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How To Start An Antique Jewellery Collection

An antique jewellery collection has many appeals: it’s beautiful, unique, and better for the environment than modern mass-produced jewellery.  As well as increasing in value over time, antique jewellery tells a story of its age; it is a relic made by artisans using methods often forgotten.

The first piece that starts your antique collection could be an heirloom passed to you, or it could be a special find, discovered on an antique website or in a shop. No matter how or why you decide to begin collecting antique jewellery, there are some steps you’ll want to take to develop your knowledge.

Understand the definition of antique jewellery

Strictly speaking, the word antique is ascribed to any piece over 100 years old. Anything between 20 and 99 years old is considered “vintage”. The terms vintage and antique tend to be interchangeable, especially in the UK, and you can learn about the distinctions here. The word “estate” often crops on when dealing with second-hand jewellery; this merely means the piece has come from an estate, i.e. a previous owner, rather than from a particular time period.

As a collector of antique jewellery, you should be aware of items described as ‘antique style.’ – This term indicates that the piece is a modern reproduction. Accessories such as tiaras, barrettes, or even small handbags might be considered jewellery if they are jewel-encrusted.

Consider why you want to collect jewellery

Before you begin collecting, consider your motivations. What do you love about antique jewellery? Is there a particular era you are drawn to? Do you want to collect jewellery purely to wear and enjoy them? Or are you collecting with a view to selling? Asking these questions will help you to reflect the sort of piece you might want to buy and help you to establish your budget.

Develop your eye

Research before making your first purchase. This might mean reading books on the subject, visiting antique shops or auction houses, or subscribing to an antique jewellery blog. As you begin to learn, you will develop an eye for antique jewellery that is unique in some way – whether that be based on style, price, setting, or era. To improve your ability to place pieces in certain antique eras, look out for motifs that could indicate the period in which the jewellery was made. Serpents, dragons, birds, love knots, clasped hands, miniatures, and mizpahs are common in Georgian and Victorian jewellery, and nature inspired motifs and flowers are also prominent in Victorian jewellery, signifying life and death. In time, you’ll be able to distinguish between jewellery periods at a glance.

Choosing your first piece

Now, it’s the exciting part! Buying your first piece of antique jewellery is a big step and so you’ll want to make sure to get it right. Buy the best you can afford. You’ll also want to buy from a trusted source to make sure that your first investment is worthwhile. Even when buying from respected jewellers, inspect your pieces well for damage and repairs. Missing or chipped stones, cracked enamel, discoloured pearls and metals all impact a piece’s value. Learning to read hallmarks is useful (and relatively simple).

Let your collection evolve as your tastes develop. Allow yourself to change your mind, ask lots of questions, and see it as a learning experience. If you’re ready to start searching for your first piece of antique jewellery, browse our collection of vintage jewellery today. We have years of experience working in the jewellery trade in Hatton Garden, London and are certified members of the British Jewellers’ Association, Association of International Antiquities Dealers, The Gemmological Association of Great Britain, and the Antiques Are Green Trade Association.