Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Antiquites Brocante

View from the antique show in the Bastille

When in Paris one must go to a flea market. And there are so many to explore. On our last day in Paris my Auntie and I stayed in the neighborhood and spent the day at the Antiquites Brocante two blocks from our apartment. So many beautiful things, so many large and expensive things! I saw enough rich leather antique books to fill a town library, showers of sparkling crystal chandeliers to hang in grand foyers and rows of elegant Christofle crystal wine glasses so clear and heavy you could practically hear the bright ring from a festive toast. And cases of gorgeous museum-quality Bakelite deco jewelry. Don't you wish I had photos? Me too! But on our last day I was experiencing visual overload. I was so consumed with taking it all in, I forgot to take photos. And I was on a hunt.  Equal to the fun of looking at a flea market is the thrill of finding and buying some treasure. 

My ticket to the flea market

Just as we were giving up hope of finding something that we could afford and fit in our suitcase, I spied a bit of silver mesh in a glass case. The vendor took it out and I saw it was a small delicate chain mail coin purse. There was tiny ring at the top and I could easily imagine putting it on a chain or cord and wearing it. The wearability making it more desirable for me. He said it was around 100 years old. And ten euros. Sold! So the search was on for more. Many of the sellers had them, but the prices ranged wildly. We stuck to our ten euro range and found four more. And the rule is, three or more is a collection! 

My new collection. The one on the left is a coarse coppery metal. The rustic quality is an interesting contrast to the finer  silver purses. 

I've done some research about how these were used and haven't found anything definitive yet. Could be that  these were hung from chatelaines, or belts, worn by housekeepers in the 19th century with a series of chains suspended from it to carry household tools like scissors, thimbles, watches, keys and purses. The name comes from the french term chatelaine, meaning the mistress of a chateau. 

Now back in San Francisco when I need a Paris brocantes fix, I can browse the beautiful website and blog, Paris Boutique Hotel, for vintage french objects. And before my next trip to Paris, I'll definitely download the "Keys to the Fleas", a handy guide to the flea markets and brocantes of Paris. 

1 comment:

  1. I love these little purses! What a great find. I have a fab silver chain mail purse that is deco era that my mother found in an antique store in the sixties - it is larger but I love the weight and feel of it. Can't wait to see how you hang them.