You’ll hear a lot of terms in reference to estate jewelry. Of course, that term alone might cause some confusion for you. But “estate” is fairly simple: any jewelry that has been previously owned. That means estate jewelry could be a beautiful handmade Georgian piece or a cheap piece from the local one-stop shop store.
So, how do we differentiate between estate jewelry of value and that of low quality? Well, that’s fairly easy—appraisal. Granted, the appraisal process is not easy, which is why you want a professional appraiser to take a look at any estate jewelry before selling it. But you can look out for some key words when buying jewelry.
The two most basic terms for distinguishing between estate jewelry pieces are “vintage” and “antique.” This actually goes for more items than just jewelry, but for our sake, we will stick with jewelry. Antique, according to many sources, describes a piece that is more than 100 years old. Vintage would, therefore, be anything newer than 100 years old.
This definition will probably change as time goes on. The reason being that the industrial revolution (when manufacturing shifted heavily to machines as opposed to handmade) marks the true end of “antique.” Knowing that a piece of jewelry was made before the industrial revolution basically guaranteed that it was handmade and of excellent quality. After industry turned manufacturing, including jewelry manufacturing, to machines, the quality and uniqueness of each piece of jewelry changed. Some would argue that the quality declined, but “changed” might be a better term, seeing as plenty of vintage jewelry serve as beautiful pieces of high integrity.
All of this is to say that… you want to buy estate pieces from trusted jewelers who can identify the true quality of the pieces. Otherwise, you could buy a 3 year old piece of gilt copper for hundreds of dollars!