In the past few years, I've been collecting vintage jewelry. None of it is very expensive stuff, maybe $10 - $35, but it's different and interesting. Almost all of it is circa 1900 - 1940s, although once in a while there's a piece from the 1950s that catches my eye.
I inherited several vintage pieces of jewelry from my Mom, and it was the start of a lovely collection. She didn't feel very strongly about diamonds and rubies, but she surely was one who liked those eye-catching, oddball pieces that no one else had. Some came to her from relatives, while others were found way back in the 1950s and 1960s in places like the Salvation Army stores, or at the Goodwill shops. She didn't have much money, but she had a great eye for the uncommon.
What's nice about finding more of these small treasures to add to my collection is that I didn't pay a huge amount of money for them. They always seem to bring a lot of compliments, mostly because they are not anything seen today in modern jewelry, yet stand out in their style or design. There's even been people who have tried to buy them right off my lapel! (Ooops - "sorry - this one's a keeper!")
I especially enjoy wearing figural pieces - cats, dogs, horses, angels, just to name a few in my collection. I find them all over the place - estate sales, from other dealers in shops and shows, even the occasional garage sale will yield a fun find. If it speaks to me and it's a fair price, I usually go home with it.
I have friends who have started their own "theme collections," and have had a great time hunting for their favorite pieces. The hunt is always the best part of collecting, except with jewelry you can wear pieces of your collections out in public and share your fabulous finds.
One of my friends especially likes 1900-1920s cufflinks, since there were so many different kinds. She has a good variety - gold-plated, sterling silver, porcelain, mother-of-pearl, plus some figural ones like horses and dogs. She wears them on pretty blouses that are designed for cufflinks, or sometimes just inserts them into button holes on everyday blouses at the neckline.
Another friend owns a collection of old pocket watches, which was a collection started for him by his grandfather many years ago. He then began collecting 19th century watch chains to go with his old watches. Some of his chains are plain, some are quite fancy, and many of them have unusual watch fobs attached. He has quite a few now, as his family members quickly caught on to the birthday and Christmas gift possibilities!
If you have friends or relatives who have a particular interest, you can always search for jewelry that they would enjoy owning. I've sold so many Scotty dogs pins over the years, and anything showing a cat moves quickly too. Horses are popular, and there are a zillion elephant collectors out there who enjoy wearing elephant jewelry. When you are looking for gift ideas, a piece of theme jewelry just might be the answer.
I encourage everyone to find something they like in vintage jewelry - there are so many different kinds to find and enjoy. My friends always ask me what I have in my inventory, and you should take a quick look too - I often put them on sale as I find quite a bit and offer them in my Ruby Lane shop, Red Moon Antiques.