Understanding the Difference Between Vintage and Antique Jewelry

Irritating no doubt to jewellers, collectors and jewelry enthusiasts the world over, confusing the term antique with vintage or using the two interchangeably is actually very commonly done. Then, to avoid doing this yourself, here is a brief explanation of both terms and the differences between antique and vintage jewelry.


After all, knowing what you are looking for will of course make finding it a far easier. Further, understanding the difference between jewelry described as antique and that accurately describable as vintage is one of the first things a person needs to know in order to provide a foundation upon which to subsequently build a more in depth and solid understanding and knowledge of jewelry necessary to any collector or enthusiast.

What is Antique Jewelry?

Antique jewelry is that which has existed for over one hundred years. Therefore, in 2016 anything pre-dating 1916 is accurately and legitimately describable as antique.

Because hallmarking in countries in which it has now become standard practice and even legally required when making fine jewelry items only did so in 1910, antique jewelry items are usually traced to the period or era in which they were created.

Except in the case of famous antique jewelry items, it is often impossible to exactly date an antique item. Then the techniques, metals, materials, stones and cut of the stone used to make an item along with the style and any motifs it bears all combine to tell a jeweller or jewelry historian when it will have come into being. Further, this also means that antiques are most often advertised and sold by jewellers according to the period and era they hail from rather than the year they were made.

Because of this, it is necessary when looking to buy antique jewelry to do so with some basic understanding and knowledge of those periods, eras and their chronology, which you can explore in detail via the Antique Jewelry University Online Encyclopaedia website, which rather brilliantly features an entire timeline of antique jewellery, beginning way back in 110.000 BC. Meanwhile, for those interested in learning more about antique jewellery and specifically the gems, stones and cuts used throughout history as well as their evolution, continue your research and reading via the International Gem Society Learning Centre Online.

What is Vintage Jewelry?

Vintage jewelry is that which is neither old enough to be accurately described as antique just yet and yet is already too old to be properly described as ‘’contemporary’. To put that in years, vintage jewellery can be as recently made as twenty years ago or made as long ago as ninety years. Hence, it is no wonder people find the term confusing. After all, and unlike antique jewelry, that described as vintage is so without there being any real or general consensus as to what it is. Then, to learn more about what is generally considered ‘vintage’ in the world of jewelry collecting, a great way to get your bearings and lean more is by reading the guide to vintage jewelry featured on the aptly named Complex website.


Perhaps at least some of the confusion experienced as to what can be described as antique and that more accurately describable as vintage is also due at least in part to the fact that many if not most antique jewelry providers and stores also sell vintage jewelry items. This is no negative reflexion on an antique store either. In fact, perfectly reputable, well established and trusted antique jewelry providers, such as the Royal Antique Jewelry store proudly deal in and sell both antique and vintage items.

Quite simply, and suffice to say, the bulk of what antique jewellers sell is likely to be antique, not vintage. After all, all things antique span absolutely every jewelry item pre-dating 1916. Hence, at any given time an antique jewelry provider is likely to have far less vintage jewelry and as such disappoint those looking specifically for vintage items. Further, because there are so many more antique eras and periods to learn about and jewelry to buy, sell and collect on top of the fact that all things currently vintage will one day also become antique , it is simply in most cases more accurate and conducive for a store or jeweller to sell both. Hence, ‘antique’ is often used as an umbrella term by dealers and jewellers.