What you’ll learn in this episode:
- Who McClelland Barclay is, and why his costume jewelry is so difficult to find
- How to spot high-quality vintage costume jewelry
- What styles of vintage jewelry are popular right now
- How vintage pieces can help you define your personal style
About Patricia Gostick
Patricia Gostick has always loved old “stuff”, especially jewelry, but she started seriously collecting vintage costume jewelry in the late 1990s. A retired educator, she began to do research in the field of antique and vintage jewelry and became a v.c.j. dealer, buying and selling interesting pieces. Her specialty is the jewelry and art of McClelland Barclay (1891-1943), and she has published a number of articles about him. Her book “McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More” is an illustrated biography of the life of this multi-talented man. Patricia founded the Toronto Vintage Costume Jewelry Club in 2005, and she is a supporter of Costume Jewelry Collectors International (CJCI.)
- Website where the book is sold: www.rubylane.com/shop/bijouxvintage
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover of book, McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More
p. 105 from the book showing an example to McClelland’s cover art
p. 112 from book showing a very relaxed McClelland Barclay at the beach
p. 122 from book showing goldtone Retro Moderne jewellery
p. 119 from book showing sterling silver jewellery
Like many jewelry lovers, vintage jewelry dealer Patricia Gostick became enchanted by a particular jewelry designer. In her case, that designer was a little-known artist named McClelland Barclay, and his fascinating story led her to perform extensive research on his life and eventually write a book about him. She joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about why McClelland Barclay captivated her, how she chooses pieces for her personal collection, and what types of vintage jewelry are popular right now. Read the episode transcript below.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. Today, my guest is vintage jewelry dealer Patricia Gostick. She’s also the author of a new book, “McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More.” I have to admit I am not familiar with this individual and his work, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it today. Patricia, welcome to the program.
Patricia: Thanks so much, Sharon.
Sharon: So glad to have you. Tell us about your jewelry journey. Did you always like jewelry? Did you play with it when you were young? How did that come about?
Patricia: Yes, I was one of those children who always liked jewelry; I would say loved jewelry and played with it. I remember a highlight of my childhood was visiting an aunt who was very beautiful and fashionable. She invited my sisters and me to look through her jewelry drawer, which was filled with boxes and displays of jewelry, and she said, “You may each choose one piece, your favorite piece, and keep it as a gift from me.” I still remember looking through all these sparkly things, like being in Aladdin’s cave, and I never stopped loving jewelry.
Sharon: How did you become a vintage jewelry dealer? How did that come about?
Patricia: It started as a pretty young person. I started going to church bazaars, where all manner of things were sold, but I always headed to the jewelry table. You could always pick up some nice, old things. I started handling jewelry, really quality pieces, beautiful pieces, pieces that appealed to me. I eventually learned that some jewelry had little things on the backs called signatures. One of the best gifts my husband eventually gave to me was a jeweler’s loupe. As I started going on jewelry buying trips all over the place, I took my loupe with me and would search out these signatures. I became more aware of different styles and types of jewelry, and eventually I became a costume jewelry dealer.
I did shows at some of the top venues in Toronto and I started doing research on jewelry. I joined the Vintage Fashion and Costume Jewelry Group that was run by Lucille Tempesta. That organization had a jewelry magazine and I started writing articles for the magazine. I founded the Toronto Costume Jewelry Club in 2005 because I knew in a city of this size there had to be other like-minded jewelry fans, and we’ve been going since 2005. Maybe just in a virtual way during the pandemic, but we’re still going strong.
Over the years I attended some of the conferences held by the Vintage Fashion and Costume Jewelry Group in Providence, Rhode Island, which allowed me to do some research in that state. I eventually joined the successor of that group, Costume Jewelry Collectors International, and I have done research and written some original articles for that group. In 2013, I opened my online store, because I was finding it really tiring to do the antique shows and there were fewer of them. I opened a store called Bijoux Vintage on Ruby Lane, and that’s been how I’ve been selling vintage costume jewelry for the last seven, eight years. It’s been a journey that has progressed over the years and is still happening.
Sharon: I want to make sure everybody knows that the book—we’ll talk more about the book, but “McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More” is available on Bijoux Vintage.
Patricia: Yeah, that’s right through my store, Bijoux Vintage. Bijoux is with an “X.” It’s the French word for jewels.
Sharon: How did you encounter McClelland Barclay? I had never heard of him before.
Patricia: That’s amazing, Sharon, for someone of your background and knowledge, but I can understand it because he isn’t the best-known maker of costume jewelry. I first encountered him when I bought my first costume jewelry book in 1999. It was Fred Rezazadeh’s book “Costume Jewelry: A Practical Handbook and Value Guide.” Fred showed two pictures of jewelry by McClelland Barclay. One was of a sterling silver wishing well pin, and the other was a late Art Deco necklace with red and clear rhinestones. He said in his book, “If ever you come across jewelry by this man, buy it without hesitation, because it is not only among the rarest costume jewelry made in America, it is among the best. If you don’t buy it when you see it, you may never have the opportunity again.” Well, I was hooked. From then on, I started seeking out McClelland Barclay’s jewelry, which was originally really hard to find, but around that time, in 1999, I discovered eBay. I participated in many heated auctions to buy some of the pieces I wanted. I’ve been collecting his jewelry for a long time.
Sharon: First, what makes it the best? Is it the prongs, is it the way it’s done? Also, what caught your attention about it? I love that you read about it in a book.
Patricia: I think it was the great difference between the two items shown. One was a sterling silver piece, and the other was a late Art Deco, early moderne kind of item, and they seem to be really distinct. When I started buying the pieces, I could see they were very well-made. They were signed “McClelland Barclay,” and I realized just by handling the jewelry that indeed they were well-made. The plating was good; the rhinestones were set in prongs and in some cases glued in. There was a distinctive style, and there seemed to be a mystique about the very name “McClelland Barclay” in this jewelry. Also, it was scarce. Officially the jewelry was only made between 1938 and 1943. McClelland Barclay died in World War II in 1943, so the production of the jewelry ceased at that point. So, there was the scarcity factor. There was the quality factor, and something about it just spoke to me.
I would say that I love all sorts of other jewelry and I don’t wear a whole lot of McClelland Barclay jewelry. I do have a sterling bracelet on today. I often wear sterling pieces rather than the gold-plated rhinestone moderne pieces, but it was the person behind it; it wasn’t just the jewelry. The mystique about him, when I started learning more, was that he was a naval officer doing art aboard a ship that was torpedoed in the Pacific in July of 1943. There was a charisma there that drew me in and has kept my passion going for all these years.
Sharon: He was first known for his advertising illustrations, is that right?
Patricia: Yeah, that’s true. When I was doing research for the jewelry that I wanted to buy, not only on eBay but on other online sites and auctions, I started seeing all these pictures of McClelland Barclay illustrations, McClelland Barclay sculptures, McClelland Barclay designs of bookends and other metal products, his naval art, fine art, marine art, fashion designs and other designs he had done. I realized he had many, many facets to his creative output, and although I came at him first from the jewelry angle, most people probably knew him as an illustrator before they learned about the other aspects of his life.
Originally, because I was doing research about his jewelry and writing articles about it, I intended to write a book about McClelland Barclay jewelry because there was really nothing written about his jewelry; a bit about his life, but not much about the jewelry. Then, when I discovered all these others facets of his life, I said, “I can’t ignore these. Why not do an illustrated biography?” That’s what I ended up doing after 20 years of meandering research. Not 20 years non-stop, because I did take breaks because of medical factors or family situations, but basically I traveled to several places in the U.S. tracking down information about McClelland Barclay to complete the picture. I was lucky enough to discover his memoirs, which are hand-written notes. These really contributed to my understanding of this man who was passionate about life, a great athlete and as I said, a multi-talented guy. His passion for life engendered my passion, and here we have a book. So, there you go. I often say blame it on Fred Rezazadeh or his words about the rarity of this jewelry and showing those two pieces. I kind of think McClelland somehow chose me. I couldn’t let this go, the project, although on many occasions, I said, “No, I can’t do this.”
Sharon: It’s a big undertaking.
Patricia: It was. I did eventually write about his illustration art in a magazine called “Illustration,” which is one of the best-known magazines about illustration art and is sent all over the world. I was studying his jewelry and his illustration art, and those articles were the basis for chapters, but then it was all the other stuff I needed to research and write and get a manuscript. That’s how that all came up.
Sharon: Was he known for his jewelry while he was alive, or was it just, “Oh by the way, I do jewelry”?
Patricia: In 1938, there started to be articles in Vogue and Women’s Wear Daily, which was a trade magazine of that period and still exists, I believe. It was a trade magazine about jewelry and fashion, and there were articles that started to appear saying that Rice Weiner of Providence would be manufacturing this jewelry. In 2006, I arranged an interview after I discovered that Howard Weiner, the son of the cofounder of Rice Weiner and former CEO of the company, was still alive and living in Providence. I interviewed him and he was able to tell me some stuff about McClelland Barclay jewelry that was a secret and, for me, quite a bombshell. I write about that in my book for the first time. So, there are few discoveries that you will learn about in the book.
Sharon: Maybe it’s just me, but why do you think he’s not as well-known as other jewelers such as Miriam Haskell or Shriner?
Patricia: I’ve thought about that. I think the big names like Haskell and Boucher and Shriner and Pennino and Aubé or Kramer, some of these names are highly collected within the vintage costume jewelry collecting population. They were produced for longer, so they’re readily available, and there has been more research, more articles about those particular lines. Their founders were—Miriam Haskell was a very interesting person, or there’s Boucher coming from the fine jewelry tradition into costume jewelry. They had very interesting pasts.
It was probably starting in the late 1980s that people became interested in vintage jewelry and started writing about it. There were books and there were art books, but McClelland Barclay, until I came along, really didn’t have people writing about him. I also think the scarcity of the jewelry has maybe made it less collectable, but I think with more information available online and with people able to buy more of the jewelry, I know I have people interested in it who live in different parts of the world. I would say there is a growing interest, but it’s still more of perhaps a niche market.
Sharon: That’s really interesting. So you’re saying if I find a piece of his at a flea market, I have to be careful not to get into fistfight over it.
Patricia: I think so, or don’t let on that you know who it’s from.
Sharon: That’s interesting, because I wouldn’t have known if I was looking at something of his. Talking about the costume jewelry market today, what do you see? They say that millennials aren’t interested in fine jewelry or other jewelry, antique jewelry. What do you see in the costume jewelry market?
Patricia: I think it’s true to some degree, maybe to a large degree, that millennials aren’t as interested in costume jewelry as people who are older, but I think nonetheless they love jewelry. If we can educate them on vintage costume jewelry, I think there will be more collectors and buyers. Right now in my Ruby Lane shop, for example, I’ve been selling quite a few pairs of earrings, classic styles from the 60s to the 80s, clip-on earrings and drop earrings. Pearl drops are popular. Sterling bangle bracelets are really sought out. Eisenberg 1970s enamel pieces, especially the sets and unusual color combinations, are in demand. While I don’t generally sell Victorian jewelry, it does very well, especially fine jewelry, as does genuine Art Deco pieces; they’re very collectable. Good pieces by top names like some of those we mentioned, Haskell, Boucher, Kramer, Mazer and so on, they always sell well. Novelty Bakelite items are popular—not your run-of-the-mill bangles, plain bangles, but maybe deeply-carved bangles or novelty pins, for example. Scandinavian jewelry always has a strong market, but forget pedestrian jewelry. Sparkly brooches, even signed Austrian rhinestone pins aren’t as popular as they were maybe a decade ago. Pieces of Sherman jewelry are much less in demand than they were, but again, rare, top-quality pieces will still sell well. European items, like jewelry by Coppola e Toppo, are in demand, as are top Mexican-produced sterling jewelry. Spratling, of course, is a name most people recognize, but Pineda, Matilde Poulat, these names are sought after.
In terms of colors, think seasonal. Now we’re in the summer, so people are looking for bright colors and light-looking jewelry. Last year in 2020, there was a color produced called millennial purple and it was popular—shades of lilac, lavender and purple. The 2021 Pantone color of the year is—actually, it’s two colors, ultimate gray and illuminating yellow, and you’ll see these colors in fashion and also in jewelry. If you want to be on trend in terms of the colors you choose, you could check out the Pantone color recommendations. You can find vintage costume jewelry in any color you’d like. I would say if you want to be not only on trend, but beyond trends, you should create your own style. Choose the jewelry you like, the type of jewelry, and wear it, and eventually you will be known as a person who has a personal style. I think that’s important, rather than wearing what is popular in terms of what the general masses are buying. It’s always good to be ahead of the curve. That would be my recommendation: create your own style with vintage costume jewelry.
Sharon: Well, that’s the whole point of jewelry in a sense, isn’t it?
Patricia: It is. I think so, to be distinct and individual. That’s the beauty about vintage costume jewelry. You often find almost one-of-a-kind pieces, just because there were few made or they haven’t lasted or they’re so distinct that you’re going to be noticed in a crowd. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to be noticed, maybe you’ll not choose the big, chunky 60s and 70s pendants and earrings and bangle bracelets and so on, but for every taste there are types of jewelry. You can choose more delicate Art Deco-style pieces. That’s something that buyers will learn, that when something says “style,” it wasn’t made in that period, but it’s in the style of. So, you can find Art Deco-style or Edwardian-style jewelry that’s quite delicate. You don’t necessarily have to buy pieces that are going to make you stand out, but if that’s what you want, vintage costume jewelry is for you.
Sharon: Definitely. I’m curious, do you ever have McClelland Barclay on your site, or is it sold before it even gets online? Do you have collectors that you call and say, “I have a piece”? Does it ever make it online? I guess that’s the question.
Patricia: I have some pieces online right now in my shop, Bijoux Vintage. They’re actually duplicates, because a couple of times I’ve forgotten that I already owned a certain piece. At some point a few years ago, I decided I’d better do an inventory of my collection. I went through and discovered that I did have two of one brooch or two types of necklaces or bracelets or something, so a few of those pieces are for sale online, and they’re still in my shop. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to try to sell my collection as a whole or sell it individually. I have sold pieces individually to a couple of collectors, if they have their eye on some particular piece they know I own that they are interested in buying.
At this point, I can’t decide whether I will market the collection, because I do have some pieces that are probably the rarest McClelland Barclay pieces. They are shown in my book. There’s a cuff bracelet, very much in the style of Trifari’s Empress Eugenie series, but it is signed “McClelland Barclay.” There’s another one, very similar, that is unsigned. There are sterling rings that were made to go with the late sterling pieces, and some sterling charm bracelets are very rare. I have two pieces with hang tags. As I said, in 20 years, I’ve only come across two pieces that I was able to buy at any rate that had McClelland Barclay hang tags on them. I guess like the Delizza & Elster, the Juliana Jewelry Reference, when there was a hang tag there you could identify it, but luckily these pieces are marked as McClelland Barclay.
In my book, I also show a collection of head jewelry from 1942 to 1943. These are sterling silver head designs. They’re women from different nationalities that are portrayed in these brooches. I have seen a couple of those pieces individually, but to get five of them—I don’t know if there are any more out there. I haven’t seen any other designs, but I do have the five that I’ve seen over the years. It’s taken me a long time to put the collection together. So, whether I will at some time market it as a collection or start selling individual pieces, I haven’t yet decided.
Sharon: It sounds like it’s going to be tremendously marketable however you decide to do it. Let me remind everybody because it’s a beautiful book: it’s “McClelland Barclay: Painter of Beautiful Women and More,” and you can get it on Patricia’s Ruby Lane Shop, which is Bijoux Vintage. For those who would like to know more about McClelland Barclay, it’s probably the only resource. If not, it’s a great resource, but probably one of the very few that’s comprehensive. Patricia, thank you so much for being with us today.
Patricia: Thank you, I would just add, Sharon, if people want a direct link to my shop, it’s www.RubyLane.com/shop/BijouxVintage. That will get you to my shop and my book.
Thank you again for reading. Please leave us a rating and review so we can help others start their own jewelry journey.