:

What is the item/product made of? Look for a label or ask the owner/seller

Where does this item/product come from? Look for a label or ask the owner/seller

*If you are wishing to purchase something outside of the country there are more questions to ask (we will touch on this more in a later post)

This post is Part 1 of 5 which will shed some light on how to identify objects, why you should know more about what you may see for sale and discuss the intricate details around real or fake. Have you ever seen a women wearing an oversized fur coat and asked yourself… what kind of fur is that? Is that real?

Part 2: Some key Antique & Vintage objects that have been made from animal/plants in the past

My First Wine Tasting and the Relevance to Vintage

a littlevintage historyIn follow-up to my previous post What is the Difference between Antique, Vintage and Retro?

This evening I had my first formal wine tasting experience and I must say it was incredible. While standing in front of my tempting South African opaque red and pale white wine samples I detected that the history behind wine and its creation spans many years and is closely linked to the western lifestyle.

My mind instantly wandered to the sound of the catchy record player playing in the background and contemplated where on earth did the word Vintage in its entirely really come from? Could it have come from the sophisticated alcoholic beverage made from select fruits and fermented grapes?

Truth be told, Vintage was originally applied to the age of a bottle of wine. The term or word “vintage” actually came from the act of dating a bottle of wine. The date or alternatively when grapes were harvested provided insight into the true value of the wine. The quality of wine was deemed high if the vintage year noted was recognized as a good one for grapes.

Some people say “Vintage” was derived from the French word, la vendage, which translates to grapes picked during a particular season. Others say the word is derived from vin, also know as the French word for wine.

What constitutes a vintage wine? It is balanced! Tonight I tried eight (8) wines in total my favourite was The Chocolate Block (2012) a smooth & aromatic red wine with a delightful taste a cocoa from Boekenhoutskloof made in South Africa.

Keep in mind I am not tabling myself as a wine connoisseur on this date I simply wanted to contribute to the world of wonderful wine reviews in this post and tell you in case anyone asks the word vintage can additionally mean:

Definition: representing the high quality of a past time: vintage cars; vintage movies. old-fashioned or obsolete: vintage jokes. Source:

So you see “Vintage” fits nicely under both definitions in this instance I just wanted to bring it back to its deep roots.




Old treasures that can be toxic


pendalum It hurts me to say this but there have been cases of different kinds of health problems attributed to antiques, vintage pieces and older collectibles. Says the girl (me) who jumps head first into every mangled box she finds at an estate sale.

Other than quickly wiping my hands I have never second guessed what I might be getting myself into.

Here are a few tips on what to look out for. These are not all of the potential toxic treasures out there but a few of the most hazardous ones to your health.

Every heard the expression “drop dead gorgeous” I once heard it came from a time when Victorian women would dance the night away and the arsenical dust from their gowns plagued ballrooms. Harsh levels of arsenic was found in vintage green clothing and most commonly gowns (dresses) in the 19th century. Avoid green tarlatan dresses (fabric) and the Scheele’s Green agent I believe to have been used in dye. Arsenical pigments have also been detected in stockings in the red colour family. Some candles, curtains, and wallpapers from the period were also known to contain harmful levels of arsenic.

Mercury was once used to weight old lamp bases and antique clock pendulums as well as act as the reflective surface behind glass mirrors in the mirror backing. Make sure you are additionally cautious when buying dated barometers and thermometers. You should check for damage and ensure seals on these items are mercury leak proof.

Radium or Tritium can be found in old clocks and watches circa the early 1900’s. Beware of those that glow in the dark. It seems like shiny things with an intriguing glow weren’t so great back then. Back in the day it was also said that Uranium was added to Vaseline glass to give it a yellow-ish green glow.

Unfortunately toxic amounts of lead have been found in thrift and consignment store collectibles such as dishware, jewelry and antique toys. Look out for furniture where lead-based paint may have been used too.

Colourful ceramics made in the 1960’s attract the eye because of their radiant glazes but the glaze may have Radionuclides in it. Pottery and Tiles also fit this mould.

I am not a health expert so cannot suggest all the side effects or health issues that may derive from contact with these items relayed above I am merely just sharing years of information I have come across.

At the end of the day it is always a rush to find that “piece to die for” but not literally speaking.



Tip of the Week: What to Call a Collector of Many Things


Take a Break Tuesday presents information for the inquisitive mind

Ever wonder what to call yourself or someone else who is a collector or enthusiast of one specific kind of object?

There is pretty well a long and hard to pronounce name for every kind of collector out there, some of these words (names) can also pertain to someone who not only collects but studies the specific object in great detail. I was curious about what to formally call a few of my favourite collectors…

A Philographist collects autographs – usually (or especially) those coming from famous people.

Helixophiles not only study but collect corkscrews. If I get a bigger house I may gather some corks and then try some D.I.Y projects with the collected corks such as these. Any excuse to open a bottle of wine and add a new do it yourself project under my belt is amazing.

A Virtuoso – is a collector of works of curios (unusual art objects such as bric-a-brac) or fine art . I just want to say the word because it rolls of the tongue VIR-TU-OSO.

I have known a few Pannapictagraphists in my lifetime this is a comic book collector.

You may know a Bibliophile or in everyday words a connoisseur of books.

My grandfather is a Numismatist he collected currency, including coins. Some numismatists also collect paper money, tokens and other correlated objects.

An Oologist is an expert in the realm of bird’s eggs or someone who collects them. If there was an oologist at my place they would be checking out the three new eggs my Gouldian Finch is laying on.

A Brolliologist may be found singing in the rain or holding one of their many umbrellas.

You could say I love collecting stuff but I would call myself a crazy generalist – a collector of random (different) stuff.