Antique jewellery an ideal gift for a loved one on Valentine's Day

Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn looks at a romantic way to take up collecting...

Some of the costume jewellery in the centre
Some of the costume jewellery in the centre

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, and any readers out there looking to declare requited or unrequited love have a huge selection of ways to do it.

From anonymous cards through initially handmade tokens and gifts, the power of enduring love over the centuries has been ultimately embodied in gifts of jewellery.

St Valentine is the patron saint of lovers, and on February 14 partners were chosen and tokens of love exchanged, often costume and fine jewellery.

Gifts from a secret lover such as rings, earrings and pendants could be worn subtly at public events to send a subtle message that love was reciprocated.

Gifting antique and vintage jewellery has long been popular, for reasons ranging from sentimentality to pragmatism.

It is a fantastic way to get well made, high quality pieces that one would never be able to afford new- or unique pieces that one simply could not find.

During the Georgian period, handmade necklaces, cameos, and portraits of loved ones on pendants and brooches were in high demand among the upper classes.

Popular Victorian rings or lockets could contain a sweetheart’s picture, or a lock of their hair.

As with any jewellery, factors affecting cost include age, condition, quality of materials and stones, design and intricacy, provenance and distinction of the maker. Look for hallmarks, as well as obvious scratches, dents or repairs.

But remember the proviso: “Old jewellery should look old.” Age and wear can bring out a nice patina, but do not overlook damage or obvious weaknesses.

With a huge range of styles and prices, with a bit of homework, pieces can be found to suit any taste and budget.

We always have lots of costume jewellery in the centre and these gorgeous brooches are a good example. They are all priced at £10.

You don’t have to be restricted to set gemstones, either; choose Arts and Crafts or Art Nouveau for innovative designs denoting romance, passion and fidelity.

These can feature beautiful delicate natural motifs, using glass and enamels.