One would think that the terms Antique, Vintage and Estate are rather common in the world of jewelry, yet the three are confused and misused quite often. But no need to fear! The estate jewelry experts here at Charles Schwartz & Son are here to help! With over 125 years of experience handling estate jewelry, you could say that we know a thing or two about the distinction between these three major categories of jewelry.

Read on to learn about the dramatic differences between estate, antique, and vintage jewelry, along with a few all-too common misconceptions about these three major players in the jewelry industry:

Estate Jewelry: Jewelry is considered “Estate” if the piece of jewelry in question has a previous owner. However, contrary to common belief—the previous owner of a piece of estate jewelry may very well still be alive. While the previous owners of a considerable percentage of estate jewelry have indeed passed away, the vitality of the previous owner has nothing to do with a piece of jewelry’s status as estate jewelry.  Another common misconception in the world of estate jewelry—age has nothing to do with whether or not a piece of jewelry is classified as “Estate”. Although many estate pieces on the market today may be 50, 100, even 150+ years old, age is not a determining factor when it comes to classifying estate jewelry.

Antique Jewelry: A piece of jewelry is considered “Antique” if it is over 100 years old. In general, antique jewelry is crafted with a superior level of craftsmanship from higher-quality materials, compared to modern pieces found on the market today. However, due to the relative scarcity and sheer age of jewelry by the time it can be classified as “antique”, the majority of antique jewelry is too valuable to be worn or at times even displayed.

Vintage Jewelry: On the other hand, a piece of jewelry is considered “vintage” if it is between 50 years old and 100 years old. Unlike antique jewelry, vintage pieces are often worn and displayed, as they are less likely to break. Vintage jewelry designs are also easier to incorporate into fashion-forward outfits to create unique statements—as vintage jewelry designs are relatively current, easily paring with today’s hottest trends while adding an extra flair to any outfit!

Eager to learn more about the origin of a prized piece of jewelry? Check out the Jewelry Education section of our website, browse our collection of elegant estate pieces on our website and 1stDibs, or stop by one of our two DC locations to speak to an Estate Jewelry Expert from DC’s Oldest Jeweler today!