Antique vs. Vintage Jewelry: What Are the Differences?

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Men and women, when shopping for jewelry, often become confused by the terms used to describe different pieces. For instance, they may believe vintage and antique jewelry pieces are one and the same. They aren’t, and the person may be disappointed to discover this after they have already made a purchase. Furthermore, when the term estate jewelry is added to the mix, more confusion ensues. What do men and women need to know about these terms and how they are used in the jewelry industry?


The term vintage means different things depending on what a person is discussing. Most people believe this means that the time in which the object was produced plays a significant role in its quality or style. However, when talking about vintage wine, vintage refers to a beverage made from grapes that were cultivated in a single year. Vintage clothing, in contrast, is a term used to describe an article of clothing that is 20 years of age or older.

When a person talks of vintage jewelry, they need to know when the jewelry was made rather than when it was considered fashionable. The two periods could be extremely different. For instance, a person might purchase a piece that states it is Art Deco style. This differs greatly from a piece that is authentic Art Deco. Modern reproductions frequently are lacking in quality and don’t actually use the materials and techniques of pieces original to that period. Buyers must keep this in mind when they are interested in a vintage chain. They must know when it was made.

In the jewelry industry, a piece only qualifies as vintage jewelry if it was created between 50 and 100 years ago. As a result, a piece that wouldn’t be labeled vintage this year may find itself in the vintage category within 12 months. It depends on its day of creation. People may regularly wear vintage jewelry, as they aren’t as old as antique pieces or as fragile. Furthermore, vintage pieces often pair well with modern clothing, allowing you to add pizzazz to any outfit you own.

Men and women find vintage pieces don’t cost as much as antique ones, in many cases. Even when two pieces are very similar, the vintage one will come with a lower price tag as it isn’t as old as the antique piece. This may play a role in which jewelry item the person ultimately purchases.


Many people refer to any collectible item as an antique. They feel the piece is valuable because of its quality and age. However, to truly be called an antique, a jewelry piece must be 100 years of age or older. Countless individuals love antique jewelry pieces and are willing to spend more to own one of these items. They know these pieces come with a superior level of craftsmanship. The materials were of higher quality back then, so owners know they will hold up better than modern pieces.

However, buyers must recognize that antique jewelry cannot be worn at all times, and a person might not want to display them. The items are scarce and very old, which means they are more susceptible to damage. For example, an antique piece made using camphor glass could easily break if not handled properly. For this reason, the owner may wish to pull this piece out only for special occasions.

Buyers must take care when purchasing pieces labeled as antique. Many companies attempt to pass off vintage items or more modern pieces as antiques. They may do so because they don’t know the difference between the classifications. It’s up to the buyer to know what they are getting. The other option involves purchasing vintage or antique pieces from a reputable dealer, as this ensures consumers get what they believe they purchased.

Estate Jewelry

Another jewelry category exists that consumers must know of which is estate jewelry. Any jewelry that is previously owned is considered estate jewelry, including vintage and antique pieces. A piece that was manufactured last week, purchased, and resold would be estate jewelry along with the piece that was bought 20 years ago and has changed hands multiple times.

When buying from a dealer, men and women often find the dealer only refers to those pieces made in the past 30 years as estate jewelry. If the piece appears to be older, request more information from the dealer before buying. The dealer may also refer to reproductions as estate pieces, but that varies by seller. It falls on the consumer to ask questions and understand exactly what they are buying before any money changes hands.


Another thing consumers need to consider when purchasing antique or vintage jewelry is whether the piece has been restored. If inferior restoration methods or materials are used, the value of the piece could decrease significantly. It doesn’t matter what category the piece falls into, as any restoration of jewelry may affect the final price.

When a jeweler states a piece has been restored or repaired while referring to it as vintage or antique, ask how much of the original piece remains. Most jewelers will only refer to a piece as vintage or antique if more than 50 percent of the original piece remains after the work is done. Certain localities have now put laws in place making it illegal to sell a jewelry piece as an antique or vintage piece if less than 50 percent of the original is present following the restoration process.

Jewelry shoppers find they have a wide selection of jewelry to choose from. A person might begin their search looking to purchase an antique ring or a vintage chain. However, all options should be considered, as the shopper might find they love several pieces and want to own them all. There’s no way to see this unless you browse before buying.

You don’t want to make a purchase only to find a piece you love even more a week later only to learn you cannot afford to buy this piece as well. By taking the time to do research before you shop, you’ll avoid mistakes such as these and end up with pieces you love and want to wear regularly.


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Written by Lola McQuenzie

Lola is one of our busiest writer. She has worked for Catwalk Yourself since 2007. Lola started working with us after she graduating from Central St Martins

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