Learning About Key Pieces of Jewelry

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What's The Difference Between Estate, Antique, And Vintage?

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When you shop for jewelry, you can choose to buy completely new items, or you can look at older jewelry that's been around for a while. If you go with that second option, you'll see the terms "antique," "estate," and "vintage" pop up a lot. You need to know the difference between these three to ensure you know what you're paying money for. Yes, you want to get something that you like to look at, but the label used with the jewelry can affect the price. And you definitely want to be sure you're not paying for one thing and getting another.

Estate Just Means Previously Owned

Estate jewelry sounds so grand, but it just means someone else owned it first. If you go to a jewelry shop that has an estate jewelry section, you're really buying used jewelry. That can be a great thing, though, because if you're on a budget, estate prices are going to be much more affordable than new jewelry. You can get some stunning designs if you're willing to look at estate items.

Vintage Is Generally at Least 20 Years Old

Vintage often goes with the term "retro," but retro is more of a look while vintage refers to age. If you want to look retro, you shop vintage or estate and look for things that look retro—though it is true that something produced now that's made to look retro would count as retro, but not vintage. You will find all sorts of definitions of what is considered vintage, but one definition, used by Etsy, is that the item is at least 20 years old. Do you know how things that are about 20 to 30 years old always seem to have a revival going, such as the 1950s revival in the 1970s, the 1960s revival in the 1980s, and so on? Vintage tends to start at that 20-year mark and work its way backward. And yes, that does mean that in your 40s, jewelry that you wore in your 20s will be considered vintage.

Antique Has a Vague but Generally Accepted Definition

Something that is antique is generally thought to be more than 100 years old. There's no official rule declaring this; in fact, the official government definition of antique (from the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930) is something produced between 1700 and 1830. But take note that the Act was passed in 1930 about items produced earlier than 1830, and you can see where that "100 years old" figure took shape. You'll find people with varying definitions, so if you are looking for antique jewelry, contact the jewelry shop to ask how they define antique to make sure you're both thinking of the same time period.