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What’s the Difference Between Antique, Vintage, and Estate Jewelry?

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Collection of yellow-gold rings
Collection of yellow-gold rings

There are dramatic, yet straight-forward differences between antique, vintage, and estate pieces. In short, it comes down to age and ownership:

  • Antique jewelry is at least 100 years old.
  • Vintage jewelry is between 50 and 100 years old.
  • Estate jewelry is any jewelry that was previously owned.

Here are some insights about what to look for in order to determine the type of jewelry you’re looking at. Of course, it’s always best to trust a jewelry professional who can give expert insights into the provenance of a piece.

Antique Jewelry

Antique jewelry must be at least 100 years old. As of this year, that mean anything older than 1921. So, most Art Deco jewelry, for example, does not fall within antique category yet—but give it a decade!

Antique eras of jewelry include Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Victorian, Georgian, and everything before that, of course. Ancient jewelry discovered in the Egyptian pyramids or a Kazakhstani mound, for example, would all be considered antique as well. As there are unique trends of each era, a studied jeweler will be able to spot the likely era a piece was produced in, based on its characteristics.

Of course, stamps and engravings can often give clues as well, as stamps are a way for makers and wearers to leave their mark. The designer or design house may, for example, stamp the inside of the band—and British jewelry has an entire system of hallmarking that makes tracing a piece of jewelry’s origin quite straight-forward. Likewise, antique engagement or wedding rings may mark the year of betrothal with a date or year, further clarifying age.

Vintage Jewelry

Vintage jewelry is between 50 and 100 years old. This year, that means anything produced between 1921 to 1971 is considered vintage. That includes Art Deco, Retro, and some Modern (1950s to today) jewelry.

Vintage jewelry tends to be less hand-crafted than antique jewelry as a lot of vintage jewelry was produced in the age of technological advances in metalworking and gem cutting. Just as in any time period, though, there is always a range of quality, from mass, fashion jewelry producers to luxury design houses.

Estate Jewelry

Estate jewelry is any jewelry that was previously owned. “Estate,” by definition entails all of the money and property owned by a person, often at death. Estate jewelry, though, doesn’t have to be acquired from a person only after death. It merely means the jewelry was owned previously. Estate jewelry can be purchased at estate sales, auctions, and even at thrift stores, pawn shops, and yard sales. Of course, you have to know what you’re looking for to find the good stuff!

The search for a piece of jewelry that expresses your personality and desires is about more than age and ownership, though. So, whether a piece is antique, vintage, or estate the beauty often lies in the fact that the piece had a life and story before it came to you. There is a lot of romance in the idea that by purchasing antique, vintage, and estate jewelry, you’re giving that jewelry a new life, a second chance, another breath. In fact, it’s the very idea that led us to found Edith & Aster.

Are you looking for antique, vintage, or estate jewelry? Those are our specialties! Browse our collection for our latest acquisitions.

Browse our Collection

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