Vintage, Estate, Antique and Costume Jewelry: What’s What?

vintage pile jewelry


To the trained eye, vintage, estate, antique and costume jewelry are easily differentiated. If you are less familiar with these terms and the eras and styles that they represent, however, the task may be much more difficult. Before shopping for vintage jewelry, you should understand the meaning of these commonly used terms.

Read over Gold Unlimited’s basic breakdown of the prevalent terms used to help date older pieces of fine jewelry.

Antique Jewelry

The U.S. Government defines ‘antique’ as a valuable that is over a century old. This term is sometimes inaccurately associated with costume jewelry, but antique pieces are actually previously owned heirlooms that are highly valued.

Timeline – 1920s and older

Gold Unlimited piece
Gold Unlimited piece

Vintage Jewelry

Pieces that are younger than 100 years old, but are usually older than 50 years are referred to as vintage. Vintage Jewelry is considered to still be recent enough to be in style.

Timeline – 1980s and older

retro pendant

Estate Jewelry

Refers to jewelry, often masterpieces, which are part of the ‘estate’ of another person. These pieces are second-hand or pre-owned and are considered significant pieces that may be either antique or vintage.

Timeline – Past or present


Costume Jewelry

Jewelry designed to wear with current fashions, usually made of inexpensive materials. Its imitation gems and sometime gaudy appearance mark this ‘of the moment’ jewelry.

Timeline – Past or present

costume jewelry earrings



Because of age, almost every vintage or antique piece is considered estate jewelry. Fine antique and vintage pieces are collected as keepsakes or investments, whereas costume jewelry is sometimes passed off as vintage jewelry. Antique and vintage jewelry pieces are usually made of high-quality materials that were able to stand the test of time. These pieces fetch high prices due to the level of workmanship and the purity of their stones.


For a fantastic selection of estate jewelry, stop by Gold Unlimited today. Our knowledgable professionals will you assist you in choosing the perfect custom or estate piece that will leave you breathless.

[button size=” style=” text=’Our Selection’ icon=” icon_color=” link=’’ target=’_self’ color=” hover_color=” border_color=” hover_border_color=” background_color=” hover_background_color=” font_style=” font_weight=” text_align=” margin=”]