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by Jesús Zabala - 3 min read

How Old Is Antique Jewelry?

People often use the terms vintage and antique interchangeably to describe older jewelry, but these terms describe different pieces. For instance, antique jewelry is older than vintage, which tends to make it more valuable. So, how old is antique jewelry?

Read on as we explore antique jewelry history and how to identify if a piece is antique, vintage, or estate.

How Old Is Antique Jewelry
Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Santi S

Antique Jewelry History: How Old Is Antique Jewelry?

Antique jewelry is every piece over 100 years old. On the other hand, jewelry pieces that are between 50 and 100 years old fall into the vintage category. Because both terms refer to older jewelry, it becomes challenging to discern whether a piece of jewelry is antique or vintage, especially without visible hallmarks.

Each day, more vintage pieces enter the antique category which means one thing– an increase in value. Another thing that drives up the value of antique jewelry pieces is their scarcity. 

In order to determine the age of jewelry, it is essential to know how to evaluate it. Factors that determine jewelry age include the following:

  • Style and design
  • Hallmarks and maker's marks
  • Documentation and rovenance
  • Style and design

    According to the unique styles and designs of antique jewelry, it belongs to different eras. Popular antique jewelry eras include:

    • Renaissance - lasting from 1450 to 1650, this era is well-known for its focus on human self-expression. The jewelry pieces of the Renaissance are recognizable by the dazzling gold-yellow color and vibrant jewels. 
    • Georgian Era - the Georgian era lasted from 1714 to 1830, and the jewelry pieces created incorporated yellow gold and colored gemstones in elaborate designs.
    • Victorian Era– during this era, which lasted from 1837 to 1901, Victorian jewelry designs were more focused on sentimental motifs. The design often included hearts, flowers, animals, etc. 
    • Art Nouveau– lasting from 1890 to 1914, Art Nouveau is defined by natural thesen and motifs. The jewelry pieces were often designed in sweeping shapes with stones like opal, amber, and moonstone. 
    • Edwardian Era– the Edwardian era jewelry overlapped with the Art Nouveau style, lasting from 1901 to 1915. The Edwardian era style focused on delicate and simple designs with lacy and floral designs. 
    • Art Deco– the Art Deco architecture during the 1920s/30s was a celebration of modernity and technology, whose motifs carried over into jewelry designs. But, only pieces dating to 1924 are currently in the antique category.

    Hallmarks and maker's marks

    The easiest and most sure way to confirm jewelry’s age is through stamped identifiers, including hallmarks and/or maker's marks. With stamped marks on jewelry pieces, we may determine the following:

    • Metal purity
    • The maker of the jewelry
    • Production date and year

    With date stamped on jewelry, we can easily distinguish between vintage vs. antique jewelry. 

    Documentation and provenance

    Not all antique and vintage jewelry is stamped with a hallmark or a maker's mark. This makes determining the exact jewelry age more challenging. If you own a piece or are interested in buying jewelry marketed as an antique, you may need to check its provenance.

    Checking the provenance may involve the following:

    • Try to get a certificate of authenticity or a receipt bank statement
    • If the jewelry piece is a family heirloom, try to ask around your family to determine the antique jewelry history.
    Hallmarks and maker's marks
    Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Gecko Studio

    What Is the Difference Between Vintage, Antique, and Estate Jewelry

    While the terms antique and vintage jewelry are often used interchangeably to describe old jewelry, there is one more term you may come across. This term is estate jewelry.

    In the simplest explanation, estate jewelry is a piece that another individual previously owned. In terms of age, jewelers use the term estate to describe jewelry less than 30 years old, as these pieces are likely to have a previous owner.

    Conclusion

    How old is antique jewelry? Antique jewelry is each piece that is over 100 years old. This is important to know as the term antique is often confused with vintage jewelry, which is around 50-100 years old. Antique jewelry has more value, so you want to ensure you know the exact age of your pieces.

    Jesús  is the founder and designer of JewelryLab. He is the Head of Design and also oversees production, quality control, and precious metal sourcing.

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