Q) I have lots of old costume jewelry -- 30-40 years' worth -- that I was thinking of tossing out. Now my daughter tells me it's worth something.
A) Good costume jewelry always has been worth saving. Labels like Chanel, Schiaparelli, Kenneth Jay Lane, Hattie Carnegie, Miriam Haskell, Coro, Eisenberg, Christian Dior, Boucher, Hobe', Mazer and Trifari made within the last 50 years are being spruced up and sold at auction and in antique jewelry stores. Depending on the design, these pieces can sell for hundreds of dollars. Costume jewelry by Yves Saint Laurent, which has only been around since the early '70s, already has become a collector's item.
Miriam Haskell, which began making costume jewelry in 1924, still produces pieces today -- new styles and also an "heirloom collection," remakes of old Haskell classics.
Also considered valuable are old costume jewelry buttons, shoe buckles, and dress clips. And what was once considered "costume" now has become real. "Fakes" from the past sometimes used semi-precious stones, such as aquamarines, topaz and onyx, set in silver -- all of which is considered authentic and valuable today.
Several local stores will purchase costume jewelry directly from you. "I buy it any way I can get it," says Susan Lihn, owner of As Time Goes By, 655 C St. SE. Antiques Anonymous, 2627 Connecticut Ave. NW, will appraise and buy costume jewelry from individuals. And Iris Chase, the owner of Off The Cuff, 1077 Wisconsin Ave. NW, says: "I'm always looking for large, glitzy pieces from the '40s and '50s, or art deco from the '30s." Karen Lynn Franks, owner of Jameson & Hawkins, 2910 M St. NW, sells and buys very high quality, hard-to-find costume pieces as well as real jewelry. Sloane's auction house in Rockville will sell costume jewelry on consignment.
Old costume jewelry should be cleaned carefully. Chase recommends cleaning the pieces with a soft toothbrush dipped in warm water mixed with a mild dishwashing soap. Since the stones are most often glued to the metal, Chase says she is careful to "always clean the jewelry over tissues, so if anything falls off, it's not lost."
Q) Is it true that I shouldn't wear my fur coat outside while it's snowing?
A) If it's raining hard or the snow is very wet, you might be better off wearing a lined raincoat. According to Master Furriers Guild of America, furs can tolerate some snow and rain, but the lower layers of fur should not be allowed to get wet. If your coat gets slightly damp, you should shake it out to remove as much moisture as possible. Then, spread the coat out on a flat surface, or hang it up to dry. Never leave it near a radiator or heater, though, and never use a blow-dryer on it.
During the winter months, your coat shouldn't be jammed into a crowded closet, and it shouldn't be left in a plastic cleaner's bag. This mats down the fur and causes it to wear out sooner. Fur needs to breathe.
Q) I believe in all-cotton diapers -- old-fashioned diaper pins and all. But isn't there an alternative to the plastic pants that have to worn over them?
A) A California company, Biobottoms, makes a breathable, absorbent, wool-felt diaper cover. It fits snugly over the diaper and attaches with Velcro -- making diapering pinless.
Convenient, but at a cost. The "Biobottoms" in wool are $12.50 a pair; waterproofed cotton, $9.50. They are sold by mail-order -- from a free catalogue that also includes cotton and wool knit clothes for newborns to size 10. Biobottoms, 3820 Bodega Ave., P.O. Box 1060, Petaluma, Calif. 94953.