How Can You Tell The Difference Between Antique, Vintage, Period, and Estate Jewelry?

By Over The Moon

When thinking of the terms “antique,” “vintage,” “period,” and “estate,” one might just jumble them altogether into one category of thought: old. But they actually have quite important distinctions, especially when shopping for jewelry. Shops will often loosely interchange the words, so you could end up with an estate ring that you thought was actually antique.

Fear not! Our friends at Erstwhile Jewelry, a boutique jewelry store based in New York City that specializes in antique and vintage engagement rings, have expertly defined each term properly, so you know exactly what you’re looking at going forward.


For import and export tax purposes, the legal definition for antique is anything more than 100 years old. This is notable because most countries do not charge duties on imports for true antiques.


Probably the most commonly used of the four words, “vintage” lends itself to describe, wine, fashion, and most recently, fine jewelry from the past. What used to be called “antique” or “period” is now being called “vintage,” most likely for marketing purposes because the latter sounds more fashionable and attractive. Co-founder of Erstwhile Alisa Klusner says, “[vintage] is a term that is here to stay without any real definition that one can apply so precisely.” For her rings, anything from the 1920s to 1970s can be deemed as vintage.


Easier to define than the previous term, estate jewelry applies to any piece that is pre-owned from any time period. When shopping, be sure to remember this definition because “one can resell a reproduction Art Deco ring that has been worn for five years as estate, giving the illusion that it is antique because the word ‘estate’ gives that impression. It can be very misleading,” says Klusner.


Period jewelry is defined by its distinctive place in time, with characteristics that mark or exemplify when it was created. Klusner says, “To describe a ring as a period piece from the Art Deco era, it would have to have clear design characteristics that showcase that period—think the Chrysler building, hard masculine geometric lines that are balanced.” New reproductions with phrasing like “in the manner of . . . ” and “in the style of . . . ” mislead customers to think they might be purchasing a period, vintage, or estate ring, but now that you know the differences, asking more questions can get you exactly what you want.

Erstwhile knows vintage jewelry; they were founded on five generations of vintage expertise and have expanded to feature unique ethical and sustainable engagement rings set with conflict-free antique cut diamonds hand-crafted in their New York studio.

While knowing the definitions is helpful, you also obviously want a retailer that’s authentic and knowledgable. Luckily, Erstwhile is having its first Los Angeles trunk show later this week, so you know you’ll be in good hands! 

For the first time on the west coast, their entire namesake collection will be available to shop in person, as well as their selection of vintage engagement and cocktail rings. Bubbly will be served, flower crowns will be worn, and one lucky bride will leave with an antique garnet and diamond ring, as part of their exclusive trunk show giveaway. DM @erstwhilejewelry on Instagram, email [email protected], or call 212-390-1144 to make an appointment. (Appointments are recommended, but not necessary.)

June 13th -14th 
LOHO Bride
8282 Melrose Avenue
12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

This post is sponsored by Erstwhile Jewelry.