Jewellery Terms


There are many different terms to describe the era a piece of jewellery has originated from and it is difficult to identify many items exactly as they overlap.


Antique Jewellery

This is generally understood to be items more than 100 years old.  They would have been produced at a time when jewellery was hand made by skilled craftsmen out of precious metals and stones, and therefore very expensive.  However, many mass produced cheaper items are now 100 years old so can be classified as antique.


Estate Jewellery

This is traditionally considered to be items that have come from an estate and are being re-sold. It could mean the estate of an old country house, or equally something bought fairly recently and now being put up for sale. It is often used to describe the possessions of the recently deceased which could include items of varied ages and value.


Vintage Jewellery

Vintage jewellery is usually considered to be items of at least 20 years old, and roughly covers the period 1920 to 1998.  It encompasses costume jewellery as well as more expensive pieces.


Costume Jewellery

Costume jewellery dates from about 1920 when Coco Chanel introduced a high quality jewellery range not made of precious metals and stones to adorn her outfits, or costumes.  It gained popularity during the 1940's when it was used to brighten up austere outfits.  Originally made of base metal many pieces were made of silver during the war years as the components for making the base metal were needed for war time production.


Retro Jewellery

Roughly dating from 1935 to 1950 jewellery produced during this period was mainly made in America from Bakerlite and other high quality plastics. Designs were bigger and bolder and more modern looking.


So, how do you classify jewellery?  A mass produced piece from 1890 is certainly an Antique, but is it what you expect an Antique to be?  The ring bought last week and up for re-sale could be called an Estate piece.  Are those semi-precious earrings from about 1917 Vintage or Antique? The silver brooch with a paste stone dating from 1940, is it Costume or Vintage?  You can see the problems!


At L & L Jewellery we believe it more important to love your jewellery and enjoy wearing it rather than worry about how old it is or how it should be classified.