Summer is a great time to scour yard and estate sales for interesting fine jewelry pieces. There are great finds out there, but it’s sometimes difficult to know what you’re looking at if you don’t first arm yourself with some knowledge about jewelry before hitting the sales. Here’s an overview of the definitions and differences between estate, vintage, and antique jewelry.
Estate, vintage, and antique jewelry have similar meanings but the differences between them can greatly influence the value of the jewelry pieces. Before you purchase a previously owned piece of jewelry, it’s important to know the differences.
Estate jewelry: An Umbrella Term
Many people consider estate jewelry to be any piece of jewelry that has been passed down from a previous generation, but it actually refers to any piece of jewelry that was previously owned, regardless of its age.
Estate jewelry can be broken down into two types: vintage jewelry that is less than 100 years old and antique jewelry that is more than 100 years old.
For more on the difference between vintage and antique jewelry, we reference about style.com’s jewelry article, “What is the Difference Between Antique, Vintage, and Estate Jewelry?”
Vintage jewelry: Less than 100 years old
To be considered vintage, jewelry has to be at least 20 to 30 years old, and created between 1910 and 1990. Vintage is probably the most common term of the three, since it encompasses a large collection of jewelry ages.
The most commonly collected are vintage pieces from between 1940 and 1970. That includes the glamorous, Hollywood-inspired 1940s jewelry, the fabulous Jackie Kennedy-inspired jewelry of the ‘60s, and even the bold jewelry of the 1980s.
Jewelry eras included within vintage include: Modern, Mid-Century Modern, Retro, and Art Deco.
Antique jewelry: More than 100 years old
Antique jewelry is any piece of jewelry that is at least a century old. So, by definition, all antique jewelry is considered vintage, but not all vintage jewelry is considered antique.
When shopping for antique jewelry, beware of the term “antique style,” which is a tip off that the piece is not really antique, but rather made in the style of older, antique jewelry. Anytime the word “style” is used when describing a piece of jewelry it most likely means the item is a reproduction.
Many pieces from the 1920’s are now considered antique, especially those made in the earlier part of decade. Jewelry eras included in antique jewelry are Art Deco, Edwardian, Belle Eqoque, Art Nouveau, Victorian, and Georgian.
It’s important to remember that the use of the terms estate, vintage, and antique can be confusing, and in some cases misleading, so it is very important to understand the differences to avoid accidentally buying a reproduction piece.