The art of collecting

The art of collecting

Collecting starts with passion. A passion for that which is beautiful, unusual, rare or even practical, but whatever you collect, it makes your heart sing with joy. Jewelry and cufflinks are wonderful items to collect. There is so much diversity in what can be collected that any type of collection can be developed depending upon your specific collecting goals.

Once you’ve decided to begin collecting the first question is how to launch the collection. Whatever you are collecting, you may want to start with a bit of research. The research should include historic context for your chosen collectible along with information on monetary value as well as value based on rarity. You’ll also find out more about the designers and manufacturers — both vintage and contemporary — who make what you like.


Jewelry is a wonderful collectible, but it’s a very broad category. Your collection will be stronger if you focus it on one aspect such as a particular era, designer, style, gemstone or theme. The research that you do on collecting may help you determine the direction of your collection. Perhaps you are going to focus on brooches from the Art Deco era, or cufflinks.

If you want to narrow down your collection even further you may decide that you want to create a collection of bird or animal jewelry. Perhaps you collect sports memorabilia. You’ll find cufflinks that touch on that theme as well.  Maybe you like a specific color and you want to collect jewels with precious gems in your favorite hues. The possibilities are endless, it is all guided by your personal preferences and what you love.

A collection does not have to be comprised of vintage pieces, the jewels can be contemporary, or a mix of both new and old. Elyse Zorn Karlin, co-director, the Association for the Study of Jewelry & Related Arts has a few suggestions on what to look for when you are reviewing a piece to add to your collection.

  • Examine the back of the piece. A well-made jewel will often be as beautiful on the back as the front. There may be an intricate grill, etching or engraving on the back. If you are looking at a vintage piece, Karlin notes “This is also a good place to look for repairs. And whether a piece is a ‘marriage’, made from two or more pieces of jewelry melded together.
  • Review the overall craftsmanship of the piece. Karlin suggests that you ask yourself these questions when considering a purchase, “Does it look like it was made thoughtfully so that all the elements work together? Does it ‘speak’ to you?”
  • Look for a signature. A signature, on a vintage or contemporary jewel will always add value to a piece, but keep in mind that there are many beautifully made pieces of jewelry that aren’t signed and if the piece fits other criteria for your collection, you may want to consider acquiring it. Karlin suggests digging deeper and asking a few more questions, especially for vintage pieces. “Try to find out the provenance of the piece, which can greatly add to the value. Who owned it? Someone famous? Did it come out of someone’s estate? Did it come from an artist’s own collection?”
  • If you are looking at a vintage piece, check the condition. Is the metal in excellent condition, can you tell that it was lovingly worn, or is it scratched and beat-up looking? If there are gems in the piece, make sure that there are no missing stones. If there is a signature, you may want to get that verified by an appraiser or jewelry historian familiar with makers marks.
  • Ask if the jewel comes with any kind of paperwork that verifies the authenticity of the piece, or grading report for the gemstones. Karlin notes that the paperwork should come from a gemology lab, or a certified appraiser. The paperwork needs to be third party verification to avoid conflict of interest.


If you are considering starting a cufflink collection that you will wear across a lifetime and then pass down to the next generation, there are two ways to get your collection underway, start with something that you love and just can’t live without, or start simple and classic.

The first set of cufflinks in your collection should be versatile enough to wear to work, to a gala, wedding or simply enjoying an evening in a restaurant or bar. A pair of 18-karat gold and diamond cufflinks are an excellent place to start. From there add cufflinks that really express your personality and your personal style. Whether it’s a touch of nature on your wrist or a symbol of luck, know that as your collection matures, what you collect may change.

As a collector, it is important to keep in mind that that the best collections are always built on passion. “My advice overall: Buy what you fall in love with” concludes Karlin. “If you walk away and youcan’t stop thinking about it go back and make the purchase.”