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Spotting the Difference Between Vintage Jewelry and Antique Jewelry

Difference Between Vintage Jewelry and Antique Jewelry

Spotting the Difference Between Vintage Jewelry and Antique Jewelry

Some people think that vintage jewelry and antique jewelry must be the same thing, but they actually have some key differences. Click here to find out more.

There are tons of reasons to buy used goods, rather than something that was newly manufactured. When it comes to the secondhand market, we tend to focus on clothing, as this makes up the majority of what people buy secondhand. 

As a result, it can be a little more difficult to find resources that delve into the ins and outs of purchasing pre-owned jewelry. How do you find a great jewelry seller? How much are these pieces truly worth?

Today, we’re going to talk about the difference between vintage jewelry and antique jewelry. Understanding this difference can help you find exactly what you’re looking for from an honest, reputable seller.

Read on to learn more about vintage jewelry and antique jewelry to unpack some of the key differences.

What Counts as Vintage Jewelry?

When we’re talking about the difference between vintage and antique, there is an easy rule of thumb to go by: time. The terms vintage and antique in the world of pre-owned items refer to how old the piece is. That means that something that starts out as contemporary eventually becomes vintage and, with time, antique.

Vintage jewelry must be at least 20 years old, and no more than 99 years old. That means that right now, in the year 2021, we would consider anything that was made between 1922 and 2001 to be vintage.

What Is Considered Antique Jewelry?

If you’re a sharp reader, you’ve probably guessed what we would consider antique jewelry, as opposed to vintage! Once something hits the 100-year mark, it is henceforth considered an antique piece of jewelry. Right now, that would mean that anything made in 1921 or earlier would be considered antique.

As you can imagine, this opens up the world of antiques to a broad range of items. This is why most of the time when you’re shopping for antique jewelry, you’ll see the seller include a specific time period or style with each antique piece. This helps buyers and collectors narrow down when, exactly, a piece was first produced.

(Common examples include Victorian jewelry from 1837-1901, Edwardian jewelry from 1901-1910, and so on.)

Estate Jewelry: The Third Term With a Vague Meaning

Let’s take a quick look at another term you may encounter in your jewelry-purchasing endeavors: estate jewelry. 

Seeing the term estate jewelry isn’t inherently a red flag, but it does mean that you may want to ask more questions. In order to be considered estate jewelry, a piece doesn’t have to be of a certain time period. It simply has to be pre-owned. In other words, something that was purchased in 2020 and resold in 2021 could correctly be given the title, “estate jewelry,” even if it isn’t worth the asking price.

Most experienced sellers understand the value of something that is antique versus vintage versus contemporary. If a piece is labeled estate jewelry with no other qualifiers attached, it could mean that the piece is contemporary–or that the seller genuinely doesn’t know what they have.

What to Look For When Shopping for Pre-Owned Jewelry

Now that you have an understanding of the difference between vintage and antique jewelry, you’re probably thinking, “That seems kind of vague!” The truth is that these two qualifiers can help you narrow down your search for the perfect piece, but there’s more that you’ll want to look for in each listing. Let’s take a look at some possible clues that can give you a better idea of what you’re buying.

Year Made and/or Provenance

It’s always nice when a buyer can get more specific about when a piece was manufactured. Of course, it’s not always possible to give you an exact date, but providing a general era is useful.

Serious collectors may also want to see the provenance of a piece of jewelry, but it’s not always available (or necessary). Provenance refers to the history of ownership of a piece.

Disclaimers That Jewelry Has Been Restored or Repurposed

It’s absolutely common for jewelry to have been restored (repaired and cleaned) or repurposed (altered for a new use or appearance). However, it can be helpful to know if that’s the case.

For example, you may encounter a piece of jewelry that was originally made over 100 years ago but altered in the past 99 years. That means that the elements used are antique, but the style may not match what you expect from an antique piece.

The Difference Between an Antique Piece and an Antique-Style Piece

One thing that you really want to look out for is pieces that are antique versus pieces that are antique-style. For example, if a seller says that they have Edwardian jewelry for sale, the implication is that the jewelry was made in the Edwardian period. However, if a seller refers to a piece as Edwardian-style, it entails that the piece is not from the Edwardian period, but rather created to resemble the style of that time.

Fashion is cyclical, which is often what drives the secondhand market. However, it can also contribute to fast fashion companies who are simply making cheap versions of vintage or antique pieces. If you’re looking for authentic jewelry, you’ll want to skip the knock-offs and look for bonafide vintage or antique jewelry.

Shop Vintage Jewelry With Grandmas Jewelry 123

At the end of the day, the difference between vintage jewelry and antique jewelry can be as small as one year or as vast as hundreds of years. This can have a major impact on style, materials used, durability, and overall worth. At Grandmas Jewelry 123, we guarantee that you’ll find true vintage and antique pieces that are priced fairly.

Head to our eBay store to see our ever-growing collection. We’re sure that you’ll find your next favorite piece of vintage or antique jewelry!

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How To Buy Vintage Jewelry Online in 2021


Why I buy Vintage Jewelry?

When I first began shopping for vintage jewelry, I was looking for the unique, the different, the one-of-a-kind bracelets, necklaces, earrings, brooches. I was searching for jewelry, impossible to find in retail stores. I wanted the memories of old lovers, and new ones too, the memories of parents and grandparents, and special people who had been linked into the tapestry of my life.

Shopping for vintage jewelry is fun. The reason it’s enjoyable is that it’s one of a kind. It’s not the costume jewelry bracelets, necklaces, earrings, brooches made in China, and sold in Walmart stores.

Costume Jewelry isn’t real sterling silver or 14k gold, and it might not have genuine gemstones, but vintage jewelry is a selection from the past. Purchasing it is a little like stepping into the movie Back to the Future. You rev up the time machine, turn on the flux capacitor, and fly towards relics from the past, then return to today, bringing fashion designs from yesterday, into today.

Sometimes I  purchased vintage jewelry to accessorize, the simple summer dress. Other times, it was the choice, for the dinner, anniversary, or special occasion. Sometimes I bought, a special jewel for the GrandmasJewelry123 store to resell to another.

Why do you want Vintage Jewelry?

If you are like me, you are buying vintage jewelry for the same reasons. You might choose a ring or bracelet, that reminds you of somebody special. You may need a fashion accessory, a beaded necklace, for a special outfit for day or evening wear. You might be searching for a simple sterling silver design, that you can wear many times. You might just be seeking a design to capture a slice of time.

You know that mass produced jewelry doesn’t encapsulate the differentness of one of a kind pieces crafted before.

You are looking for vintage bracelets, costume rings, vintage necklaces, and antique brooches that speak to the heart, that are fun to wear, and that aren’t in stores that sell new jewelry everywhere. 

You are looking for vintage bracelets, costume rings, vintage necklaces, and antique brooches that speak to the heart, that are fun to wear, and that aren’t in stores that sell new jewelry everywhere.

You are looking to wear special pieces from the past. They will show some.

Mostly the selections evoke curiosity. Who owned this? How did they get this? What is the story of this jewelry piece? The odds are you might never know, but exceptional jewelry makes you wander off into Lala land and think about who wore this before?

They don’t make vintage jewelry like this anymore. It’s not made in China. It’s no t mass produced. The vintage jewelry that you are looking for, is one of a kind, it’s a special piece that touches you, and evokes curiosity, about its history.

Is Vintage Jewelry a Good Investment?

Vintage jewelry is an excellent investment. Before our marketplace became a collection of made in China specials, artists crafted jewelry by hand. Many companies spent time and money, using rhinestones, and gold plate and silver plate, to make jewelry affordable for people who wanted to wear elegance, but couldn’t afford the expensive cost.

Find a pair of Miriam Haskell Earrings, and you have a real collectible piece. Famous for the large chunky stones, artistically designed, her pieces are quickly increasing in value, not to mention very difficult to find.

Nolan Miller, costume designer for the television show Dynasty, passed in 2012. His jewelry considered works of art and has been on the upswing.

Sara Coventry jewelry was once a household name, along with Avon Jewelry designs. Both are still relatively affordable, but a great speculative buy destined to increase in price. Avon, developed an amazing brand, and not only sold fantastic costume jewelry, Avon was a huge supporter of economic empowerment for women in the marketplace.

No matter what you think the value might be in the future, don’t buy jewelry just for the increase in price. Buy vintage jewelry that you like. You don’t want to invest money in a bracelet, only to have it packed away in a box.

Antique Vs. Vintage Jewelry

Any jewelry that is 20 years old or more is considered vintage jewelry. If it’s 100 years old, its considered antique. This means the Art Deco designs worn by the flappers of the 1920’s, are antique relics. The Jewelry worn in the past wasn’t always expensive, some of it affordable costume designs. They are becoming very difficult to find, and increasing in price.

They may or may not have real gemstones. It may or may not be sterling silver or 14k gold. 

Vintage Jewelry is a Good Investment

Buy what you like. Buy what you will wear. Don’t purchase jewelry you will shuffle away in a box, hoping someday it’s worth more.

You can find vintage Jewelry on Etsy, Ebay, Craigs List, or even here at store.

You can also find vintage jewelry at jewelry trade shows, and at auction houses. 

And of course you can find it at estate sales. This is my favorite place to find old pieces, because these are pieces that people didn’t want to part with when they were alive, and then the heirs don’t care or know anything about it, and are willing to let it go.

I love finding pieces where women who died, only had sons. The guys often don’t have a clue, and they aren’t attached to it. You can find some great buys. They are willing to let it all go.

What should you look for?


Look at the patina. Vintage jewelry will have some signs of wear. There are many copies and places putting out new jewelry pieces that are new, designed to look like they are old. Vintage jewelry will have signs of wear. Some of the pieces may have slight tarnish, some signs that there was some wear.


Search for reputable dealers of vintage jewelry. If the dealer is selling multiple pieces of the same item, it’s doubtful that it is old. It is more likely new, designed to look as if it’s old. You want the one of a kind piece of jewelry, that nobody else is wearing.


Review the clasp of the jewelry, as it can tell you quite a bit about the actual age. If you find a special vintage brooch that you like, always look at the back of it, as well as the front. 

Brooches with pins that extend past the edge of the brooch, are probably antique brooches. The reason for this is that women’s fabric was heavier 100 years ago, and the pin extended past the edge of the brooch so it could securely attach to the fabric. 

A Long pin extending past the edge of the brooch is an antique brooch.

Helpful Tools To Bring With You


Invest in a jewelers loupe when investing in vintage or antique jewelry. This will allow you to see writing on the back of the bracelet or necklace. Any markings such as signatures, stamps of sterling or 925, or 14k gold are easier to see with a jewelers loupe.

A Magnet

While Silver is usually marked 925, or sterling, gold is not always marked with 14k gold, or 10k gold. You don’t have the ability to do an acid test on the spot, but you can bring a magnet with you. A magnet won’t attract silver or gold. It’s a first step to telling you if you are looking at silver or gold.

What Should you look for?


Look at the signatures on the back of the vintage bracelet, brooch or necklace. It’s an excellent way to date jewelry. 

Goldette Jewelry located in New York, made fine vintage jewelry from the 1940’s to the 1980s, when it closed its doors. 

Goldette had signatures, and signature styles that changed with the decades. These signatures can help you date a piece of jewelry. You might not ever know the exact year it was produced without the catalogue but you can get an approximate age of the piece.

Hobe jewelry was produced in Providence Rhode Island. Hobe used rhinestones carefully cut and placed that are so finely made, that they practically jump off the jewelry brooch. Hobe had styles of stamping their trademark on the back of a brooch or pair of earrings that varied with the decade it was produced.

Markings for silver and gold

Always look at the backside of the jewelry piece. Silver is usually marked. Sometimes you can find an individual who crafted with sterling silver and didn’t mark it, but the hallmarks have been required by law for hundreds of years. 

The silver markings can tell you the country where it was made, as countries often used hallmarks specific to that country. England stamped silver with a lion.

In the United States, silver is marked with 925 or the word sterling. If the piece says sterling, instead of 925, it’s an older piece of vintage jewelry.

 Countries use different numbers for marking silver. Check out the silver markings to learn more about markings. There are places online that will help you learn the silver markings found in various countries in the world.

Vintage jewelry is an excellent investment, and it’s a lot of fun to purchase. Whether you are seeking to capture a piece of time from the past or wear it for a special event, you can find a complete selection of vintage earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and rings at

The following list will guide you on how to buy Vintage Jewelry

  1. 1. Examine the jewelry from all sides, thoroughly.
  2. 2. Vintage jewelry must look old. Confirm it.
  3. 3. Evaluate on the base of price. If something is very cheap it is for some reason. Compare and contrast the products & prices of multiple stores.
    Checkout: Vintage Jewelry Store
  4. 4. Read out about vintage jewelry before you go to purchase it. This is a good article on this topic.
Tammy Pinkerton

Based in the United States, Tammy Pinkerton has been an eBay seller since Sep 30, 1997.

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