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Carol King: The Bohemian's "Jewelry Lady"

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

by: Maria Rodriguez

For those of you who might have recently joined us, The Bohemian Spokane is home to over 70 local artists in or near the Spokane area. We have two locations: North Spokane and Spokane Valley. To say that we are blessed to be surrounded by such talented, intentional and hard-working artists is simply an understatement. There is simply an inexplicable love and support we feel every single day that keeps us moving forward to bigger and better days.

That being said, allow me to introduce you to Carol King, the owner of Vintage King. Carol is often referred to as the “jewelry lady” by those familiar with our stores and employees. She is also the mother of Dani, The Bohemian, and Feathers Spokane owner. Carol is such a kind and genuine soul, she really is such a joy to have around on a day-to-day basis and our events. Her support and love is felt all throughout the community.

In our previous blog, “Reflecting on Five Years of The Bohemian”, we got to hear from Dani and Riley, the amazing husband-wife duo that run and own these companies. They gave us a glimpse of what The Bohemian was like five years ago before Riley was able to pursue his entrepreneurial role full-time.

Follow along as Carol gives us a glimpse of her perspective on what it is like to be a part of The Bohemian as an artist, before it became what we know it as now, her journey alongside Dani, along with helpful jewelry tips!

Would you say your jewelry is a representation of you?

Finding a material item to be a representation of who you are as a person is nearly impossible. More than anything, Carol recognizes that her jewelry can demonstrate just how passionate she is about it all; purchasing, researching, and selling her jewelry. She recalls how that love and excitement “started with one brooch five years ago,” while she and Dani were searching for furniture to refurbish. There, Carol decided to take a peek into the jewelry they were selling.

She then bought one brooch for “ten dollars at this estate sale,” turned and sold it on eBay for a profit of fifty dollars. Stunned, she sat back and realized there might be a large market searching for vintage jewelry. That’s how Vintage King Jewelry started. Soon after, she and her daughter got a booth together at a vendor mall. Not much longer, they started to expand what we know The Bohemian Spokane to be now.

What types of challenges arise in your work that others might be aware of?

Carol has an extensive background in research; before she joined as an artist, she worked at Eastern Washington University as the Marketing and Development Director for JFK Library for twenty-six years. Gaining lots of research experience through her career, it came as no surprise she began to love and thoroughly enjoy researching vintage jewelry. Even though it is one of her favorite parts about her business, she admits “it can be very challenging trying to discover the year it was made, any maker's marks, who that maker is,” and the list goes on.

Could you explain what a maker's mark is?

Maker’s marks are very common in jewelry pieces; this is what helps give a bit of history to the piece. Some artists have very common signatures, for example, if you “see a swan then you know it is a Swarovski piece- that's just their mark.” These small marks can be seen with a small magnifying glass tool called a “jewelry loop.” These small marks are typically large enough to be seen by the naked eye, but can be difficult to read without a jewelry loop.

A common misconception, among those of us who aren’t too familiar with jewelry, is that these marks are direct and simple to comprehend. Signatures, dates, and the materials of the jewelry piece are, you could say, written in code. This is what Carol spends the vast majority of her time researching- trying to find where, when, and by whom a piece was created. Sometimes an extremely unique piece will be too rare and there can’t be much found about the artist or history of the piece. But, when there is, it’s excitement for Carol and all jewelry lovers.

Carol, you're our vintage jewelry artist at The Bohemian but you're also Dani's Mom, so what does the Bohemian turning five mean to you from a business and personal standpoint?

The moment the question is posed, she is struggling to fight back tears. The happy, yet difficult moments of the first few months begin to flood her memory. Carol was by Dani’s side at the beginning of The Bohemian. If you popped in while they began this long and crazy journey, you could easily expect to find Carol in the background helping paint, and handling marketing posts on Facebook; simply trying to “get the word out that we were here.” Since then, their busyness and fun have never ceased.

Carol is the mother to four amazing women. She says they each have “a piece” of her heart. Reaching such a meaning milestone of The Bohemian Valley turning five, “it’s seeing my youngest daughter and her dream come into fruition.” As mentioned earlier, Carol and Dani started together in a vendor mall booth, but soon after Carol would retire from Eastern Washington University and pursue this passion full-time alongside her daughter. There has been lots of support from the entire family, both Carol and Dani’s sister, Alicia, are artists at The Bohemian. In the early years, Dani's sisters worked in the store as cashiers, being some of her first employees. It’s simply a family business all around between Vintage King Jewelry and Dabble Decor.

What does sourcing all these beautiful pieces actually look like for you?

Her day-to-day routines don’t always look the same. Most times you can find her sitting on her couch, handling research before bidding on auctions though she is very active at The Bohemian. You will most certainly always find her and her husband, Scott, working our many events throughout the year at both locations.

Most of the amazing jewelry she has been collecting comes from estate sales. It’s one of her favorite things to do, to buy someone's estate jewelry. These bulk jewelry lots she buys will often have a mix of fine and costume jewelry. She uses her various jewelry tools to help decipher between quality, vintage pieces.

Do you want to show us a little bit of the process of testing these pieces of jewelry?

Testing jewelry doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Carol’s three favorite tools to use can be purchased on Amazon together for under twenty-five dollars. These tools consist of a diamond tester, magnet, and jewelry loop, which we discussed about earlier. She goes in-depth of these tools and their many uses in no particular order.

The very first tool is simply a magnet. This helps cut back lots of time, testing, and extensive research on a big lot of jewelry. A magnet will be attracted to a base metal like the one used for this particular necklace. Once the magnet is attracted to a piece, you will instantly know that you don’t have a sterling or gold piece. This is simply the base indicator to a costume or finer piece of jewelry.

The second is called a diamond tester. Not only does it test for diamonds, but it also gives you an idea of the type of gem you have. It is handy and small enough to carry in your purse with you whenever you are out shopping for vintage jewelry. You simply turn on the diamond tester, turn up the lights until you have four bright green bars, gently touch the diamond, and “(tester begins beeping) that’s the sound that I love”. As soon as it beeps you know that you found yourself a diamond. Jackpot!

Conversely, if you turn on your diamond tester to four green lights and touch something other than a diamond, you might get one little bar as it reads it. Nothing exceptional. If you have a sapphire, then the diamond tester will give you several bars, but will never reach the diamond level. Multiple bars in the reading tell you you’ve got a real gem.

The last and final tool would be a jewelry loop. These are very inexpensive, but so helpful to tell you about the jewelry piece. This allows you to view the maker's mark and any other helpful piece of information. As mentioned above, these marks are not clear or concise, it's a piece in the puzzle. Sterling, for example, will not always be written as “sterling,” but will often be marked as 925 or nothing at all. That's where the research comes in.

With that being said, a jewelry loop can both save and make you a lot of money. This can make a vast difference in your own personal collection or any pieces you are trying to sell. These three tools, though small and inexpensive, are used by Carol on a continuous basis.

Do you have any final quick tips you might want to add?

So much time researching and working with jewelry leaves you with some fun and unique tips and tricks. Carol talks about a unique trick to try when wanting to know if you have a real pearl. All you have to do is scrape it on your tooth, if it’s really gritty, it’s a real pearl. In contrast, the faux, manmade pearls have a soft and smooth surface.

Otherwise, the three tools mentioned above are fabulously convenient equipment for beginners. Carol is passionate about helping others find pieces they love and feel confident in, she encourages to stop by The Bohemian to ask her questions or simply “make an appointment.” She is the best person to talk to about the history of a piece, quality, and so much more.

To find someone with more passion for The Bohemian is nearly impossible; Carol loves The Bohemian but ultimately, she will always be a part of the boho family because of the love for her youngest daughter. There are simply no words to describe the love she has for her.

You can find Carol King’s Vintage King Jewelry selections in both Boho locations.

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