Antique, Vintage, and Estate Jewelry — What’s the Difference?

Do you know the difference between antique, vintage, and estate jewelry? One would think that these terms are common in the jewelry industry, and yet, the three are often confused and mislabelled with one another.

The jewelry experts and GIA-certified appraisers at Biltmore Loan and Jewelry are here to help you learn the difference. With over 75 years of experience handling antique, estate, and vintage jewelry, rest assured that we know a thing or two about these three categories of fine jewelry.

What is Estate Jewelry?


Estate jewelry is used or pre-loved jewelry. This term comprises all second-hand jewelry, regardless if experts could define the piece as vintage or antique. The manufacturing of the item could be a month old and still fall under the category of estate jewelry.

Here’s an example. Let’s say your boyfriend proposed over a year ago with a brand new diamond engagement ring. However, you both called off the wedding. After careful deliberation, you sold your ring to Biltmore Loan. When reselling the item, our appraisal experts would classify your diamond ring as a piece of estate jewelry.

Instead of referring to all pre-loved jewelry as estate jewelry, dealers often limit this term. Only pieces that jewelers made within the last 30 years belong in this category.

When buying second-hand jewelry, it is safe to presume that whenever a dealer says “estate” without mentioning the item’s age, that the piece of jewelry is not too old at all. But anytime “estate jewelry” describes a piece of jewel that may look like it’s much older than 30 years, schedule an appointment with us to verify its exact age and origin. Keep in mind that the term “estate” can also be an indicator of reproduction.

What is Vintage Jewelry?


Fine jewelry must be at least 20 to 30 years old for experts to consider it vintage. Vintage jewelry could be anything produced during the 1990s or earlier. This category is possibly the most common of the three. It encompasses an extensive collection of periods when jewels were mass produced.

Allow us to help you gain a deeper understanding of vintage jewelry. Technically, jewelry experts would still consider an engagement ring from the 1800s as vintage. However, instead of listing the ring as vintage, many would call the ring antique so they can highlight how old the ring is. As for your grandmother’s engagement ring from the 1950s, it classifies as a vintage engagement ring.

What is Antique Jewelry?


Moving on to the last category of old jewelry, what experts consider “antique” is any piece of jewelry that is around 100 years old or older. Several pieces from the 1920s now classify as antique, particularly those produced in the earlier part of the decade. When a piece of jewelry is “antique,” you can guarantee that the heirloom has been around for a long time.

Note that the terms “antique jewelry” and “antique style” are different, with the latter being another reproduction indicator. When a dealer uses “style” to describe a piece of jewelry, this could mean the item is a reproduction that only appears to be old.

Why are the Definitions Important?

Age is significant to people who love old jewelry, and these three terms are their building blocks. When investing in jewelry, knowing the difference between antique, vintage, and estate can play a role in saving you a lot of money. Understanding the difference between these terms also helps you decipher what a dealer is talking about, including much of the information you can find on the internet.

Comprehending the definitions will likewise give you a tremendous edge as a client or buyer. If you come across these terms and notice incorrect usage of them, it is often a great warning that something is amiss. Buying vintage and antique jewelry relies on knowledge and integrity. If a jeweler lacks awareness and expertise, you may need to question the authenticity of the jewelry you want.

As an added note, if a jewelry dealer calls a 100-year-old necklace as “antique” — don’t worry. As mentioned, the jewelry trade labels anything over 100 years old as antique. If, on the other hand, a dealer calls a piece of jewelry “antique” and “estate,” you might need to ask further questions to verify the seller’s trustworthiness.

Last, knowing the definitions of jewelry is essential to building your confidence as a buyer. Arming yourself with accurate information is the best way to buy silver, gold, and gemstone-covered jewelry effectively. As such, study and memorize this jewelry terminology before you go shopping. Not only will you save so much money, but you will also make your purchase with much more conviction.


Here is a quick recap:

  • Estate Jewelry. Pre-loved or second-hand jewelry. Estate can also classify as vintage.
  • Vintage Jewelry. Jewelry that is at least 20 to 30 years old, or made prior to 1999.
  • Antique Jewelry. Jewelry that is over 100 years old or made before 1919. Although in some cases, rings and other jewels that are only 80 years old are considered antiques.

The use of the terms “antique,” “vintage,” or “estate” can oftentimes be misleading. Therefore, it is highly encouraged to understand how reputable dealers and appraisers use these terms, as well as how unreliable jewelry “experts” use them to avoid the likelihood of buying a reproduction.

When in doubt, communicate with an expert you trust to help you determine what type of jewelry you are dealing with. As we all know, styles and trends repeat themselves, so it requires a lot of finesse and knowledge to date certain pieces.

Where Do I Find a Reputable Jewelry Appraiser in Phoenix, AZ?

Since confusion continues to surround these terms, get professional help by contacting our experts at Biltmore Loan and Jewelry. As we maintain our reputation for honesty, trust, and integrity, rest assured that you and your items are in good hands.

Complete our online form to request a free market appraisal, or call 480-991-5626 for Scottsdale. We also welcome walk-ins at our locations in Arizona.