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.

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All That Glitters: Telling Genuine Jewelry Apart from the Fakes

custom jewelry in san antonio

Have you ever been to a thrift store, pawn shop, or estate sale and seen something shiny that caught your eye? Was it a rings, a bracelet, necklace, or something else that looked too good to pass up? Maybe you bought it and later found out it was nothing more than a sophisticated fake. Sorry, no refunds!

This reality is all too common in the world of fine jewelry and especially so when individuals are out looking to score valuables at discounted prices. How can you be certain that what you’re tempted to purchase will retain its value over time and not come to back to bite you? Luckily we’ve put together a few guidelines that will help you identify genuine jewelry and hopefully avoid the knock-offs.


No, not carrots (bad joke), but carats. These units of mass used for measuring the mass of precious metals and gemstones should be marked on real, fine jewelry. If there isn’t a carat marking, it would be best to leave the piece be.


Genuine jewelry typically has a stamp or “hallmark” somewhere on the piece. Rings in particular often have them if they are made with real precious metals. Look up “Essay” service stamps so you can become familiar with the genuine ones that may indicate piece of fine jewelry.

Who is Selling? custom jewelry in san antonio

This might be the easiest one to take note of early on – who is selling the item? Fine jewelry doesn’t typically make its way out of the hands of reputable owners that have invested quite a bit of money in them. That’s not to say that there aren’t gems lying in thrift store display cases across the country, but only that they are quite rare. Be especially wary of individuals trying to sell what seems like genuine fine jewelry as there is a chance it may be stolen.

Return Policies & Paperwork

If you really have a piece of precious, fine jewelry on your hands then the process should be more intricate than a simple exchange of money. Many reputable dealers will have return policies if for any reason you develop buyer’s remorse. Make certain you understand the terms as they will eventually expire.

Additionally, certain gemstones like diamonds will come with a certificate of authenticity from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). If one isn’t offered, ask for it. If one isn’t produced, move along!

We carry Custom Jewelry like no other.

Are you looking for fine jewelry that can’t be found anywhere else? Then you need to come into Gold Unlimited. We showcase custom jewelry that’s been handcrafted for individuality.

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