Antiques & Collectibles: New interest in versatile sweater guards boosts prices

Sterling 1950s sweater guards experienced renewed popularity and presently is used to decorate fashion accessories and clothing. Prices paid for most pieces range from $25 to $125, based on pin size, motif, condition and materials used.

Question: Enclosed are photos showing unusual jewelry, part of a collection gathered by my husband's late aunt. Two rhinestone-studded flamingo pins, 1 1/2 inches high and 1 1/2 inches wide, are joined together by a pair of 5-inch long, gold-colored chains. Each pin is stamped "Sterling" and "H. Pomerantz & Co. NY." I would like information about the mark, the item and its value. - P.N., Galloway Township

Answer: Founded by jeweler Herman Pomerantz (1901-1967) Herman Pomerantz & Co. was a New York costume jewelry manufacturer from the 1920s to the 1960s. Your HP & Co. item is a sweater guard, also known as a sweater clip or cardigan pin, costume jewelry popular from the late 1940s through the 1950s. Anchored by two pins or clips connected by one or more chains, the guards hold sweaters draped around or over the shoulders in place.

Sweater guard motifs ranging from whimsical figures to esthetic designs represent flowers, fish, birds, animals, hearts, stars, fruit and geometric forms. Although most are fashioned from cast gold-washed or silver-plated base metal, some are sterling, gold-filled or gold-plated. Enhance-ments include rhinestones, faux pearls, painted Morpho butterfly wings, lucite and other plastics, enamel and bits of mink. Solid gold examples made by high-end jewelers usually are decorated with real pearls and gems.

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Presently collected and used to decorate hats, belts, scarves, velvet evening wear and denim jeans, sweater guards are considered unique, classic, available, affordable retro jewelry. Prices of 1950s sterling pieces currently range from $25 to $45, based on pin size, motif and condition. Two choice items, a Taxco Mexican silver example and one featuring exquisite tremblant bouquets, recently sold for $125 each.

Question: Please tell me what you can about my inherited mahogany bedsteps. Part of a large bedroom set given to my great-great grandparents when they married in the 1880s, the furniture looks like a set of three steps. The top and middle steps have hinged lids that lift up, revealing a hidden compartment. - T.A., Pomona

Answer: Early bedsteps furniture resembling a small set of steps was considered a necessity when high, four-post bedsteads were in vogue during the 1700s and early 1800s. Created to help folks climb into bed, they were available in open as well as closed models and reflected changing design elements of each era's popular furniture styles.

Your closed bedsteps with a storage compartment for chamber pot, washbowl set, slippers, books or other bedside items is an example of Colonial Revival furniture made from 1875 to 1910. Such pieces, frequently enhanced with colorful carpet or tooled leather step covers, presently bring $425 to $650 while older, inlaid Regency style examples are commanding $1,000 to $1,750.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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