Historical and unique, when looking for a beautiful gift with meaning and import, consider antique jewellery. With a built-in heirloom quality, you’re getting (or giving) significance.
It’s certainly not ideal, but in the collector’s universe, I’m probably a jack-of-all-trades: this means I do not collect significantly, with a mind to complete a set or as a future investment. Instead, I purchase items I just like. If I’m drawn to an item or find it special, that motivates me and I’ll add it to what can only be called my “rag-tag” collections. I am even this way about vintage jewellery – which, admittedly — I may romanticize. Antique jewellery harkens back to a past, and represents treasures from another era.
Unless you have a detailed provenance, you may never know the origins of your jewels. My engagement ring, for example, is Edwardian, and bears the hallmarks of the jewellery of the time, an intricately engraved platinum band with a centre sapphire surrounded by tiny diamonds. It is, by no means, flashy or even eye-catching (unless jewellery from this era is of interest), but I absolutely adore it. We even had my wedding band created around the vintage ring: it is the same size, has the same engraving, and features a single small diamond. There’s a slight curve to the band, as it hugs the engagement ring. For our 10-year anniversary, the wedding ring was duplicated, but this time with three small diamonds, representing my husband, my son and myself. The anniversary ring hugs the engagement ring from the other side, and, if I say so myself, it’s a stunning, albeit small, set of vintage jewellery, with a great deal of significance and meaning. I will never sell it or be cremated wearing it, but it will pass down to my son’s significant other or another close family member or friend. Just knowing that I have precious heirloom rings, with an Edwardian treasure at the (literal) centre, makes me feel happy.
In the days, weeks, months and years that followed, I have looked into websites and private individuals who are selling antique jewellery online, and have purchased with confidence. I admire the way many dealers and sellers are able to so lovingly photograph the jewels, with each minute angle exposed and depicted. I have a couple more rings from the same era as my engagement ring, but despite recognizable similarities, they are different. One ring, given to me by my husband, for example, features a red ruby, instead of a blue sapphire. I don’t wear them at the same time as my engagement/wedding ring set, but when I do, it always, always brings a smile to my face to unwrap the jewellery from its velvet box and felt bag.
In addition to rings designating commitment, the world of antique jewellery is vast. I love celluloid pins from the 1940s, and appreciate the kitsch of 1960s gaudy cocktail rings. Pretty pendants from the 1920s and cheeky pearls from the 1950s are enchanting. I don’t have enough in my collection to actually consider selling antique jewellery online, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look, admire and dream. There are several sites that are standouts among online jewellers, and, of course, one of the most important aspects is to find a jeweller who is trustworthy, especially if you plan on repeat purchases.
My husband collects watches. He has a few vintage pieces and is always interested in more. I found an antiques site, Kalmar Antiques that appears to specialize in vintage jewellery and has an astonishing amount of beautiful pieces.
I don’t know if jewellers from bygone days were more sentimental, but they created pieces designed to convey messages and meaning. For example, acrostic or regard jewellery features gemstones which “spell out” meaning, gems with different coloured stones. Initial or name jewellery is emotional and sweet, and oftentimes, a terrific addition. It’s even more fun when the initials or names do not match your own.
If you’re just starting, it’s okay – it’s never too late to start. Look at antique watches, bracelets, cameos, brooches, necklaces and the aforementioned rings. You’ll treasure any gift a loved one offers to you, but an antique or vintage piece denotes depth of feeling of the giver for the recipient. Finding just the right piece takes time, energy, and research, but you’re more likely than not to find something beautiful, which will garner and gain even more meaning when you gift it.