The terms "Antique", "Vintage", and "Estate" are used to help date older
pieces of fine jewellery. The answer to what makes a piece of jewellery
antique varies from how we would classify cars or houses. All jewellery that
is not brand new is technically considered estate, but not all estate
jewellery is considered vintage. Just like all antique jewellery is
considered vintage, yet not all vintage jewellery is considered antique.
Sometimes the use of the terms "vintage" or "estate" can be misleading, so
it is very important to understand how to avoid accidentally buying a
(1) "Estate" Jewellery
Estate jewellery is any piece of jewellery that is second hand. Say you got
engaged three years ago with a brand new diamond ring, but you decided to
call off the wedding. Last week you finally sold your ring to a jeweller.
The jeweller would classify this ring as estate. Instead of describing every
single piece of used jewellery as estate, jewellers will generally limit
this term to jewellery that was made within the last 20 - 30 years. Anytime this
term is used to describe a piece of jewellery that may look like it's much
older than this, inquire to verify the exact age. Sometimes the use of the
term "estate" can be a reproduction indicator as mentioned above. It is safe
to assume that whenever a piece of jewellery says "estate" without any other
mention to the item's age, that piece of jewellery is not very old at all.
Jewellery Eras Included in "Estate" Jewellery: Contemporary
(2) "Vintage" Jewellery
For a piece of fine jewellery to be considered vintage, it has to be over 20 - 30 years old. Vintage is probably the most common term of the three, since it encompasses a large collection of jewellery ages. Would an engagement ring from the 1800's be considered vintage? Technically speaking, yes. Although instead of classifying the ring as vintage, most jewellers would call the ring antique or vintage antique so they can highlight just how old the ring is. Your grandmother's engagement ring from the 1940's, for example, would be considered a vintage engagement ring.
Jewellery Eras Included in "Vintage" Jewellery: Modern, Mid Century Modern,
(3) "Antique" Jewellery
Antique jewellery is any piece of jewellery that is about 100 years old or
older. Many pieces from the 1920's are now considered antique, especially
those made in the earlier part of the decade. When an item is called
"antique", you can rest assured that the heirloom is very very old. However,
beware of the term "antique style" which is another reproduction indicator.
Anytime the word "style" is used when describing a piece of jewellery that
appears to be old but there is no other mention to the item's age, this most
likely means the item is a reproduction.
Jewellery Eras Included in "Antique" Jewellery: Art Deco, Edwardian, Belle
Eqoque, Art Nouveau, Victorian, Georgian, & Earlier.
These three terms are only the beginning when it comes to dating a piece of
heirloom jewellery. One of the most important factors when dating jewellery
is the era or period that the piece is attributed to.