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Guest Blog

Guest Blog – Paris Parfait Writes “The Art of the Deal”

As The Antiques Diva continues taking a “break from her blog” whilst settling into her new home in Berlin post-move, the Guest Blog Marathon continues with a highly esteemed visitor taking the helm in today’s muse.

Today’s Guest Blogger is Tara Bradford, American author of the “tres populaire” blog Paris Parfait, which seems to have a dash of everything from art, antiques, culture and poetry to photography and a liberal dose of political ponderings. In today’s special Antiques Diva post, you’ll see why The Diva fell in love with Paris Parfait’s writing style as Tara writes about a recent visit to a flea market as if she were recounting a romance tale.


Paris Parfait Guest Blog – The Art of the Deal

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 317px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>She spotted it right away, but pretended not to notice. In French, she asked him to show her Russian religious icons, one after the other. But she wasn’t interested in Russian icons; not today.

Before that afternoon at the brocante at Parc des Princes, she’d never been interested in daggers. But at first glance at the antique dealer’s table, she could see one was very special. Four ancient ceremonial daggers were lined up in a row, their scabbards gleaming; the handles studded with semi-precious stones. Casually, she asked to see the one she liked least. He detected an accent and began talking in English about his days at university in Scotland. He went on and on, caught up in happy memories, no longer paying any attention to trying to sell his antiques.

“I’m not English,” she said. He looked crestfallen. “But your accent?…”

“I’m American,” she responded. “Perhaps you think my accent sounds a bit English, because my husband is British.”

“Ah, that’s it,” he nodded, knowingly. And he kept talking about Scotland, about his English girlfriends at university; about the fierce winters that made him long for the desert.

She asked him to show her another dagger. It was beautiful, but not unusual. Finally, she asked to see the one that had made her inwardly catch her breath.

As he drew the dagger from its silver and bronze scabbard, she tried not to react at the rare sight of the hand-carved keyhole and hand-etched design. She brushed aside his talk of the ivory handle, inlaid with coral stones. She shrugged and said, “Yes, it’s nice. How much”?

“550 Euros,” he replied gravely. She laughed. “You might as well stab me in the heart with it then.”

“350 Euros,” he offered. “No, I don’t have that kind of cash with me, but thanks,” she said, shaking her head and turning to go.

Then she looked back at him and asked, in Arabic, “Do you speak Arabic?”

“Do I speak Arabic??!!” he exclaimed. And the words came tumbling out, one after the other, so fast she could barely keep up, as he told her his story. She listened, nodding and trying to make appropriate remarks in the flowery language she hadn’t attempted for ages. After a few minutes, she asked, in Arabic, his best price for the dagger.

“For you, 100 Euros!” he shouted, beaming. “Thank you,” she responded, smiling as she handed over the cash. And he, too was happy, even though he’d dramatically undersold a 200-year-old piece.

Photo of Tara, courtesy of Di Mackey Photographer, Woman Wandering


Paris Parfait Photography:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 France License.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 317px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Caption: Antique Syrian dagger, which has not been cleaned in many, many years on top of a Lehnert & Landrock photograph.

to 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 227px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Caption: Close-up view of the silver and bronze dagger’s keyhole design.
to 10px; WIDTH: 277px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 400px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Caption: A 19th-century Moroccan silver coin necklace purchased Sunday from another dealer at the brocante – no bargaining required. The coins rubbing together sound like little tinkling bells, as you walk. The mosque image is part of Tara’s collection of Lehnert & Landrock photographs

Guest Blog: Mantiques – The Professor Shops Chatou

Regular Diva Readers know how I adore the twice annual 10 day tou/foire/acc.htm” target=”_blank”>“National Fair of the Flea Market and Ham” held in the Paris suburb of L’ile de Chatou. You’ve heard me tou” target=”_blank”>wax poetically about this market on numerous occasions and in numerous publications and you’ve even read a guest blog from Lady Lotus on the subject. Now, Lady Lotus’ husband, The Professor, has taken time to add his 2 cents in this blog titled:

“Mantiques – The Professor Shops Chatou”


top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>When a man says something about getting wood, some minds may wander down more prurient paths. Clearly, these people have never been shopping for antique wooden furniture at Chatou, the grand antique bizarre to the West of Paris.

The real pleasure may not be shopping for some table made of an old worm-eaten bit of bark, but instead the ham. The very name of the event, Chatou Foire au Jambon (Chatou Ham Festival), tells the tale: the event is not merely for dainty antique-o-philes of stereotype. It is also – even primarily – a place to go for ham. Ham choices are various. They include a ham sandwich that is so piled with add-ons that it is a food grenade for anyone who dares try to eat it while wearing good clothes. There is usually some form of ham-and-cheese mixture in a hot pot, typically to be served with boiled potato slices. Roast ham is everywhere. So, too, is a selection of mostly white wines and beers. All this is central to the market, self-righteously occupying the central rows of the grounds.

The antique shopping itself is rather enjoyable, possibly because the goods for sale are not antiques by French standards. In France, an antique is old. The people in the paintings on sale at a real antique market died before your great-grandparents were born. At an antique shop, “second empire” is hardly old enough. There, a chair on sale might have last suffered an ass more than a hundred years ago.

The market at Chatou is a brocante, which might be something like a junk sale to the blasé French. “What, less than a hundred years old? Mon dieu, it’s still trash.” The objects for sale at Chatou, excepting the ham of course, tend to be anywhere from a few decades old to a few hundred. This garage-sale material from France may be mouthwatering to the shopper from the Western US, where some states themselves are not quite a hundred years old. At lunchtime, the merchants shamelessly sit on the very chair you might want to buy and spread their hams and drinks on the table you are eyeing. “Excusez-moi, but would you try not to get any condensation rings on the table I am buying?”

There are challenges of shopping at Chatou. First and foremost, there is the fine balance between eating and drinking too much and effective shopping. Clearly, every man must face this burden in his own way. My preference is to arrive in the morning, shop for a while, and end with a late lunch.

This sequence leads me to throw caution to the wind when choosing my heaps of ham and accompanying liquids as my shopping is finished. After that, I am useless for shopping and it’s time to nap my way back to Paris by train. The only interruption for the rest of the day is my own quiet belches – and my wife nudging me and telling me to stop belching, even quietly.

The second challenge is the shopping. This entails two steps: scouting and negotiating. I particularly enjoy the scouting part because I cheat. My wife, knowing that I am a lousy shopper, will have already scouted at the event with more patient friends earlier in the week. This may seem bizarre: why, this man wonders, would anyone go shopping twice? I’d go twice for the ham, but not for shopping. Perhaps it is a mystery of the universe not to be solved here, but why do women bother to identify the things they want to buy, but not buy them? Yet she claims to enjoy this method. I enjoy not scouting.

The negotiations can be a chore. It typically starts before you know it. By the time you have come within 10 meters (must be metric in France), the merchant will have sized you up and decided how much can be wrung from you. As a visitor from the US, you are stamped with the word “sucker” until you prove otherwise. This can be accomplished by showing a modicum of appreciation for the object in question, rather than a lackadaisical interest as might suggest itself when your wife’s fancy falls on some frilly whatever that you know will mock you from the wall beside your television until you accidentally break it while she is away. Speaking a bit of French is always welcome, even if the negotiations end up devolving into typed numbers on a calculator for want of any real foreign language abilities on either side.

The verbal negotiations are fraught. Just how much is the thing worth – taking into account the type of wood, the Louis-Philippe style, the crack on the side, the evidence of worm damage, the replacement of the handles, and so on – is irrelevant for most people. As we usually plan to keep it, the question is how much it is worth to the buyer and whether or not
we can get it cheaper. This requires seeing the prices on comparable pieces at the market and some pre-negotiation negotiating among the buying spouses.

Chatou negotiations tend to be good natured as far as such things go, particularly as compared to, say, the markets of Marrakesh or the rug merchants of Istanbul. But the vendor would probably be willing to let you pay much more than you should. Negotiations can often be complicated if you add in an object mid-way through. However, one will ideally have identified any “throw-in” beforehand lest, as in the case of one infamous shopping expedition, one’s wife identifies some trinket off-hand that leads the merchant’s eyes to widen as multi-digit price calculations race through his mind.

The third challenge of the shopping expedition is getting the object home. Even for ex-pats in Paris, this can be a bit of a chore, as anyone who has tried to arrange their day around a typical French delivery time knows. The statement that the delivery will be “sometime next Wednesday” often leads to boring days awaiting a delivery, rescheduling after they do not show up, and so on. For the international traveler, modern airline restrictions may constitute more than a mere nuisance. For example, I was quite concerned that the airline staff would not let me carry an old cane with a brass handle onto the plane. Fortunately, it passed the test: one staff person glanced at it, then rapped it against her own head before judging that it was safe. The challenge of getting the loot home would be amplified if one sought to buy some nice big armoire of walnut with mirrored front doors.

Chatou is a place to go for ham, drinks, and old stuff. It can be a cheap few hours or an immensely expensive expedition. In either case, this twice-a-year event is fun for all – or, at least, for me – and is to a worthwhile trip for anyone who may have already ate and drank too much in Paris during previous trips and is looking for a new location for such indulgences. The antique shopping, frankly, is pretty fun, too.

MARCH 6 – 15, 2009

Dealer’s Come Early – March 5, 2009

USA Edition – Guest Blog – Save the Date New York

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Dear Diva Readers,

Save the Date! Mark your calendar – March 14-15, 2009! This is the last big collecting event in New York City until fall.

  • 500 Shops and Galleries in ONE building. Pier 94 12th Ave., @55th St., NY
  • Fabulous and Affordable Furniture, Jewelry, Silver, Ceramics
  • Industrial Arts, Collectibles, Fashion, Art and so much more!

From tea towels to Tiffany and way beyond… you’ll find it at the Pier Show.

NEW HOURS: 10-6pm on Saturday and Sunday

Admission: $15
(But take a hint and watch the NY Times on Fridays in February for a discount admission coupons)

For More Details: visit stellashows

By the way, Dealers, this show is made with you in mind! Dealer Specials (of up to 50% off certain items) are being compiled and will be emailed to registered dealers prior to the show.

While there, check out the Glass, Rug & Furniture Restoration & Conservation booth as well as the Toy, Memorabilia & Pop Culture Appraisals

Coming to you LIVE FROM NEW YORK,

The Contessa

Guest Blog – Vintage Clutches

Kelli from A Rendez-Vous with Style is back again with another exciting guest blog for Antiques Diva readers… This time she shares with you details on some vintage clutches she found in her Grandma’s closet.


A Rendez-Vous with Style writes:

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 214px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />
top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Last fall, as my family and I sadly laid my Grandma to rest, my head was swirling with questions. Of course whenever she and I spent time together I would ask her about her life. I always enjoyed looking through the hundreds of photos documenting her wonderful years here on earth and I never turned down an opportunity to ask about her past experiences, her parents, what life was like “back then”, how she met my Grandpa and many other questions that I am sure at times were overwhelming for her. Yet, once someone is gone, you realize that there is so much that you didn’t know about them or their life, even after 30 years of asking questions and spending time together. I guess I am still coming to terms with the fact that certain experiences, other quiet secrets, are taken to the grave.

While cleaning up the remaining belongings at her home, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering why hadn’t I ever asked to play dress up with her or even request to see some of her favorite items she had acquired throughout the years, on her many travels around the world. It is unfortunate that I didn’t ask more than I did! Alas, the stories behind these vintage beauties are lost forever; however, I am keeping my imagination open and my daydreaming vivid! I am sure these hand-beaded clutches lived well and of course always added just the right amount of pizzazz to my Grandma’s already very stylish wardrobe.

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Bullocks, wow! That department store was around when I was young and I had almost completely forgotten it ever existed! Not being allowed in Grandma and Grandpa’s room, ever, I had absolutely no idea what I would find inside. Needless to say, I was delighted to uncover 4 gorgeous vintage clutches!


Vintage Clutch #1:
Silver Mesh Whiting & Davis Co. Bags
This clutch could very well date back to the 1920’s

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front View ~ The silver mesh is stunning along with the large rhinestone clip

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Inside View ~ The tag reads “Mesh Whiting & David Co. Bags Made in U.S.A.”
The same information in stamped into the frame of this shining beauty.

I was curious about this bag as well as the company, so I did a little research and this is what I found out about Whiting & David Co.

With a pedigree that dates back to the jazz age, WHITING & DAVIS handbags are renowned for their sleek and innovative collection. First introduced in 1876, they became world renowned for fashionable metal mesh handbags. In addition, they are also a major supplier of mesh for industrial, architectural, jewelry, scientific and home décor applications. In 1999, The Inge Christopher Group acquired WHITING & DAVIS handbags. Soon after the acquisition, as they began pioneering new ways to play with the metal mesh, they realized they had acquired an aesthetic gem.

WHITING & DAVIS’ new design team added novelty colors, dramatic new textures, and retro-paint effects to its repertoire, creating exquisite metal mesh handbags. They soon became coveted arm candy by many fashion icons, as well as celebrities. Their bags are used for everything from one’s wedding night to prom and even on the red carpet.

WHITING & DAVIS handbags use their signature metal mesh to create an array of products from cosmetic cases and wallets to sophisticated daytime and evening handbags. Their handbags range from timeless to classic to vintage styles with Art Deco and Victorian influences, to young and contemporary silhouettes. Let your imagination take you away with all of WHITING & DAVIS’ alluring metal mesh handbags.


Vintage Clutch #2:
No Name
Hand Made in France
Small pearl-like beads & flat metallic beads hand sewn onto ivory silk

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front view ~ I am in love with the attention to detail! It is absolutely exquisite!

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Back view ~ I love the “hand slip” rather than wrist strap. I can just imagine it appearing as to float magically in hand.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Inside tag reads “Made in France. Hand-Made”
A vintage clutch after my own {French} heart!

Inside the interior pocket safely rests this clutch’s original mirror. It is gorgeously backed in the same silk as the bag’s inside lining.


Vintage Clutch #3:
No Name
No Tag
No Idea!
to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front view ~ Beautiful hand-sewn detail. I love the sunflower inspired motif! I can definitely see this lovely vintage clutch accompanying me to many weddings in future years.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Back view ~ Again, I love the litt
le hand slip.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Peering inside ~ Even the zipper pull has a vintage motif engraved around it.
Things just aren’t made like they used to be!


Vintage clutch #4:
No Name
Hand Made in Hong Kong
Black beading on black silk

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front view ~ The perfect beaded black clutch!
I absolutely adore the shape of this clutch’s opening flap. It is larger than the other 3 bags and much “newer”; I am estimating late 1970’s – early 1980’s.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />A peek inside

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Black silk lining with small tag. This clutch was certainly purchased when my Grandma & Grandpa traveled to China.


My maternal Grandmother gave me this adorable purse when I was just a few years old. It is paisley velvet with a long pink strap and I remember dragging it around everywhere with me. I have kept it all these years and hope someday my daughter will enjoy playing with it, just as I did. My Grandmother has been gone since 2001, so when I pulled this little purse out while re-organizing my closet the other night, it brought a smile to my face.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The tag reads “Hans och Greta” ~ Hans and Greta

As I continued about in my closet, I enjoyed reliving memories of times spent with my Grandma and my Grandmother. I thank them for their love, their care and their always impeccable, personal style.

Until next time… Call someone you love, enjoy something passed down to you from another generation and embrace styles from the past that you enjoy!

to 10px; WIDTH: 214px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Kelli Djulus –
The Diva’s Wardrobe Stylist Extraordinaire

Guest Blog – The Cashmere Touch

Dear Diva Readers,

Have you ever been curious what makes cashmere so special and so expensive? Or what the difference is between pashmina and cashmere? Or why one shawl marked “pashmina” is labeled 5 euros and another marked several hundred euros?

Following you’ll find a Guest Blog from Isabelle Caifinger, the gorgeous French founder of the Amsterdam-based “open by appointment only” store The Cashmere Touch. Isabelle answers all your cashmere questions and then some in this Antiques Diva Exclusive – The Cashmere Queen Tells All!

While pashminas are a fashion passion of mine (see me at right wearing a pashmina at an Amsterdam charity auction last year), they’ve also become a diva decorating staple! I recently recommended to an Antiques Diva Decorating Client that she buy one of Isabelle’s gorgeous shawls to frame and hang on her wall as art work! I’m not the only one who has had this idea…” target=”_blank”>Residence magazine, the premier Dutch decorating magazine, has featured Isabelle’s work as well as Elle Decoration! And by the way, one last secret before I say Ta Ta from Me and Bonjour from The Cashmere Queen – Isabelle’s secret supplier is also supplying another high-end store that you might recognize by its little orange box!

to 10px; WIDTH: 116px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 170px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />to 10px; WIDTH: 115px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 170px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />
So, Ta Ta from me, The Antiques Diva and Bonjour from Isabelle – The Cashmere Queen!


The Cashmere Touch

Have you ever wondered where cashmere comes from, how it gets its softness and why it is threatened as a natural fiber?

As you know, there are different qualities of cashmere offered in the market, mostly from Nepal. Most are blended with regular wool or silk and yet it is called “pashmina or cashmere”. However just the weight and feel of the material you have in your hands will tell you about the quality. When a shawl is hanging somewhere and it says “Pashmina – Only 5 Euros” you know automatically that you are being lied to! If it’s priced 5 Euros, then clearly it’s not really Pashmina!

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Few people know that “Pashmina” and “Cashmere” are the same!Pashmina is the thin undercoat of a Himalayan goat known as the « Changra goat », which grazes the arid plateaus of Ladakh, Tibet, and Mongolia at an altitude of 13,500 feet (4,500 meters). In response to freezing winters, the goat develops very soft and thick wool, which is carefully combed out during the summer. The tougher the winter, the thinner, the warmer and the more beautiful the under hair: this is why a Pashmina shawl floats on the shoulders, while being as warm as a coat. The precious animals are raised in herds and coddled by their nomadic goat keepers: the Pashmina wool should not be mistaken with the banned and controversial «Shatoosh», which comes from a wild Tibetan antelope which needs to be killed to get its fur and has therefore become a dying species.

top:10px;margin-bottom:10px;margin-left:10px;font-family: Arial,Helvetica,Georgia;font-size:22px;line-height:18px;color:grey;text-align: right;”>
Few people know that Pashmina & Cashmere are the same!

Kashmir’s history is closely associated with the Pashmina fiber. The valley of Kashmir and its lake city of Srinagar are set in the splendid Himalayan range and the shawl industry sustains thousands of rural families who live in sheer isolation. Since Mughal times, the Kashmiris have developed unique spinning and weaving skills. The wool is acquired from neighboring Ladakh (still 14 hours away from the Kashmir valley) and spun into a gossamer yarn by women, at home.

The fiber is so fine it can only be spun by HAND: its diameter ranges from 12 to 14 microns (the average diameter of a human hair is about 70 microns). It then takes about two months to mount the yarn on the loom and about a month to weave a shawl, a manual work exclusively done by men.In the 1990’s Nepal invaded the world with pale imitations, often mixed fibers with artificial or natural silk, nothing comparable with pashmina or true cashmere. However everything was called “pashmina” which became synonymous with wool. Other countries tried to raise the “Cashmere” goat at a lower altitude and in a different environment: the harvested wool often proved thicker and coarser. Knowing and acknowledging the true value of a Pashmina shawl from Kashmir contributes to the struggle of local artisans -men and women- to retain their exclusive skills, to maintain the reputation of a unique industry and to keep intact the fame of the amazing Changra goat.

Cashmere is threatened by that fact that the new generation is not interested in this manual and intensive labor and chooses to go live in cities. Yet the demand for this quality of cashmere is increasing rapidly, therefore prices are climbing. It is not possible to trademark the word “Pashmina”; people are tempted to call anything and everything “Pashmina”, to capitalize on this demand. This is a reason why one should be careful when buying a cashmere item. If it were possible to trade-mark the word “Pashmina”, it should take into consideration the animal species used, the way it grazes and at which altitude (the same species grazing at a lower altitude develops a much grosser, less refined fiber), the fleece quality and that of the underneath under hair layer. It should also take into consideration the process of the wool transformation meaning the artisanal techniques used and the craftsmen dexterity working and weaving the Pashmina. Indian Cashmere has the most gifted craftsmen with the most experience, who have through centuries given the Pashm
ina an incomparable texture and softness.

The New Cashmere Throw:
Working with our exclusive craftsmen in Kashmir for the past few years, we at The Cashmere Touch have now developed new products such as luxurious cashmere throws, blankets and ponchos. It is the first time that craftsmen from Srinagar, capital of Indian Kashmir weave something else than a shawl in this particular quality. There is nothing comparable in quality in the market today, other cashmere throws come from Nepal or China have been standardized and have a different feel and warmth.

Best regards,
Isabelle Cajfinger” target=”_blank”>The Cashmere Touch

Contact Us!

For Appointments at this exclusive shop, email and your message will be forwarded to The Cashmere Queen at her private email address!!!

Guest Blog – See You in Cambodia!

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>When I received the following letter from my Australian friend Verona, I knew that I must post it on my blog! It’s not every day that a friend writes with the title, “See You in Cambodia” in the subject line. Verona and her darling husband Douglas are adventurers-at-heart and though I’ve only known them a short time I’m certain Vee is my soul mate! Sometimes ones paths need only cross for a few brief months in order to be friends for life! Verona is living my dream – abandoning reality as she knows it and opening a hotel in a far away exotic locale! Someday I hope to follow in her footsteps (opening my own B&B;) but in the meantime, I plan to live vicariously through Verona and her husband’s wanderings! I hope that Vee will take time out in the coming months to keep Antiques Diva Readers updated on her wonderful divalicious journey! Verona and Douglas, best wishes for mountains of success to rain on you and congratulations on this exciting move! We’re with you all the way!

Much Love,
The Antiques Diva™

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Dear Antiques Diva,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>It’s not every day you buy a hotel in a tropical paradise. And although I’m still pinching myself in disbelief, that’s exactly what my husband and I have done. After years of moving around the world with the corporate giant, this next move is our own making. After being located in South East Asia for a time, we decided that was where, one day, we would retire. So when out of the blue the opportunity to purchase a small hotel on the South West coast of Cambodia presented itself my husband and I threw caution to the wind and signed on the dotted line.

We have bought a 19 room boutique hotel with bar, alfresco dining terrace and rooftop Jacuzzi pool due to open December this year – how cool is that? It’s in Sihanoukville, formally called Kampong Som, and right by Orhheuteal Beach with pristine white sand spanning for miles and gentle rolling waves protected by the sheltered Thailand Gulf. Every evening is blessed with a perfect sunset enjoyed with something cool and refreshing in our hands while sampling freshly caught seafood grilled in the sand before us.

Of course, this idyllic dream may fade some when the reality of running a hotel kicks in; trying to placate guests, running out of ice, power cuts and air conditioner break-downs and training staff who can barely speak English, but we’re confident we’ll take it all in our stride and soldier on! Although there are a number of hotels in Sihanoukville already they are mainly backpacker huts or expensive 5 star resorts, so our moderately priced 4 star pad with the best managers in town will be a nice addition!

So I say goodbye to my good friends in Holland and wish you well in your own dreams and maybe we’ll meet up on a sandy beach one day in a small place called Sihanoukville.

All the best,
Proprietor, Coolabah Hotel

Why did my Aussie friend call her hotel The Coolabah Hotel? After the line in “Waltzing Matilda”, of course! The unofficial Australian national anthem sings,
“Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah Tree….”

USA Edition – Guest Blog – A Stroll Through History

Another Exciting Guest Blog from The Contessa!

to 10px; WIDTH: 213px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />
top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>The city of Troy, NY rests on the eastern bank of the Hudson River in upstate NY, just north of the capital city of Albany. The city is small – population only about 50,000 but is as diverse as can be.

The city started as a village in 1787 and boasts some of the finest Victorian and Federal architecture in New York state. During the industrial revolution, Troy was one of the wealthiest cities in America and it shows in the architecture of the period. The architecture is so magnificent that movie directors the likes of Martin Scorsese come here to film. The movie, “Age of Innocence” based on the Edith Wharton novel was filmed almost in its entirety in Troy. Other films that have filmed in Troy include: “Ironweed”, “Scent of a Woman” and “The Bostonians.”

Troy attracts many art, literature and music lovers and has been the home at one time or another to Kurt Vonnegut, Maureen Stapleton, Herman Melville and Jane Fonda. As a matter of fact, Fonda’s son Troy is named after the city. She attended Emma Willard School here, one of the most exclusive girl’s schools in the country.

It was also in Troy on December 23, 1823 that a man published a poem he had written for his sick daughter in the Troy Sentinel newspaper. That man was Clement C. Moore and the poem was A Visit From St. Nicholas or as it is more commonly known now…..T’was the Night Before Christmas.

Troy holds an annual” target=”_blank”>Victorian Stroll every Christmas season, always held the first Sunday in December. The downtown area virtually turns back the hands of time to the Victorian era with scads of visitors arriving in Victorian garb, street vendors fill the streets with roasted chestnuts and venues all over town offering entertainment. And it’s all free. The children delight to see Father Christmas himself among the visitors. Live reindeer stroll in front of city hall and street entertainers perform on every corner.

There is a wonderful craft show in the Uncle Sam Atrium (another live Character from Troy’s history…more on that later). You can tour The Paine Mansion on 2nd street which was used extensively in the filming of The Age of Innocence. The mansion is now a fraternity and the brothers keep it in tip top shape. You can shop at the year round Farmers Market or visit one of the many antique shops in the antique district on River Street. There are several really special ones to choose from.

Dusk which is owned by John Hansen, a former stylist for Martha Stewart is a very small but wonderful shop. John has an incredible sense of style and I’ve seen him go to other shops with one of his customers if he feels he knows exactly what you need or are looking for.

tore/” target=”_blank”>Aurora’s Willow Creek Boutique is a girl’s delight. Owner Carol Fitzpatrick has amassed one of the largest collection of Miriam Haskell vintage jewelry around and she loves all things feminine. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful candles, soaps, lotions, purses, jewelry and “girly” type items.

The Counties of Ireland on 3rd Street has everything from the Emerald Isle. Country Charm on River Street has loads of rustic country antiques and the Bournebook Antique Center has 2 levels of antiques from over 50 dealers. All these businesses and a lot more are open during the stroll. I’ve only touched on just a few of the wonderful shops in downtown Troy. There are a lot of them.

Now if you are hungry, Troy is known for having wonderful restaurants and because it hosts one of the largest engineering schools in the Country (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), it has many residents from all over the world and restaurants to match almost any cuisine. On one block on River Street, you can buy Asian, Egyptian and Lebanese cuisine. Also downtown, there is The Tuscan Grill, and of course….famous hot dogs.

tore_hot_dog.jpg”>tore_hot_dog.jpg” border=”0″ />Ok, some explanation here about the hot dogs….in 1932, the “Quick Lunch” opened its doors on Congress St serving mini hot dogs to hundreds of adoring fans. In 1958, a local marine stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow just had to have his Troy hot dogs. Several dozen dogs were flown to the embassy and were served that day to the Marine and the US Ambassador at his 54th birthday celebration. The news of “Operation Hot Dogs” made the national news and the “Quick Lunch” soon became “world famous” hence the change in name. The tiny hot dogs still come with “the works”….mustard, onions and Coney Island sauce and will set you back a whole 75 cents each.

If you want to travel a little bit out of downtown on Hoosick Road, you will find the Plum Blossom Restaurant which has scads of awards for best Chinese in the area. Among the customers there are Governor David Patterson and Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton who an insider told me “she likes her food extra spicy”.

Troy really is a delightful city. It also hosts one of the most haunted cemeteries in the country…Forest Park. Sometime around Halloween I’ll tell you of my adventures there. Spooky!

Last but not least, as I promised, the story of Troy and Uncle Sam. Uncle Sam was actually a local meatpacker whose name was Sam Wilson. During one of the wars in the 19th century, he sold meat to the U.S. government and when it was pac
ked, he stamped the product….U.S. Beef .. It was supposed to mean United States beef but people took it somehow to mean Uncle Sam’s meat and hence…Uncle Sam was born. He indeed was a very real person and you can visit his grave in the Oakwood Cemetery and also visit the graves of Civil War generals and other luminaries. Oakwood Cemetery hosts some of the most magnificent architecture, especially the crematorium (no longer in use).

torian+Stroll.gif”>torian+Stroll.gif” border=”0″ />If all this isn’t enough to entice you to pay a visit, give me a day or two and I’ll think up another dozen or so reasons. Hope to see you at the Victorian Stroll on Sunday, December 7th from 11 am to 5 pm. For more information on The Victorian Stroll, go to

Come experience the charm of downtown Troy at this traditional holiday event!

26th Annual Troy Victorian Stroll
Sunday, December 7, 2008
11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Happy Holidays!

The Contessa

PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Heffler

Guest Blog – Estate Sale How To’s & Etiquette

A Quick Note From The Diva:

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Today’s Guest Blog is written by my friend tomas-and-round-top-texas-antiques.html” target=”_blank”>(and Name Twin) Toma, author of the” target=”_blank”>Victorian Cobweb blog. I call her “The Estate Sale Diva” for her knowledge is so extensive and her list of local contacts so impressive that she earns the title of “Diva of the Month” or as we say here in Holland, “Diva van de Maanden”! She has only recently started her blog, but has already received rave reviews as she lists dates for fairs & sales in the Midwestern and Southwestern parts of the USA. I’m proud of you Name Twin Toma for what you’ve started – keep up the good work!

Ta Ta From The Antiques Diva and Hello From Victorian Cobweb!


Victorian Cobweb writes:

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Of late I have had so many people ask me, “What is an estate sale?”, “How do you do estate sales?”, “Do you take a number every time you come?” and “How do they work?” For Antiques Diva Readers, I will try to dispel some of the mystery surrounding one of my favorite pastimes!

Usually in your local newspapers or county shoppers, estate sales will be listed in the classifieds under garage sales, for sale, announcements, estate sale, etc. The ads will usually list the company’s contact information, sometimes not. Sales will be hosted by family, friends or sometimes a church, but most will be hosted by an Estate Sale & Liquidation company that is made up of professionals with extensive backgrounds in antiques and appraisals, estates and liquidations. (Stay tuned for another blog on how these professionals get the estate ready for sale.) Some companies will do early sales prior to the actual published start of the sale. It all depends on the company and the contracts with their clients.

Typically, estate sale ads will read: “Numbers will be given at 8 and sale starts at 9″……this is when you will want to be there. If it say’s 8am arrive around 7:30 (or before) to be one of the first to get inside the house. Numbers are only given the first morning for the first couple of hours. This is to keep the influx of people at a minimum for safety and obviously theft. Your main goal is to see the contents of the house, so you have an idea as to what’s there. I hate to miss anything, so I go slowly through the rooms looking closely at everything. If it is a really full house I will go back several times over the course of the 2 or 3 days the sale is going on, as you invariably find more goodies. And as things are sold the company will rearrange and fill in – it’s all a part of the marketing and set up.

Some people like to come early – early bird gets the worm- some come late. I look for what I think is the best sale out of the listings for any given weekend and then make the others as I can. Also, look through the ads for garage/yard/tag sale for more treasure stops along the way. I prioritize the sales in order of importance, then distance from each other – the best first then distance. Get to know the people hosting the sales – get on their email or call lists – ask questions – don’t be afraid to see if you can come early (they might just let you – you never know). Let them know what you’re looking for. If they know that you are a serious buyer you’ll be one of the first they call when they run across something you’re interested in.

Usually, the first day is full price, afternoon of the second day is 25% off, and the last day is 50% off. Most sales will also take offers on items. Don’t forget your manners – drive safely, be courteous of the neighbors lawns, etc., don’t park in others drives or block them. Always remember this I supposed to be fun, take a buddy and make a day of it.

I once went to a sale that was hosted by the church of one of their dearly departed. The lady that had passed had willed the entire house and contents to the church. Let me tell you that was a rather different Sale! I had heard a rumor that the first day was only for the members of the church (the ad in the newspaper had not mentioned this – but being nosey and curious I went anyway) I walked in and was doing my usual perusing of the goodies when someone asked me if I was a member of their church! The thought crossed my mind to lie as I had seen a number of treasures that I coveted, but I didn’t really relish the thought of being damned to hell over a trinket, so I meekly tucked my tail, said “No” and walked out lest lightning strike! I came back the following day when the “public” were allowed only to find my treasures gone!

Another pretty strange sale was when I was in line waiting for the doors to open and a lady came out with a large bowl and asked us to draw a piece of paper out – each piece had a number on it – the number you drew was when you got to come in the house! So if you got there first and you picked #37 – 36 people went before you! Argh! One guy took a peak as he drew his slip of paper and the lady banned him from the sale! Boooo! Needless to say he was rather furious at the whole mess as were most of us. Several left and some of us stayed. Heck, we were already there and had waited that long so why not stay for the whole show!

I hope this has helped in some small way to dispel some of the mysteries of going to Estate Sales!
Thanks Antiques Diva for letting me write to your readers!

Happy Treasuring,

Victorian Cobweb

Last Minute Diva! Guest Blog – Bastille Brocante

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>This weekend I will be attending The Pier Antiques Show in NYC, but my heart will, as always, be in Paris. My 2nd favorite antiques show, the SALON D’ANTIQUITES BROCANTE PLACE DE LA BASTILLE, closes this weekend after 10 days. This indoor/outdoor antiques show at Bastille has always been a personal favorite, second only to tou” target=”_blank”>the famous ham and flea market fair in Chatou. With over 400 dealers and everything from fine antiques to junk, it’s a shopper’s paradise. Plus, with the cold autumn weather, my favorite Vin Chaud* was always purchased at Bastille, usually accompanied by a merguez sandwich with mustard and fries.

Salon d’Antiques Brocante Place de la Bastille
Daily November 6-16
Paris, Place de la Bastille
11am – 7pm

At Bastille my favorite purchase was my first armoire, discovered at the Spring show, and leading to a 7 year association with the vendor, Monsieur and Madame Nakhechkerian (The business is listed in the wife’s name – Mme Florence Mallion-Nakhechkerian – contact +31.(0) who became one of my personal favorites (partly because I spoke with him only in French for the first 4 years I knew him, and then discovered he spoke English! He told me my French was fine, which, in the Spring of 1998, I assure you was NOT!) In addition to being so kind and patient with me during my first purchase from him, he invited us to his home in the country to see how it was restored, all the beautiful furnishings he and his wife had found and restored (he went into antiques restoration with his father-in-law, so it was a long-term, well-established business.) He visited our home several times to help us with our purchases: he modified one armoire so that it could easily hold our TV, but then be restored to original state; another armoire he added a coat bar so that it could serve as our entry coat closet. After a guest left a wet glass on our buffet and I got a restoration quote of 900 Euro from another restorer, he came by, pulled out his handy can of wood wax, painted over the spot and voila! The spot was gone. The name of his miracle furniture wax: Pate Duqay Rustique Moyen (my preferred shade) found at the Clingancourt flea markets, 92, rue des Rosiers.

Bon weekend a tous!
La Reine

*My favorite Bastille show “vin chaud” vendor shared his recipe with me! I now make it at home and enjoy it many times each autumn!

1 bottle of inexpensive, but drinkable, red wine
1 small plastic cup filled with granulated light brown sugar
1 small plastic cup filled with orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
Heat until bubbly, stirring well, serve and enjoy!
Bon Ap!

Guest Blog: Never, Ever Underestimate a Good Rummage Sale

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 214px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The Contessa is back… writing another exciting guest blog for The Antiques Diva™! Join her as she tells what Limoges, Gucci, Carpodiamonte, Lenox and Wedgewood all have in common…


top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Pop Quiz……What do Limoges, Gucci, Carpodiamonte, Lenox and Wedgewood all have in common? The answer is twofold….1) They are top notch brands of luxury items and 2) They are all items that I have bought at rummage sales!

Rummage sales as they are known in the USA (jumble sales in the UK) are usually held by churches or civic organizations to raise money for a particular project. The members of the group donate all sorts of items that are then laid out for sale, usually in a church hall. Now, here’s the ticket….a lot of people who do not know the value of things or who are elderly and wanting to downsize donate marvelous goods. You can find incredible items for a song! Most of the time the sale is just a one day affair and at the end of the day, the people running the sale just want the stuff gone. This is a great time to make trip number 2 of the day to the sale.

Let me explain. Always, always go to a rummage sale when they first open and scope out the entire sale (I usually skip clothing but you can pick up some designer duds if you are a popular size). If you find something that catches your eye, pick it up and carry it around with you. There is nothing worse than coming back for an item you were considering only to find it gone. If you change your mind you can always put it back. I always first head for the jewelry. A few years ago, I got a beautiful sterling silver brooch with semi-precious stones handmade in Israel for $2. I still to this day have it and I love to tell the tale of where I got it. I then check out all the house wares and miscellaneous goods. That is where I have found the most treasures. Recently I picked up a Limoges tea pot for $3, a sterling silver candy dish for ten cents and a Gucci tote bag for $2. I finish up with purses and books. I rarely come out empty handed and on more occasions than not, have found something really special.

Now about the second return to the sale – a lot of times they will have a bag sale. That’s where you buy a bag for a dollar and everything you can stuff in that bag is yours. One church recently had a sale where if you bought two bags, they gave you a third. Luckily, I was the first one there that morning and completely wiped out the jewelry section in one bag. I love taking it all home and then going through it piece by piece to determine which goes in my jewelry box, which goes in the trash and which can be re-sold at one of my sales. Another bag held about 6 pieces of luster ware, not something to my taste but very collectible none-the-less and there is
a market for it. Bag sales rock!

And while we’re on the subject of rummage sales, don’t over look thrift stores either! Here in upstate New York where I’m from, we have several really good ones. One of my favorites has a half price sale every Wednesday. Everything in the store is half of what it’s marked. Yes, there are days that turn up nothing but it’s fun to look none-the-less. The Goodwill stores here in upstate NY have a dollar sale every Sunday. Clothing that has been there more than a week is tagged with a special tag and it’s only $1. I’m an odd size so I don’t make out good on this one but I know one man who walked out with a Giorgio Armani suit for $1. Bargains like that cannot and should not be passed up! I find the fun is in the searching and then discovering a treasure.

But enough of that for now….. I have to go and clean the Wedgewood I just brought home that I paid a dollar for!

Happy Hunting!

The Contessa

A Couple of The Contessa’s Favorite Sources Around the USA:

– In Salt Lake City…..Deseret Industries
– In Lancaster Co, PA. …..Jubilee (run by the Mennonites)
– In Troy, NY……The Salvation Army
– In Bennington, VT…..The Goodwill Center
– In Cape Cod….during the tourist season, you are likely to find a yard sale on every street!

* Many of the photos in today’s blog come from Bowling Trophy – a blog devoted to answering the question “Trash or Treasure?” Check out:

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