What Exactly Is Antique Jewellery?

Everyone knows that jewellery, whether modern or antique, is a type of adornment in the form of necklaces, bangles, or rings, for example, made from precious metals and gemstones that people wear to complement an outfit.

However, to true lovers of jewellery, antique pieces are way more than just a simple ornament worn on various parts of the body; to them, the jewellery you wear represents the type of person you are.

antique jewellery


Whatever the reason is for anyone to wear jewellery, the fact that they choose antique jewellery can only be because of their love and appreciation of the jewellery creations from days gone by.

There is a saying “old is gold” and those who are passionate about antique jewellery, swear by this. Any jewellery that was created around the 1930s is considered to be antique, and while there are those that say it is out of fashion, to true antique jewellery lovers, the older it is, the more valuable it is.

The price of antique jewellery is based, not on theory as some believe, but rather on the fact that it is a preserved art form, a tangible piece of history, found in today’s modern times.

What Does Antique Jewellery Look Like?

Many types of antique jewellery can be found these days and include:

  • Necklaces
  • Rings
  • Brooches
  • Pendants
  • Cufflinks
  • Earrings
  • Watches and many more

Retro pearl neckace

In addition to this, antique jewellery is also classified according to the time when it was created, with the most important and well-known eras being:

  • Georgian – from 1760 to 1837
  • Victorian – from 1837 to 1901
  • Art Nouveau – from 1890 to 1915
  • Edwardian period – from 1901 to 1915
  • Art Deco – from 1920 to 1935
  • Retro – from 1935 to 1950

One of the main determining factors of the price of a piece of antique jewellery is the period when it was created, so the older it is, the costlier it will be. As with fine art, the value of antique jewellery appreciates the older and rarer it becomes.

Most experienced, reputable antique jewellers can tell how old a piece of jewellery is, by its type, style, and the materials used to create it. The age of antique jewellery is essential because it is used, in most cases, to give a description of the piece. At most auctions, for example, pieces of jewellery are presented by their age, such as a Victorian necklace, an antique diamond ring, or an Edwardian diamond ring.

Antique Jewellery Designs And Settings

Genuine antique jewellery is extremely rare and valuable, with many of these pieces only seen on display in state collections and museums. Should you be fortunate to find a high-quality piece on the market, it will have an exceptionally high price tag, particularly if it has an unusual history or is set with large gemstones.

How Long Has Antique Jewellery Been Around?

Jewellery design history started with several advanced ancient civilizations. The earliest discovery of jewellery was a simple necklace made from fish bones, that was found in a grotto in Monaco and is estimated to be from about 25,000 years ago!

25000 year old necklace

When Is Jewellery Considered To Be “Antique”?

It has already been established that for jewellery to be classed as antique, it must be more than 100 years old, for appraisal purposes, but where do the terms “vintage” and “retro” fit in?

This can be somewhat confusing for an inexperienced buyer to understand, because as time goes by, dates and allocations of vintage, retro, and antique pieces changes. In other words, a piece that was retro 50 years ago, will now become an antique.

However, the definition of “vintage” is reasonably standard.

Just like fine wine, it is best to leave antique jewellery up to the experts, because attempting to date and appraise your vintage, antique, or retro jewellery items can be extremely baffling.

According to the professionals, the meaning and definition of vintage, separate from antique and retro pieces, is as follows:

Antique jewellery is defined as being more than 100 years old and retro is from about 1945 to 1960. So where does vintage fit in?

Despite vintage not being as valuable as antique, it is equally as appealing and collectable. Vintage is defined in two ways, and both are used interchangeably (somewhat incorrectly) sometimes. The first of these two definitions is that any jewellery piece that is second-hand or used, is classed as vintage, which is not necessarily true.

To the experts, anything that is aged is not necessarily antique, but anything created after 1920 is vintage, and this aegis, technically, also includes retro jewellery.

Is It Worth Investing In Antique Jewellery?

Most antique jewellery buyers and collectors do so for the simple reason that they are passionate about it. Searching for, and finding, that rare antique piece that you “click” with, is more than enough reason to opt for antique pieces instead of the modern designs displayed in jewellery shops these days. Antique pieces to many people are relics of eras gone by; little pieces of history that, unlike modern fads that come and go, can be around for centuries.

It is understandable that it’s the love of antique jewellery that prompts people to buy it, but there is way more to it than just that. Antique dealers, apart from their expertise, have a set of their own and the industry's standard criteria, that they use when searching for antique jewellery. This expertise comes from many years of experience, as well as the understanding of how the time factor affects the value of an investment.

There are many benefits to investing in antique jewellery, and just a few of these include:

  • Antique Jewellery Is More Valuable - Antique jewellery is worth more than the cost of the materials used in its manufacture because each piece is unique and impossible to duplicate using today’s production procedures. Generally, antique jewellery is less expensive than modern jewellery, but it is worth much more!
  • It Is Eco-Friendly - The mining methods used to acquire the materials to manufacture antique jewellery before the industrial revolution were incredibly eco-friendly. Today, however, commercial mining procedures use heavy equipment that not only causes enormous damage to the earth but also results in extremely unhealthy, extensive air and water pollution. Investing in antique jewellery reduces the demand for those damaging mining methods.
  • Outstanding Quality - Gemstones, especially pearls, that were used in the manufacture of antique jewellery are of better quality than those used in today’s jewellery, because the oceans were not as polluted as they are today. Also, according to the experts, 20th-century gemstones do not have the vibrant colours as those used in the old days.
  • Inherent Craftsmanship, Skill, And Expertise - Antique jewellery pieces were created with mainly raw materials and the expert skills of craftsmen, by hand under and under candlelight. It is believed that the time it took to create these beautiful pieces is the main reason for their quality and value. The manufacture of modern jewellery is nowhere as meticulous and many believe too, that they are not as durable as the antique pieces of yesteryear.
  • Historical Connections - Each piece of antique jewellery does not only have value but also has a story to tell about its past. When you invest in antique jewellery, you become the next chapter in its story and another part of its history.

Factors To Consider Before You Invest In Antique Jewellery

If you buy antique jewellery without putting some thought into where it comes from, and the strengths and weaknesses of the specific era it comes from, you could end up missing valuable information regarding your investment.

Antique jewellery, design, and fashion trends are all connected, and taking note of the progression of at least one of these industries, could help you to work out the direction that the others will take.

It is essential for antique jewellery buyers to pay careful attention to fashion because it is mainly this that will determine the future monetary value of the item they have bought.

pearl choker


The Antique Jewellery Market

The antique jewellery market is controlled by supply and demand, so when something becomes popular, but is in low supply, then both the demand and value for that item increase as well.

The Materials Used

The materials used and the overall design of the piece of jewellery are other factors to bear in mind before investing in antique jewellery. One of the key elements of a piece holding its value is if it is made from materials that usually hold their value, such as gold. Also important is if the design of the piece is one that can go beyond a certain period and not become insignificant after a few months or years.

In Conclusion

There is little doubt that antique jewellery, despite being made so long ago, will always be in style, and will always be the preferred choice for many people, whether to wear as an adornment or for investment purposes. In short, antique jewellery is here to stay!