Entering an estate sale is like opening a mysterious present -- you have no idea of what's inside, but you suspect it's something magical and mysterious. Because estate sales involve the sale of items accumulated over a lifetime, they're excellent resources for finding treasures such as antique jewelry. Following are four things that you need to know in order to get the most out of your quest for antique jewelry through estate sales. 

Look for a Maker's Mark

Jewelers of old generally left maker's marks somewhere on the piece. Take a magnifying glass or a jeweler's  loupe along with you to estate sales so that you can carefully scrutinize the piece for a maker's mark. This mark is often the initials of the person who created the piece. The marks won't be in obvious places -- look for them on the inner band of rings, watches, and bracelets and on the backs of earrings and necklaces. 

Look for a Patina

Fine jewelry develops a certain sheen as a result of many years of wear. Professional jewelers refer to this sheen as a patina. A patina is a lustrous glow rather than a surface shine and is usually seen on metals such as bronze, copper, and silver. A well-aged piece of jewelry will also have dents, tarnish, and other visible signs of wear and tear. 

Ask for Certification

Although it's highly possible that certification for the piece has somehow been lost throughout the years, it can't hurt to ask whoever is in charge of the estate sale if some sort of jewelers' certification exists. If not, there may be original receipts available or possibly handwritten notes if the jewelry was given as a gift. If no certification of any kind exists, you might be wise to attempt to negotiate a lower price for the item. You can also ask for the opportunity to have the piece appraised by a professional jeweler, but bear in mind that most estate sale items are sold as-is on a first-come-first-served basis, and they may not be able or willing to put off other potential buyers in order for you to have it appraised. 

Buy What You Like 

If you fall in love with a piece of jewelry, snap it up as long as the price is right. Even if it doesn't end up being worth much financially, you'll still get plenty of pleasure out of wearing your treasure.