Many are the joys of collecting antique jewelry and estate jewelry! Not only does one derive aesthetic pleasure from these little works of art; they are also very enjoyable to wear, and can make a wonderful investment. Some people start their collections with heirloom pieces inherited from family; others fall in love with vintage jewelry after purchasing, or receiving, an antique engagement ring. Jewelry collections may also be built around specific eras, themes, gemstones, categories and designers.

People are often drawn to the jewelry of a particular era. The jewelry of each era exhibits specific design elements, motifs and materials. Georgian jewelry was influenced by the Classical revival during Napoleon's First Empire; the delicate dresses and low necklines of the day were complemented by chandelier earrings, riviere necklaces and feminine floral spray brooches. Victorian jewelry is romantic and sentimental, with motifs like hearts, bows and flowers; semi-precious stones such as amethyst, opal, garnet and coral were prevalent during this time. Jewelry made during the Art Nouveau period is characterized by nature motifs like flowers, butterflies and dragonflies, and translucent gemstones like moonstones and opals.

Edwardian jewelry is usually made of white gold and platinum, with diamonds and pearls set in negligee style pendants, flower garlands, stars and crescents. Art Deco jewelry is recognizable by its streamlined, geometric shapes, often made of diamonds and accented with rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Retro jewelry takes its cue from Hollywood glamour; large semi-precious stones, like aquamarine and citrine, were set in ultra-feminine yellow and rose gold pieces. Elegant pearl jewelry and diamond cocktail rings were de rigeur for ladies in the Fabulous Fifties.

Others prefer to collect antique jewelry by theme. If you have a predilection for nature motifs, you can assemble a stunning collection of jeweled flowers, birds or butterflies. For those with a romantic nature, jewelry featuring hearts and bows (symbolic of love and marriage) are prevalent throughout different eras. Others focus on certain animals, like dogs or horses, which can often be found as brooches and charms. One can also build a collection of female figures, such as those found on cameos, Georgian and Victorian enamels, and Art Nouveau pieces. When collecting by theme, the possibilities are endless!

Some collectors fall under the spell of a certain gemstone, be it diamonds, pearls or a colored stone. Seeking out pieces featuring your birthstone can be very interesting and rewarding. Those born in February, for example, can accumulate a beautiful suite of amethyst jewelry spanning several eras. Others choose a stone of their favorite color, like the range of greens provided by emerald and peridot. And, of course, diamonds and pearls are perennial favorites!

A beautiful collection can also be formed around the types of jewelry one prefers to wear. Antique wedding bands can be worn on a daily basis, individually or stacked in multiples. Some collectors have dozens of antique bangles, with carved designs or gemstones. One may have a particular fondness for lavalieres, stick pins or antique earrings. Vintage watches and cufflinks are popular collectibles for men.

Collecting antique jewelry and estate jewelry by designer can be both expensive, and profitable. Important jewelry by the likes of Lalique, Tiffany or Cartier are usually purchased on the auction market, from places such as Sotheby's or Christie's; some pieces, however, may still be found at smaller jewelry shops. A well-assembled collection of designer pieces will likely appreciate nicely over the years, and can provide financial, as well as aesthetic, rewards to the astute collector.