The Difference Between Antique, Vintage & Estate Jewellery

When it comes to jewellery, you may have heard the terms antique, vintage and estate used to describe older pieces, but what do these terms actually mean?

Theyre often used interchangeably, but actually, all have similar, but different meanings.

Its one of the things jewellers get asked most, but by learning it for yourself you can become a much savvier buyer.


Antique pieces are generally accepted as being those which are over a hundred years old, which means that pieces from as recent as 1916 can be labelled antique.

Of course, this means that with each passing year there are more and more pieces of antique jewellery on the market, but it also means that if you hang on to a piece from say the 1920s, it could be considered antique in a few years time if you keep it in good condition.

Antique pieces are the most valuable on the market, not just because of their age but also because they have clearly been made from high-quality materials to have lasted as long as they have done.

Do be wary of any pieces which claim to be antique style as this could be an indicator of a counterfeit, or just a more recent piece trying to be passed off as antique.


The age that jewellers apply to vintage jewellery can vary and some would class pieces as young as 20 or 30 years old as being vintage, however, a more accepted definition is any piece which is between 50 and 100 years old.

Therefore, the vintage era covers some very popular pieces such as the glamorous jewellery inspired by Hollywoods Golden Age in the 1940s and the retro pieces of the swinging sixties.

While antique pieces are usually never worn and are purely decorative, vintage pieces are usually just about recent enough to still be wearable although some of the older pieces might look a bit dated.

On the whole, a vintage piece wont be worth as much as an antique one, but they can still be extremely valuable.

While most antique jewellery was made for the upper classes, vintage jewellery is from the era where jewellery became more affordable to the common person, so there are plenty of more affordable options, especially if youre looking for pieces from the 1950s and early 60s.


Technically speaking, estate jewellery refers to any piece that is 'used', no matter how old or new it is, originating from jewellery which was left as part of the estate of the deceased. Generally, however, the 'estate' term will refer to pieces either which are antique or which hold a certain significance.

Therefore, this term can be used alongside vintage and antique, but to avoid confusion it usually isnt.

Instead, you should only hear estate applied to pieces which are less than 50 years old, as otherwise almost every piece would be considered estate!

So while many believe estate to refer to a piece that has been passed down from generation to generation, this isnt always the case.

As a general rule, a piece that is referred to as just estate and nothing else is usually probably not that old.

Hopefully, this has cleared up some of the terms which are often attributed to certain pieces of jewellery and has given you a better idea of what to look out for when adding to your own collection.

We have a great range of antique jewellery for you to browse and welcome you to take a look at the stunning pieces which we have available.