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




With so many terms floating around in the market, if you’re confused, you’re not alone! I have to define these terms for people in my store every day it seems, so I thought I’d try to clarify them in a blog.

Antique Jewelry is the most easily defined, so let’s start there. Antique Jewelry is defined as jewelry that is 100 years old or more. Victorian jewelry falls into this category, as does Edwardian jewelry. Art Deco jewelry is the time period starting around 1920-1925, so in 3-8 more years, Art Deco jewelry will be considered antique, but not just yet!



The term “vintage” has been applied to everything from collectibles to farm tools. The word itself is most often applied to wine. It’s the year or season that a particular wine was made. When it comes to everything else, it is very much the same. Vintage objects relate to a year of origin, like a vintage 1932 violin. There is no block of time specifically related to the word “vintage” like there is with the word “antique.” People in the jewelry business use the term to suggest different things. It was used to mean “jewelry that is about 50 years old” when I first started in the business. In more recent years, I’ve noticed that people use it to indicate jewelry that’s about 25 years old or more. For example,, which is the world’s largest curated online venue for vintage & antiques, defines vintage as 20 to 99 years old.  If you go into jewelry stores, salespeople will say “vintage jewelry” for everything that wasn’t made by a particular designer yesterday! Even then, you can still hear things like, “vintage David Yurman” in a lot of stores. To make matters even more confusing, the term vintage means different things in different places. My friend, who moved to England several years ago, said it means “costume” jewelry there. I do see the word vintage used in that context more and more here in the States, too. It seems to be a catch all word for ANY estate jewelry.

The last term, Estate Jewelry, is more easily defined. It’s pretty common to think that it all came from auctions or someone’s inheritance. While estate jewelry can and does come from both of those sources, the truth is that the word just means “any jewelry that someone else wore.” It does not have to be from a certain period in history, and it does not have to be a certain age. It simply means that if you buy it today, wear it home, and sell it tomorrow, it’s estate jewelry.

Before I got into this business, I used to go into stores that had estate jewelry and see things that looked modern and think,” Interesting… I didn’t know those styles were made back then.” Granted, I wasn’t exactly sure when “then” was, but I knew it had to be long before I was born. It was almost a let-down when I realized what estate jewelry was. Now I like to think of it as “pre-loved.” Estate jewelry is just jewelry that someone else loved before me!

I hope that helps to clear up these terms for you. Just like everything else, it’s more fun to “talk the talk” when you know the language!

3 Responses to “Antique, Estate and Vintage Jewelry. What’s the difference?”

  1. Leah Tempesta

    Hello! I’m just starting to collect! I was curious if you could recommend some books on jewelry history. Any suggestions would
    Be greatly appreciated! Thanks. LT


      Hi Leah,
      You can start with Diana Scarisbrick’s book on Rings: Jewelry of Power Love and Loyalty. It gives a good overview of styles from antiquity to 20th Century. Subscribe to my blog after that. I’ll be doing book reviews throughout the year. Good luck!

  2. I Love Vintage

    Great website, excellent articles. Learned loads of stuff and have already
    recommended this blog to my friends. Looking forward to reading the latest update !


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