Helena woman has passion for vintage jewelry

Published 4:13 pm Monday, October 3, 2011

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

While visiting the Helena History Museum, Linda Wurstner, who has lived in Helena with husband David since 1989, was looking out over Old Town and recalling times enjoyed through the 1990s.

“Old Town was experiencing a mini-renaissance at that time, and we loved coming to the shops. My son, Alex, who was 6, was into N Scale trains. We would go down to the gazebo by the tracks and listen for the trains coming, then wave at the conductor and blow bubbles,” Wurstner said.

She remembers many events with free food and drink to bring folks down to the tea room, sandwich shop and the toy shop owned by the Hogg family. They sold Schylling tin toys and gift-wrapped purchases with old-fashioned paper topped with a bow and rock candy. Wurstner mentioned Major Dundee’s Mercantile Emporium, saying she has kept the little cowboy boots purchased there for a young Alex, who is now 16 and active in Boy Scout Troop 2.

Linda Wurstner displays some of the vintage fun and funky jewelry she has an eye for, plus necklaces from a private estate that she helped catalog and evaluate at Bead Biz. (Contributed)

Involved with activities for both her children, she recently planned the Scout Court of Honor banquet and serves as Troop 2 treasurer and photo documentarian. She is taking the lead with fund-raising for the future Helena High School band of which daughter Rachel is a member.

Wurstner has kept a journal since her children were born, and the number now tucked away tops 150. Rachel, at 13, may be the one who some day will appreciate her mother’s penchant for shiny vintage baubles.

“It all began with grandmother’s earbobs,” Wurstner said. “My grandmother loved to go shopping at Parisian. She used to hide her jewelry in the bottom hem of her draperies, but sadly, as her health declined, almost all her jewelry was taken by various caregivers.”

From this early introduction, Wurstner acquired an eye for fine costume and vintage jewelry, and she now evaluates collections.

She advises the best way to preserve maximum value for any jewelry collection is to properly store it and to keep documentation of the purchase. Wurstner is fond of the B. David jewelry line that was made from 1945 to 1993 by a small company in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their rhinestone bracelets and necklace sets have become desirable and popular Ebay items.

She was recently called in by Lora Lunsford at Bead Biz to look over a large estate dating from the 1960s and made by a New York matron who worked from home styling for well-known labels.

Items from this collection are still available at Bead Biz.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at labro16@yahoo.com.