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Antique Jewellery

What Is the Difference Between Vintage, Antique and Estate Jewellery?

Whether it’s a piece you’ve inherited from your family and wear it on special occasions or something you put on every day, jewellery is something we’ve all adorned ourselves with throughout our lives. But, can you classify the pieces in your collection? Understanding the difference between vintage, antique and estate jewellery can be confusing as the terms are often used incorrectly and loosely. The most significant way is to differentiate the terms is by identifying if the piece had a previous owner and by knowing which age the piece belongs to.

Let’s find out what determines if a piece of jewellery is classified as vintage, antique or estate.

Vintage, Antique and Estate Jewellery

Vintage Jewellery

Any adornment that is less than 100 years old, but is more than 50 years old can be termed as vintage jewellery. However, the second half of that definition is loosely based on the professional dealer you inquire. This is because the pieces are considered to be collectables. So, basically, it’s just something which isn’t modern or new.

After the 1920s there were different eras of vintage jewellery. The early part of the Retro Modern Era took place between 1945-1960 and saw many pieces inspired by Hollywood styles, being bold, flamboyant and colourful, including large necklaces, bracelets, cocktail rings, charm bracelets, and pins. During this era, gold became the metal of choice since platinum wasn’t available to the industry during World War II.

They can be displayed and worn as they’re much less likely to break compared to other eras. The designs are also much easier to incorporate in fashion-forward items and allow the wearer to create unique style statements that are bound to stand out. This is because vintage designs are relatively current, making it easy to be paired with the latest trends.

Also, note that vintage jewellery isn’t something that can be made. Using parts of vintage pieces such as beads, and incorporating it to create a new piece, doesn’t categorize it as vintage. This type of jewellery can be regarded as contemporary. Furthermore, the fun thing about owning or buying vintage jewellery is that, after 100 years of age, it would turn into an antique piece, possibly while you still own it.

Antique Jewellery

Any piece of jewellery that’s over 100 years old can be classified as antique. These are generally very rare and precious and have a lot of history attached to them, typically because of their age. Pieces belonging to this era are often characterized by the decade they belong to.

  • The Gregorian Era (1714 –1837) saw more handmade pieces. They predate the Industrial Revolution and very few of the exquisite and fragile pieces have survived. Pieces from this era are especially rare and very valuable as they often contain precious stones and nature details.
  • The Victorian Era came after Gregorian. The Early Victorian Romantic Era (1837–1850) featured mostly nature-inspired designs that were intricately and delicately created in gold and silver. Brooches and lockets were among the popular pieces including diamonds and other coloured The Middle Victorian Grand Era (1860-1880) saw jewellery becoming darker and using lesser colours. The Late Victorian Aesthetic Era (1885-1990) can be characterized by the crescent and star-shaped designs along with renaissance revival lockets that were generally set with seed pearls of animals, hearts, and flowers.
  • Next came the Arts and Crafts Era (1894-1923) which consisted of handmade jewellery with more simplified designs, and was a revolt against pieces that were created using machines, which was happening during the Industrial Revolution. None of these pieces had excessive decoration and the construction could also often be seen.
  • The Art Nouveau Era (1895-1915) saw the revitalization of the jeweller’s art and used nature as the main source of inspiration. They were complemented with innovative techniques in enamelling and new materials such as semi-precious stones and opals were introduced during this time too.
  • The Edwardian Era (1901-1915) was named Edward, after the son of Queen Victoria and characterized by fantastic and gaudy pieces. Gemstones such as emeralds, rubies, and diamonds were reintroduced and used in complex designs during this age.
  • During Art Deco (1915-1935), jewellery started evolving from delicate designs to angular and more geometric patterns. The stones started being available in very strict geometrical designs.

Estate Jewellery

Most people hear the term “estate jewellery” and immediately think of a piece which has been passed down generations. However, know that any jewellery that has had a previous owner at any point in time, regardless of how old it may be can be termed as estate jewellery.

Since it is jewellery that has been owned previously, it has to be a little old because the piece is likely to remain with its owner for at least several years before it is re-sold. This is why most estate pieces can be classified as both antique and vintage too.

Why Is It Important to Understand the Difference?

When purchasing an expensive accessory, understanding the difference allows you to decipher a lot of the information you have available on the web or elsewhere. Having knowledge of the terms will give you an edge as a buyer. When you see these terms being used incorrectly, you’ll know at once the jewellers are trying to convince you wrongly.

Vintage, antique or estate jewellery are one-of-a-kind pieces that will definitely gain value as time passes. All of them are highly sought-after by the elites of the world, including socialites and celebrities and are definitely great additions to any collection. The above post elaborates on their definitions and mentions the distinct attributes that will help you separate one from the other. In this way, there will be least chances of you being misled as a buyer.

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