Marlene Lindman has been collecting jewelry and giving it new life for more than 40 years

Monday, January 7, 2013
---- Marlene Lindman inside her Jackson, Mo. home studio. (Laura Simon)

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but the sparkle of a vintage rhinestone brooch is what really speaks to Marlene Lindman.

When Lindman was a child, all of her aunts on her dad's side of the family had Styrofoam Christmas tree forms bedecked in brooches, beads and other jewelry box treasures. She distinctly remembers admiring the glint of the votive candles on the jewelry tree at her Aunt Ruth's house, and from then on, says Lindman, "I was just sucked into vintage jewelry."

A bouquet and trees Marlene Lindman made of brooches and other jewelry pieces. (Laura Simon)

Lindman's interest in jewelry was spurred on by her mother, who loved going to flea markets and garage sales. Her mother grew up poor in Southern Illinois, but as her life progressed and she had more money, one of her favorite things to buy was jewelry. As Lindman accompanied her mother on these shopping trips, she learned how to find good pieces and good deals. Once she became a teenager with her own job and spending money, jewelry was one of her favorite things to buy at flea markets, too.

Forty years later, Lindman's jewelry fills a spare bedroom at her Jackson home, where it's neatly organized onto trays, hooks, a shoe rack and even a banana holder. But the jewelry is not just for wearing (although Lindman does admit to "shopping" her own collection from time to time). Lindman began making jewelry trees like her aunts' years ago, followed by jewelry shadow boxes and, most recently, bouquets and wreaths made from vintage brooches.

"I love every piece that's in that room," says Lindman of her vintage jewelry collection. "You can only come up with so many new ideas and then it all comes back again. I think back to the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s -- there was some incredible jewelry made then! I think vintage jewelry is made so well. I like that it's collectible. I think the most beautiful and interesting pieces come from the years before us."

Just as she did with her mother, Lindman shops for jewelry at garage sales, antique shops, flea markets and estate sales wherever she goes. The best pieces have rhinestones, which she says add a little extra "bling" to anything she creates. She also looks for anything unusual -- birds, turtles, clowns and more -- and anything that strikes her as especially pretty -- like the green and multicolored beads she found recently in St. Louis that "scream vintage Christmas," says Lindman. She's created an entire jewelry bouquet of enamel flowers, and is now collecting daisies so she can make a daisy brooch bouquet.

"The more unique and individual they are, the better," she says.

While Lindman felt confident in her jewelry trees and shadow boxes, she admits she needed a push from a friend to start making bouquets.

"I'm not always the person who wants to do it for the first time, to do the grunt work to figure out how to do it," says Lindman. The first time with a new project is always an adventure, and that can be intimidating and frustrating, she explains -- especially when she has to take a project apart and put it all together again.

But it wasn't long before Lindman turned her bouquets into an art form. It takes anywhere from a few to several hours to make a jewelry bouquet, she says. She markets her work under the name Always Uniquely Yours at local craft shows, at Somewhere In Time Antiques and by word-of-mouth. This year, she was named "Best in Show" at the Christmas Arts and Crafts Extravaganza at the Show Me Center.

While Lindman's jewelry collection is extensive, she says her favorite projects are those that use her clients' jewelry. When the project comes from a personal collection, it has sentimental value and becomes an heirloom keepsake. She recently made several wreaths for a family in Southern Illinois after their mother passed away and left behind three giant boxes full of jewelry. One thing brides can do, she says, is have everyone at the bridal shower bring a brooch or other piece of jewelry to add to the bridal bouquet.

"I like working with other people's jewelry and bringing to life something that they can enjoy," says Lindman. "My jewelry is fine, but it doesn't have the history of a person's own jewelry."

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