What are Antique, Heirloom, Period Jewellery and Collectibles?

When discussing older jewellery there are terms that are often used and should be defined.  What is the difference between antique, heirloom or period jewellery?  What are collectibles?

Vintage, Esate, Heirloom Bracelet

Vintage, Estate Bracelet Flickr photo MetalRiot

Antique Jewellery According to Antique Trader and Warman’s

Victorian Antique Earring

Flikr photo by Kotomicreations

Antique jewellery is generally considered to be 100 years or older, but there are other opinions. One of the many books that are respected in the appraisal community is Warman’s Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide by Mark F. Moran. Another resource is Antique Trader Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide by Eric Bradley.

The 100 year cut off that many dealers and collectors use does not include one critical era of antique jewelry, the Edwardian era.  This period began as the Victorian period was ending.  According to Warman’s, this period began ten years before King Edward the VII became king (1901-1910) and about ten years after. According to the so called 100 year rule, any post 1910 Edwardian jewelry would not be antique but vintage.  Confused?  According to Antique Trader, Warman’s, and many other jewelry/history books, 1920 is the cut off for antique jewelry.

Heirloom, Estate and Vintage Jewellery

This is jewellery that has been previously owned.  It is sometimes called “estate” or “vintage”. It is generally ten to 100 years old and it may or may not have been passed from generation to generation. The “estate” jewellery has not necessarily from someone who has died.  These terms are used to acquire a better price for jewellery which could also be described by the less glamorous word – “used”.

Period Jewellery

This is jewellery defined by specific times and styles.  According to Antique Trader & Warman’s,  if you are dating jewellery 1920 or older the following categories are used: Georgian (18th-19th century), Victorian (19th-early 20th century), Arts & Crafts (1890-1920) or Art Nouveau (1890s-1915), Edwardian (1890s-1920).  If you research the social trends, popular clothing and hairstyle fashions of these periods it will help you understand the function of the jewellery and you will be better able to circa date the jewellery.


This is jewellery that is from any period in time or from any jewellery designer or manufacturer.  These items do not have to be old, but can be contemporary.  Usually these collectible items are not longer in production. A collection may span several periods, designers or categories of design.

Whatever words are used to describe jewellery it is important that you love the piece and consider it’s condition and price before making a purchase.  Good luck with your collection!

Your Input

(Join our poll or Scroll Down To The Bottom and leave a comment) – Emerald is winning the poll!

Vintage Brooch Flickr by PrettySaro

Vintage Brooch Flickr by PrettySaro

I have introduced different gemstones alphabetically.  I started with “A” (Ammolite) and it has taken me to Malachite!  Leave a comment and let me know if you have a favourite gemstone that starts with the letter “p”.  Take the poll!  Can you name a reference to a gemstone in a song, movie or book?


About Jen McKercher

Jennifer McKercher teaches gemmology at the Canadian Gemmological Association. A passion for gemstones drives Jen to learn as much as she can about the wonders of gemstones and how they enhance our lives.

Posted on January 27, 2012, in Appraisals, Jewellery and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I adore different types of jewelries from different periods of time and found your article quite helpful..

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