If you know my family in 'real' life, chances are you've heard the tales of diamond rings and bags of rubies being passed around the living room for us to 'oooooo' over before bedtime. Growing up with a gemologist in the household has probably given me unrealistic expectations of what jewellery should look like. I don't have much in the way of 'real' jewellery myself but it doesn't stop me lusting over a beautiful piece when I see one. With that said, and given my love of all things old and beautiful, it's not surprising that one day I found myself buying a small Victorian seed pearl and turquoise ring from eBay. I later discovered #showmeyourrings on Instagram and since then I've been hooked on antique jewellery collectors' feeds.
I'm super excited to share this interview with the lovely Kate, from a Heart of Solid gold. A writer by day, Kate's collection led her to start an Etsy shop so she could share with others the beauty and craftmanship of antique jewellery, when her own collection started to grow too large.
How did you get into collecting antique and vintage jewellery?
I’ve beencollecting antique jewellery for about seven years, having been given some of my grandma’s most treasured rings as I grew up. I’ve always had a love for jewellery since being very young but it was only really when I could afford to buy jewellery that I began seriously collecting antique pieces.
My mum also loves jewellery of any kind, although I’m sure she blames me for now collecting pieces a little more frequently than she used to. We often go jewellery hunting together – I’m not sure whether we’re a good or bad influence on each other though!
How long have you been collecting rings and how many do you have in your personal collection?
I’ve lost count! I’d say I had about 70 the last time I counted them and I’ve definitely bought a few more since then – these vary from Victorian and Edwardian rings to more modern, vintage silver pieces, I have quite eclectic taste! I do also sell some of my personal collection online when I can bring myself to part with them so the total number moves around a little.
Do you have a favourite ring? Do you have any that you wear everyday?
I have to be a bit obvious here I guess and say that my favourite ring without doubt is my engagement ring. It’s the most sentimental piece of jewellery I own, not only because it symbolises our relationship and love for one another but because of the symbolism the ring holds in its design. Being a sacred heart shape, it really does attract people’s attention and I just love to tell people about it.
I do wear it every day, although because of the closed-back, foil set diamonds I make sure to take it off when doing the washing up and dog walking! I love having such an old engagement ring but it is definitely high maintenance.
I usually also wear a Victorian silver love token, inscribed with the name Alex (for my other half), on a gold chain. I picked this up off eBay and I absolutely love it. There are quite a few that pop up at antiques fairs and online as they were popular gifts for loved ones in the late 1800s and it’s such a thrill when you find one engraved with the name you’re looking for!
Your engagement ring is incredible! Did your husband-to-be choose it on his own or did he get some help? When is it from and where did he find it?
I had pointed out to him that I loved the style of Georgian rings and I had shown him a photo of an incredible sacred heart ring, explaining how rare they are.
Little did I know he’d be off on the lookout and found one from a London-based dealer. When he proposed, I always assumed we’d choose a ring together because of how particular I can be, so when he asked me to open the velvet ring box I had that moment of fear!
Seeing the ring and realising that he does listen to my jewellery ramblings just made me realise even more how perfect he is. It really did seal the deal!
I've always had a thing for brooches. Do you only collect rings or do you buy necklaces, brooches and other pieces too?
I do collect jewellery of all kinds, although rings are my favourite. I have a passion for antique charms, having been given my grandma and my great aunt’s silver charm bracelets they collected together over the years.
I have quite a large collection of both silver and gold charms, as well as the odd brooch, earrings, bracelets and necklaces.
Where are your favourite treasure hunting grounds in the UK? Have you travelled abroad looking for pieces too?
My favourite places in the UK are Portobello Antiques Market in Notting Hill, London. I also love Gray’s Antiques just next to Bond Street Station in London too – it’s like an Aladdin’s cave!
I live up North in Yorkshire so I love to go to local antiques fairs, and York is fantastic for antique jewellery shops too.
I’ve travelled to New York for antique jewellery shopping too. Last year I visited the Pier Antiques Show which is incredible for jewellery hunting. I’m hoping to visit Brimfield Antiques Fair this year too if I can make it over to the US again.
Are there any pieces that you regret to this day not buying?
I missed out on an early Victorian diamond and blue enamel, marquise shape ring which I think will haunt me for as long as I collect. I had to be sensible as it wasn’t in my price range but it was such a beautiful ring. I’m such a fan of dealers who offer layaway/part payment plans as it makes collecting much more affordable. Sadly this beauty wasn’t available via a payment plan and someone else snapped it up. I’m sure it’s looking fabulous on someone’s finger right now!
Are there any pieces currently on your wish list?
At the moment there aren’t currently that many things on my wish list. I’m trying to be good and save for my wedding next year!
I am on the lookout for an Essex Crystal piece of jewellery – ideally portraying a dog. I’ve seen a few over the years and some have the best, comical faces! If you haven’t seen them before, keep an eye out as they are fabulous miniature pet portraits.
Do you have a favourite motif or period that you tend to go for?
Georgian and Victorian jewellery is definitely my weakness. I also keep an eye out for Art Deco pieces as my mum loves these!
How long have you had your Etsy shop?
I’ve had it for about 18 months now. It’s a great way to sell on pieces from my collection when the time comes to make room for some new pieces.
Has Instagram fuelled your collecting obsession? Why do you share your collection on Instagram?
Instagram certainly has fuelled my collecting obsession. It is such an incredible way to share your jewellery with other like-minded collectors, learn about new styles, stones and everything in between, and find fantastic online sellers! I’ve made some incredible friends through Instagram and I just love seeing new collectors pop up and share their growing collections.
Which are your favourite jewellery blogs/ Instagram accounts?
There are so many to mention but these are my favourites:
Photos all kindly provided by Kate. Thanks ever-so much, Kate, for sharing your collection with us. I'll continue to covet your rings on Instagram and lust over your Etsy shop! Check out a Heart of Solid Gold on Etsy. I think my own collection of rings might need to start growing...