What's the Difference Between Antique and Vintage Jewelry?

You're looking for a beautiful piece of jewelry that has an old-fashioned, romantic feel to it. Many non-experts in jewelry use the terms "antique" and "vintage" interchangeably. This is not technically correct. While it may not be a big deal to squeal "Look at my new vintage ring!" to your best friend when it's actually an antique, you want to make sure you're saying the correct terms when you're actually doing the shopping. This is the only way to ensure you're finding the right piece. With that in mind, let's look at the differences between the two jewelry terms.


The term "vintage" is most often used pretty informally and loosely to infer that the date around which an object was made is significant to its style or quality. That being said, its technical definition varies from product to product. For example, a wine described as ‘vintage’ is made from the grapes of one single year. Vintage clothing, on the other hand, refers to clothes that date back to at least 20 years ago or more.


While "vintage" is a pretty loose term that often just means "old", "antique" is not. "Antique" is used simply to describe a collectable object that is valuable because of its age and quality, and guidelines are in place to define what qualifies certain objects as antiques. 

What About Jewelry?

Sorry, but the jewelry industry makes it even more confusing! When a piece was made is not always the same time frame as when a certain style was popular. In the jewellery trade, there are technical terms to help identify when a piece of jewellery was actually created, not just fashionable. This helps to eliminate confusion around modern reproductions in comparison to authentic techniques and materials from the era in question. So for example, something that is "Art Deco style” is not likely to be an actual Art Deco piece because it wasn't made during the Art Deco time period!

Right now, "vintage" describes a piece that was made between 50 and 100 years ago. Since we are in the year 2021, all jewellery produced between 1920 and 1970 is technically "vintage". Right now, "antique" describes a piece that was made at least 100 years ago. That means that any jewellery made around 1920 or before is technically antique. There are great pieces that look either vintage or antique, but are technically neither. This is because they were made recently, but crafted to look like these beautiful styles. The general rule of thumb is that antique or vintage jewellery that has been restored or repaired must still be at least 50% original in order to retain its label of being a true piece of the time period.

Understanding when exactly any object was made, and therefore the exact term to describe it with, can be confusing. This guide explaining how the jewellery trade officially defines vintage vs antique jewellery should help! Armed with this knowledge, get out there and get shopping for vintage inspired jewelry pieces!