Antique Jewelry, Estate Jewelry or Vintage Jewelry – What’s the Difference? (2023)

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by Suzanne Sachs  5 min read



If you want a truly unique engagement ring with a rich history, you may consider an antique, vintage, or estate ring. Understanding the differences between those classifications and other labels used to describe jewelry can help you choose an engagement ring or piece of jewelry that is high quality and a good value, as well as having the personalized touches you prefer.


In this guide, we will explain the following:

  • Defining Antique jewelry, Vintage Jewelry and Estate Jewelry
  • What is Antique Jewelry?
  • What is Vintage Jewelry?
  • What is Estate Jewelry?
  • Jewelry Labels and Descriptions
  • What is Vintage Style?
  • Defining Conflict Free Jewelry?
  • Non Traditional Engagement Rings
  • Finding a True Vintage Engagement Ring

Defining Antique Jewelry, Vintage Jewelry, and Estate Jewelry

Some of the most challenging antique jewelry descriptions to understand are when pieces are labeled as antique, vintage, or estate. While the exact description can vary by jeweler and may fluctuate based on the paperwork associated with any individual piece, its general craftsmanship, overall condition, and when the stones were mined, the basic guidelines for these descriptions are…

What is Antique Jewelry?

Generally, a piece of antique jewelry has to be more than 100 years old to be considered antique, though some jewelers do include rings from the 1920s and 1930s under the antique umbrella, particularly if they are of exceptional quality.


What is Vintage Jewelry?

Vintage jewelry is generally at least 20-30 years old, but are not as old as antique rings. The term vintage is often applied to costume jewelry as well, so take great care when determining the authenticity and quality of vintage pieces.


What is Estate Jewelry?

Estate jewelry is a piece of pre-owned jewelry, liquidated from someone’s personal estate. There are no age, era, or quality distinctions for estate jewelry, and this broad description can cover many types of pieces.


Jewelry Labels and Descriptions

Older engagement rings and other pieces of jewelry are often labeled as different categories that help describe and define the style, era, and design of the piece, as well as highlight its overall look, age, or ownership.


The most popular types of labels and descriptions include…

What is Vintage Style?

In addition to these general classifications, several vague labels may be applied to jewelry that either cannot be easily classified or that is actually new but resembles older pieces. If a piece of jewelry is described as “-inspired” “-esque” or “-style” such as “antique-inspired” “vintage-esque” or “Art Deco-style” it will share characteristics with those classifications, but is not necessarily authentic. It is always best to thoroughly examine and appraise such jewelry to be confident of its origins.

Style-based descriptions are very common and broad, such as diamond solitaires, halo settings, or channel bands. These descriptions, though they do give a basic sense of the style of the piece, do not generally refer to one specific period and could apply to jewelry of any age or quality.



What are the Jewelry Era's?

Antique pieces are often described by the era they were designed, particularly when an era has a very distinctive style such as Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, or Mid-Century. There is often overlap between the edges of different eras, however, so these labels can be indistinct.


Defining Conflict Free Jewelry

It is becoming more popular to categorize vintage jewelry pieces under ethical standards, such as noting when a diamond is conflict-free or eco-friendly. This helps conscientious buyers seek out pieces that are more ethically sourced and have not been obtained through nefarious or dubious transactions.


Non Traditional Engagement Rings

It is easy to label some rings and pieces of jewelry by the typical occasions or type of wear they’re associated with. The most common is engagement rings or wedding bands, but anniversary rings, vintage cocktail rings, mother’s rings, and right-hand rings are similar designations.


Finding a True Vintage Engagement Ring

With so many labels and vague descriptions that can be applied to jewelry, it may seem overwhelming to seek out a truly lovely and authentic Art Deco or vintage engagement ring.  A reputable jeweler will be able to offer expert analysis of the jewelry, however, including documentation through ownership or insurance records, independent appraisals, and evaluations that help determine the authenticity of a piece. For example, examining the lapidary techniques on the gemstone rings , as well as the setting style, manufacturing method, and materials used in the piece can help determine its precise origins and history. does all this to ensure its antique jewelry is of the highest quality and is appropriately classified so you never need worry about inaccurate information, and can feel confident in every piece you purchase.

Antique Rings For Everyone:

No matter which era is your favorite, these time-honored diamond shapes have a rich history and individualized character and will continue to have a timeless beauty and elegant appeal that is part of a legacy to pass on to future generations.

Find The Perfect Engagement Ring:

Vintage rings are prized not only for their beauty but also for their exquisite attention to detailing and design. If you’re looking for a ring with a sense of glamour, sophistication and vintage charm, explore our collection of vintage engagement rings today.

Suzanne Sachs

Suzanne has always believed vintage rings can change lives. She's been in the jewelry industry for over 35 years, working with vintage jewelers, diamond dealers, diamond cutters, and gemologists. Suzanne started Artdecodiamonds in 2000 and understood the demand for vintage rings throughout the world. She ultimately started in 2014, and understands each vintage ring is a reflection of you – your history, your relationships, your style, your elegance and is honored to have the opportunity to help you showcase your flair in a unique and exquisite way.


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