Pieces of the past

As if in slow motion, a Wedgwood Tonquin-Ruby plate that once belonged to your great-aunt Edna slips from the dishtowel and shatters on the kitchen floor.

You may think the 70-year-old family heirloom is irreplaceable. But luckily, it’s not. Greensboro, N.C., is home to Replacements Ltd., a retail outlet that stocks 10 million pieces of the past inside a monster-sized warehouse, spanning the length of five football fields.

Owner of the world’s largest selection of china, crystal, collectibles and silver, 58-year-old Bob Page created his wildly popular store in 1981. The Replacements Ltd. call centre, which receives 10,000 inquiries a day, is open 8 a.m. to midnight EST, seven days a week. Call 1-800-REPLACE (737-5223) or go to http://www.replacements.com.

Of course then there’s the question of what to do with the pieces.  Linda and Tim Carrigan of Broken China Jewelry have a beautiful solution – they will turn your heirloom into original handcrafted jewelry.  This can be one way to share great-grandmother’s wedding china with many of her descendents. It can also allievate some guilt at havg broken it!

Memories you can wear
As Linda wrote in an email, “Family china is dear to people…. It is brought out on special occasions when their loved ones are gathered together. Many happy family memories center around the table set with the ‘good china.’ [Making jewelry] is a great way to make an old family heirloom into something that you can wear and talk about.”

She has rescued many pieces over the years, many of which become a way of staying in touch with those who have passed on. ”One woman had three children. Her oldest son gave her a blue and white cup that had on it an image of a mother and three children’s faces. The cup had gotten broken.The woman saved it anyway because it was so dear to her. Sadly, her oldest son passed away. Later on… she commissioned me to make her a piece of jewelry from her cup….  It was significant to her that even though her son was gone, he was still right there with them through this gift.”

She also has a personal broken china story. “My husband and I were on vacation in Tortola. On the morning we were to fly back home, I had to go down to the beach one last time to say goodbye…. I started back up the beach and right there at my feet was a small shard of blue and white china. It was smooth on the edges from rolling around in the ocean and sand. When I inspected it, I realized that it had a part of a ‘scene,’ as many old transferware plates do. This particular scene was of a beach, mountains, palm trees, ocean, and all! Somehow I knew it was meant for me to find.”

At Broken China Jewelry, china pieces are ground into shapes such as hearts, ovals, angels or shapes that compliment the specific designs in the china. A hand-worked silver-tin alloy bezel is created for each piece. Decorative soldering surrounds the piece along the outside edges. Finally, the metalwork is coated to prevent tarnishing.

More information is available from Broken China Jewelry at http://www.brokenchinajewelry.com/.