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Estate, Vintage or Antique: Vintage Today, Antique Tomorrow

The three terms are often used with little distinction, Estate, Vintage or Antique: Vintage Today, Antique Tomorrow, but contrary to the belief, they are entirely different.  The confusion is that they easily crossover in categories.

The word “Antique” is reserved for valuables that are over a century old.  The good thing about this is every year another lot of jewelry becomes antique. Vintage today means antique tomorrow.

Vintage jewelry is younger than 100 years but usually is older than 50 years. Vintage pieces have the look to define a fashion statement or add some high class flair to a contemporary look, as antique pieces usually don’t come out of the jewelry box or it’s rarely worn.


Jewelry that was previously owned is classified as estate jewelry.  Estate jewelry can be vintage or antique.  

There are many time periods of classifications 1:

Georgian, 1717-1837 Extremely rare and always handmade.  It typically includes nature designs and precious stones.  North American colonies with settlers or traders came in contact with these pieces and remained in the family for years afterwards.

Early Victorian Romantic, 1837-1855 This includes nature designs but also gold etching, diamonds and colored gemstones.Lockets and Brooches are very common.

Middle Victorian Grand, 1856-1880 It’s not uncommon to find jewelry from this period that includes dark, heavy set stones and less colorful designs as a reflection of current political events and the somber sensibilities the age. Typical gems include jet, amethyst, garnet, and onyx.

Late Victorian Aesthetic, 1885-1900 This period saw the reintroduction of globally influenced color and fluidity of design. Ornate hat pins and star and crescent pendants are typical. Popular gemstones used in brooches include sapphire, diamond, and peridot.

Arts and Crafts, 1894-1923 The international Arts and Crafts movement saw a return to handmade jewelry designs and intricate, organic craftsmanship as a direct commentary on the recent industrial revolution. This also meant that much of the work produced was simple and used uncut stones chosen for their color and unique natural shapes.

Edwardian, 1901-1915 This jewelry period saw a return to the classical ideas with the reintroduction of expensive diamonds, rubies, and emeralds arranged in complex, almost over-the-top designs.

Art Nouveau, 1895-1915 The Art Nouveau ideals affected all forms of art during its heyday and, in terms of jewelry, led to a resurgence of naturalistic designs that directly contrasted with the ornate styles favored by the Edwardian artists. Art Deco styles demonstrate some of the first widespread instances of European and American jewelry that merged the abstract with the representational.

Art Deco, 1915-1935 Silver Art Deco jewelry is reminiscent of the similarly-inspired design of the Empire State building, albeit on a much smaller scale. Geometric shapes and designs from cubist art are often seen in jewelry from this period. Native American, African, Oriental, and Islamic motifs also feature prominently.

Retro, 1945-1960 Examples of this jewelry are usually bold reflections of the movie theater lifestyle depicted in Hollywood movies. Although a lot of these items were produced en masse, there are many original handcrafted pieces in addition to the knock-offs and generics. Huge bracelets, bangles, cocktail rings, watches, and charm bracelets are all typical examples of retro style.

These three graces of jewelry are a great way to start an heirloom collection or add excitement to a drab wardrobe.

1 Referenced article, What Is the Difference Between Antique and Vintage Womens Jewelry

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