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Vintage Costume Jewelry

That would be me,... Veronica McCullough

veronica mccullough

When shopping on the internet, it is hard to know WHO you are dealing with...unless revealed somewhere on the website...which is not often!

Many online sellers are reluctant to give out any personal information like their phone number or address for many reasons, but not me.

Some people in this world also still prefer to speak to a real person..... which is why you can always reach me by phone!

Read on, and you will find out alot more about me !


vintage jewelryI lived in the Florida Keys for 20 years but now I live in the mountains in Banner Elk, NC.
I have been collecting, researching, and selling Antique and Vintage Designer Jewelry for close to 40 years. I do not have a physical store location and sell strictly from this website.

I got started collecting antique and vintage jewelry in a rather unconventional way.
My procurement of such started in the early 1960s through a jewelry hoarding grandmother, which is the way in which many jewelry collectors get started. The unconventional part was when I started sailing on oil tankers in the USMM and Navy Reserve in the late 1970s. ( If you want to read more, see the mini-biography below.)


It is my pleasure to provide you with prompt and professional service.

I will respond within 24 hours or less to all orders. I ship worldwide.

If you would like to speak to me ABOUT AN ORDER OR ITEMS ON MY SITE
Call 828-297-6777 any day of the week,  or

Please do not call after 8 pm EST


As a retired marine scientist, professional scuba diver,designer vintage jewelry dolphin trainer, and tropical marine life collector, I am an activist against the killing of or captivity of dolphins and all cetaceans. 

I lived in the Florida Keys for 20 years and sailed on ships for 5 years. Now that I have found my land legs in the mountains, I dont like it AT ALL......and want to return to Mother Ocean.

In my next life, I hope to come back as my favorite sea dwelling creature....an octopus.Octopus have eccentirc personalities and are truly the masters of multi-tasking. But, the octopus friends Ive made in my life is another story....


   My name is Veronica Roser McCullough and I presently live on top of a remote mountain in North Carolina.
I have lived in this very peaceful environment for 15 years and for 20 years previous, I lived in the Florida Keys.
I am a retired US Merchant Marine, and a retired marine biologist and professional scuba diver.

    I was the CEO of a corporation called Conch Republic Aquatics Inc. for 15 years and I logged over 10,000 dives. If you have been to any public aquarium or zoo anywhere in the world, like one of the four Sea Worlds, Miami Seaquarium or Epcot,  then you have undoubtedly seen some of millions of fish, sharks, stingrays, or giant eels I have collected and shipped, most by jumbo cargo planes to  aquariums all over the world.

    Anyone who has lived in the Florida Keys knows that life there is a tropical paradise. It is more like living in the Caribbean than anywhere in the US. I spent the majority of my time underwater, but when I was on land, I tended to my large aviary full of exotic breeding birds and my large greenhouse full of orchids, bromeliads, and air plants. My property was more like a zoo with a 100 big tanks outside full of tropical fish within a jungle of tropical plants and birds.

    People often asked me why I sold out and left. The answer is complicated, but for the most part, the Keys are just not what they used to be. There is no peace and quiet there anymore. Too many people, too many hurricanes, and global warming is killing the reef. 

   I have been procuring antique and vintage jewelry for almost 40 years now. How I got started is not your typical story. Most people inherit the collecting gene from a parent or grandparent, and that is true with me as well, but it goes much deeper. 

    I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and my grandparents owned a large marina. My grandmother ran a large marine store and tackle shop and there were a lot of yachts in the marina. On every occasion such as Christmas, birthdays, and special parties, people in the marina often gave my grandmother what we now call vintage costume jewelry. Because she ran a marine store and there were lots of metal fishing tackle boxes, in her bedroom under her bed, were lots of tackle boxes full of jewelry, all of which I played with growing up and later inherited.

    Before I landed in the Florida Keys, I went to private school, both Mercersburg Academy in PA and Severn School in MD. When it came time for me to pick a college, I didn’t know what I wanted to go to school for, like most 18 year olds. I only knew that I wanted to see the world. Many girls back in the 1970s became airline stewardesses in order to see the world, but flying was not my cup of tea. I was born with webbed feet and raised on the Chesapeake Bay. My father and grandfather had fishing boats, crabbing boats, and oyster boats and I spent all my spare time learning the life of Bay fisherman. I raced on sail boats out of Annapolis and loved windsurfers, and I was the first woman to ever windsurf across the Chesapeake Bay.

    I got accepted to the US Naval Academy, but there were no women there at the time and thousands of gung-ho men. Instead, I was able to get into another maritime school called the Lundeburg School of Seamanship in Piney Point, MD. From there, I went to work as a chef on oil tankers in the US Merchant Marines and Navy Reserve and travelled all over the world for 5 years.

    It was the sailors, on all the ships I worked on, who got me hooked collecting and selling. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were no women aboard ships in the Merchant Marines or in the Navy. In some ports, I was allowed to go ashore, but in many, I was kept hidden aboard ship. I thought I was a prisoner, but the captain knew I was a liability. I was a young blonde American woman who refused to wear anything other than cut off jeans shorts and a tank top when in port in hot, tropical, 3rd world countries. The captain didn’t want anyone in these ports to know that there was a woman on the ship, for fear I would be kidnapped and held for ransom.  I had to fight to keep my job every day, constantly being told women were  bad luck on ships, and the only place for a woman on a ship was the figural bust on a bow sprint.

    All the guys knew how much I liked to shop in ports of call and that is how I got the name 3 Cab Ronnie, because I bought so much stuff I had to call 3 cabs to get all my stuff off the ship! Goods overseas were cheap. Things like perfume, jewelry, clothes, and all kind of local handicrafts.

    Sailors in port have nothing else to do but spend money. In ports where I was kept a secret and confined to my foksul, all the guys felt sorry for me, and started bringing me little gifts. They started out little, but over time, I knew what to tell them to look for. Oriental rugs, carved ivory, paintings, gold figurines, jewelry, carvings, textiles, and unique pottery and art glass. Back then, no customs or anyone came aboard to look for these things and as long as we weren’t smuggling drugs, no one cared. It became a competition; the guys who brought the best gifts would eat like a king for a week. Surf & turf, my home made lasagna, paella, roast beef, and my special desserts. The way to a mans heart I found, was literally, thru his stomach.

    On one ship, I had been told about the riches to be found in Burma long before I got there. Some of the guys were going to take me shopping when we got in port. They dressed me in 3 pairs of Levi jeans, one pair on top the other, gave me all their old Playboy magazines and old shirts and shoes that had logos on them like Nike or Adidas.

    They took me to the bad side of town, to a dark and dingy hashish bar where most of the men there were miners in the gem mines. They did the asking, and I stood there frozen and terrified because I had blonde hair and everyone was staring at me. They motioned for me to come, and in a dark back alley, a man produced a small pouch from his pocket full of uncut Burmese rubies. My sailor buddies told me to give him everything I had, so I began taking off jeans and handing them over. I gave the man the bag full of Playboy magazines and shirts and shoes, then we ran out of there and hailed a cab.  

    Back on the ship, there was a chief mate, a big burly Greek man, who had a lot of connections in NYC. He had been sailing on ships for over 30 years. He told to me exactly who to go and see to sell the rubies ; an old Jewish jeweler in uptown Manhattan. Minutes after we anchored under the Verrazano bridge and I was climbing down the ladder. There was no gangway when we were at anchor, but rather, a stupid rope ladder that swang in the breeze. I got on a launch boat that took me to the NJ side, then I caught the Ferry to Battery Park. I walked up through China town, then hailed a cab to up-town Manhattan. 

    Two hours later, I found the old jeweler in a little cubby hole shop. I told him who sent me and showed him the rubies. He looked at them under a loupe and went into the back.  Shortly, he returned and put  $ 15,000 cold hard cash in my hand. He motioned with his hand for me to leave. He never spoke a single word. I walked out the door and I was a very young lady, in 1980, in the middle of Manhattan, with $ 15,000 in my pocket.

    I was hooked. I was a hopeless addict now. Over the years, I learned that sailors on ships made much more trading and selling than they ever did in wages. So... I traded and sold like a crazy lady where ever I went around the globe.

    Life at sea on ships was always a dangerous occupation. There were many ship board accidents in 20-30 foot seas. People broke limbs, fell over board, and some were killed in freak accidents. It didn’t get really dangerous until one day, while in port at the Navy base in Panama City, and man dressed all in black came up to me and handed me a card and said, “ Navy Reserve.”

    I had no idea WHAT he was  talking about but soon learned that the Texaco supertanker I was on had just been commissioned by the Navy. No longer would we be carrying crude oil. We would now be carrying jet fuel, in secret solitary passage, on behalf of the 10th Naval Fleet. It was the fall of 1983, right after over 240 Marines were murdered in Beirut.  

    No one on the ship was told where we were going. The crew was very busy going over all the rules and lessons we were taught in school about how to handle our very dangerous cargo. No metal on deck, except the filings in your mouth. No steel tip boots. No belt buckles. Brass tools only.

    One night, near the Persian Gulf, we went black. No running lights and cover all port holes. To see on the deck, you could only carry a cylamlume light stick. When the monster shadow of a Navy tanker ship appeared, we swang over the hoses and pumped jet fuel to them for 8 hours, both ships running side by side 100 feet away from each other, in total out of this world darkness.

    The next morning, surface to air missiles were blasting over our deck and in the distance, a large ship was on fire and engulfed in thick black smoke. No one on the ship knew what was really going on, but it appeared we were in the middle of a war. It was a secret war, the Iran-Iraq Persian Gulf war in the early 1980s, and none of us knew how we got there! I made 3 runs to the secret war zone, each time seeing more ships on fire and more missiles above my head.

    We had been picking up our JP3 and JP4 jet fuel in St.Croix every time, and running it all the way around the bloody tip of Africa getting beat to death in rough seas. When the old man, (the captain) told me to secure the galley, I always replied...." Looks like we are having Gitmo Gumbo for dinner." Gitmo Gumbo was a cajun gumbo of left overs and got its name when coming out of Guantanamo, rounding the Windward passage, the ship was "buzzed" by 4 or 5 fighter jets at deck level; ACE flyers who were just saying goodbye and good luck. Thinking we were under attack, everything in the galley ended up in one big pot!

After the 3rd trip we were told to go to Key West to Truman Navy base to get more jet fuel. For the three week journey back through the Atlantic and the Caribbean, I watched the dolphins play in the bow wake every day, and knew I was going to quit.

    Key West would be a good place to get paid off and go ashore for good. After 5 years of living out of a duffle bag at sea, I was ready to try my webbed feet on dry land. Especially now, since exotic ports of call were a thing of the past, and I was in the middle of a freaking war no one knew about or understood.

    I got my big fat check for my miserable war pay at sea and rented a suite at the Marriott. I put on my bathing suit and went to the Tiki bar and asked the bar tender to make me a pitcher of frozen margaritas and keep them coming.

    I sat on in the beach in a lounge chair and watched the sun set as my last ship sailed out of port and I said goodbye for good. Before I drank my first pitcher, a long haired hippie in cut off jean shorts came stumbling drunk down the beach, singing a sailor's tune I recognized. Back then, no one knew who he was, but I knew from the song he sang... he was every sailors idol. He sat down and started talking to me, and I knew my life was about to change forever. I was suddenly, and gratefully, wasted away in "Margaritaville" with Jimmy.