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My city’s Biggest Festival Ever (seriously, the thing is nine days long … NINE DAYS) kicked off a few days ago, and my favorite part of it took place over the weekend: The Big Ass Flea Market (no, it’s not called that, but how cool would it be if it was??).

Vendors set up tables and tents in a park and peddle their wares, from typical crap (seriously, why does anyone even bother trying to sell VHS tapes anymore?) to really amazing finds — like jewelry. These are my favorite ways to find vintage pieces, because I’m a major believer that one man’s trash is another’s treasure. And yes, many vendors keep their jewelry in glass cases, beautifully displayed, but others throw them in shoe boxes or store them in tangles in plastic baggies.

My job? To find the beautiful pieces, or the pieces that can be made beautiful again.

The two pairs of earrings on the plastic backings, I’m going to take apart and make fabulous (I’m thinking those dark green-blue waves are going to top off some extra extra extra long earrings). The rhinestone necklace, I cleaned up, and now it’s a sparking piece of fabulous. That ridiculously long yellow necklace (50 inches!) was perfect as-is, and those tiny silver and blue diamond-shaped earrings? I’m convinced the seller didn’t realize what she had with those — they’re sterling and Persian turquoise. The sterling was a little rough, but a polishing cloth cleaned them right up.

After the Big Ass Flea Market, we (Jeff, his parents and I) walked down to yet another park full of tents — all of these vendors were peddling their artistic wares. This was highly creative, highly beautiful stuff — paintings, pottery, garden decor and oh-so-much jewelry. My favorite was a stand full of solid bronze jewelry. Nearly everything was $10, and if the ring didn’t fit, he sized it for you on the spot.

“Is the metal so malleable that you can size them while we wait?” I asked the man.

“No,” he said, grinning. “I’m just that good.”

This man was the kind of stuff portraits are made of (I’m still kicking myself for not having any form of camera on me). He had the tanned skin and wrinkles of a man you imagine may have spent his life on a fishing boat. His more-salt-than-pepper hair was a wild mane. His hands were lined and hardened and rough.

We chatted as he resized my ring of choice, and I asked him if he ever thought hiring a helper. He was 80, he said — of course he’d thought about it, but he didn’t like to hang out with anyone who wasn’t enlightened. Life was too short to force that kind of company. And he went on to explain how he was one with the universe, how he was born the moment the Big Bang happened, because didn’t that create the matter that eventually formed all life?

I totally could have chatted with this character all day (and Lord knows he was better than the women who ambushed us and asked if we knew Jesus) for the chatter and the jewelry lesson: To make my ring larger, he cut the back of the band. He hammered it to the size 9 on his ring sizer — so I can wear it on my pointer finger — and he used a long, slim rod of bronze to melt with a small blow torch. This molten metal filled the gap in the back of the ring.

After I tried the piece on and saw that it fit, he polished it up, getting rid of all the rough edges and sharp parts.

The finished piece is crude, but that’s part of its appeal. It’s very obvious where he added the bronze, but it adds a charm to the ring. The color is very golden and looks sort of antique. Most of his pieces were very large and adorned with a jungle animal; I went with a woman in profile with a crown and very long, curling locks.

photo1photoIt’s a very nice compliment to the other new ring on my hand today. This one came from the antique mall Jeff and I perused yesterday (can you tell we have an addiction?). I had every intention of posting this ring to Jac & Elsie, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized that this ring was for me.

You see, this is the kind of design I imagined my engagement ring would be.

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I love the detailing in this sort of vintage ring, and I never thought my engagement ring would be bought new (no regrets — my ring is amazing). But this find at such a reasonable price couldn’t be turned down. It is 14 karat gold electroplated and has a clear stone set in a silver square, making it look a little like a bigass diamond. The sides have filigree detailing.

The ring is dainty and obviously worn — and that’s what I love about it.

Did you have any make-you-squee purchases from the weekend?

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