Estate Jewelry, Vintage Jewelry, Antique Jewelry: What’s the Difference?

If you have a family heirloom or pre-owned piece of jewelry, you’ve likely called it vintage, antique, or even estate jewelry. It’s a very common misconception that these three terms are interchangeable, but the truth is that they each have distinctive characteristics that set them apart. 

If you’re looking to sell jewelry from your precious jewelry collection, it’s important to know the accurate terminology for your pieces so that you can earn the most money for them and ensure you’re receiving fair market value. Here are the key differences between estate jewelry, vintage jewelry, and antique jewelry:

Estate Jewelry

The term “estate jewelry” refers to any piece of jewelry that has been previously owned. It’s often associated with high-end and designer pieces that have been passed down from one generation to the next, but this doesn’t need to be the case for something to qualify as estate jewelry.

The name “estate jewelry” also implies that jewelry pieces are found in someone’s “estate” after they’ve passed on. However, estate jewelry can be previously owned by someone who is still alive, and the piece can be found anywhere from consignment shops to online marketplaces. It doesn’t need to be a family heirloom to be called estate jewelry. There’s also no minimum age requirement; even if it’s a modern piece, it’s estate jewelry as long as someone else previously owned it.

Antique Jewelry

Antique jewelry is often used interchangeably with estate jewelry and vintage jewelry, but they aren’t the same. In fact, while both antique and vintage jewelry indicate the age of a piece, the phrases never overlap. Estate jewelry can be antique, but antique jewelry can never be vintage.

This is because “antique jewelry” exclusively refers to jewelry pieces that are over 100 years old. This means that any piece of jewelry made before 1923 is considered antique. Antique jewelry is usually prized for its superior craftsmanship compared to modern, mass-produced jewelry, but the age of the piece makes it difficult to be practically worn. Oftentimes, antique jewelry will need to be simply displayed, or perhaps worn only on special occasions, due to its high value and fragility.

Vintage Jewelry

Vintage jewelry predates antique jewelry. It typically refers to jewelry that is between 50 and 100 years old. Once a jewelry piece becomes 100 years old, it is no longer vintage jewelry and instead becomes antique jewelry.

Vintage jewelry is popular because it offers a similar charm and history as antique jewelry, but it is generally safe and sturdy enough to be worn on a day-to-day basis. Vintage jewelry is also often easier to style, as previous decades’ fashion trends come back into modern popularity. If you want to add a unique flair to a modern trend, try pairing your outfit with a vintage jewelry piece from Watch & Wares.

Vintage, antique, and estate jewelry are all uniquely beautiful pieces that add interest and value to anyone’s collection. If you’re ready to buy, sell, or loan your estate jewelry or other luxury goods, call Watch & Wares today at 714-633-2030 or contact us online to schedule an appointment. A friendly and knowledgeable member of our staff would be happy to provide you with a free appraisal.