While estate jewelry can be defined in a very simple manner, the range of pieces and styles offered is expansive. Read on for a quick guide to what is considered estate jewelry.
History of Estate Jewelry
If you’re an avid jewelry shopper, you’ve likely seen countless pieces of exquisite fine jewelry advertised as “estate,” and may be asking yourself, “If every piece of jewelry can be called estate, then what is estate jewelry?” Simply put, estate jewelry means any piece that has had a previous owner — consider it pre-owned jewelry. Anything from an Art Deco period ring passed down through generations to a modern necklace with a single previous owner can be referred to as an estate piece. It’s important to note the difference between estate and vintage or antique, as these terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have distinct meanings in the world of jewelry and antiques. While an estate piece could be any age, antique jewelry is over 100 years old and vintage jewelry is less than 100 years old.
Types of Estate Jewelry
Estate jewelry can include everything from bold necklaces to many types of earrings, with options to suit any style. While the selections below highlight some of the most popular estate jewelry in our collection, M.S. Rau also offers estate cufflinks, men’s jewelry, brooches and more.
Learning about the past of your fine estate jewelry can be mysterious and exciting. Who were its previous owners, and where did they wear these exquisite pieces? In the case of the above estate necklace by French artist René Lalique, we know that the necklace was treasured by his descendants for many years until it was sold by an heir in 1974. In many examples, knowing the provenance of jewelry beyond the fact that it’s estate can make the piece even more desirable. Knowing that a celebrity or famed collector once owned a piece of jewelry can add significant value, intriguing even non-jewelry wearers.
One of the most popular types of estate jewelry is estate rings. From elaborate cocktail rings to timeless wedding bands or even vintage engagement rings, estate rings are a great way to convey your personal style. The ring above features a stylish retro design executed in yellow gold. If you prefer the look of white metals, consider adding an Art Deco-era piece to your collection, which largely feature platinum settings and a sleek look. Our estate jewelry comes in a wide range of stones and settings. Browse our collection of diamond, emerald, ruby, pearl and sapphire estate rings.
If you’re looking for a pair of bold earrings, this retro style pair by Tiffany & Co. certainly fits the bill. Many estate jewelry collectors prefer to acquire pieces from specific makers, and few houses can rival the ongoing success of Tiffany & Co. With exceptional examples of many periods of style from Art Nouveau glass jewelry to contemporary pieces, anyone intrigued by estate jewelry would be thrilled to discover a Tiffany & Co. marking on their jewelry.
This Edwardian bracelet is over a century old, making it both estate and antique. The delicate strands of rubies and diamonds are connected with both platinum and yellow gold. Even estate jewelry that features complex and delicate designs like this bracelet can last centuries if properly cared for.
Characteristics of Estate JewelryAlthough each piece of estate jewelry is unique, you can be certain that every piece will be of exceptional quality. Not every piece of jewelry is made with care and high-quality materials, so knowing that estate jewelry has already been loved by a previous owner gives assurance of its durability. This is partially due to the design of estate and antique jewelry, as well as the obvious fact that only the best and most durable pieces from the past have survived, while many lower-quality items have either fallen apart or been disassembled to match the shifting jewelry trends.
Beyond quality and durability, estate jewelry varies mostly depending on the period it was constructed, whether that is antique, vintage or contemporary.
Estate vs antique jewelry
Given that estate jewelry has already had a previous owner and antique jewelry dates to at least 100 years old, it’s plausible that many pieces of estate jewelry can also be labeled antique, while all antique jewelry is technically estate. For pieces that technically fit into both categories, many prefer to use the term antique as it conveys more about the piece’s origins.