What is Estate Jewelry?

Estate Jewelry Art Deco Cuff LinksWhat is estate jewelry is a question that gets asked a lot when you buy and sell estate jewelry as a diamond buyer, because the word estate covers many things.  There are differences between estate jewelry and antique jewelry and just plain old used jewelry.  And, each fetches different prices resale.

And, to further complicate things, in each of the categories above, it can go even deeper with fine jewelry, signed jewelry, costume jewelry, art nouveau, period pieces, contemporary pieces and one of a kind pieces. It isn’t easy to price, for example, a pair of Art Deco Vintage 18 Kt. White gold and diamond cuff links without knowing the period they came from and some history into that period.

Definition of Estate Jewelry

Antique Estate Jewelry PinEstate jewelry roughly means that it is jewelry that has been previously owned, not that it is jewelry that comes from someone’s estate, although generally most estate jewelry does, in fact, come from someone’s estate.  But, estate jewelry really encompasses jewelry that is higher end and features fine workmanship and high quality stones, and more often than not is one of a kind.

Most estate jewelry is irreplaceable, which is why when you find a really good piece it commands a high price on the market for both selling and buying.

Antique jewelry is jewelry that is over 100 years old.  Obviously antique jewelry can also be estate jewelry.

Periods of Estate Jewelry

Victorian Era Rare estate jewelry pendantThis is where the Art History comes in handy because estate jewelry can be Early Victorian, Late Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Georgian, Edwardian, Art Deco or Retro.  Each of these time periods has distinct characteristics to distinguish the pieces, which helps to identify them.

Georgian – The estate jewelry in this era is very rare and is handmade from 1714 – 1837.  The designs are often nature inspired and generally include precious stones.

Early Victorian – Early Victorian also is nature inspired, much like the jewelry of the Georgian era.  The time period between 1837 – 1855 produced romantic jewelry that was intricate and delicate.  Lockets and brooches were popular during this time period and the use of colored gemstones started to take shape as well.

Late Victorian – The jewelry became more aesthetic during 1885 – 1900.  Jewelers used diamonds and bright gemstones to create star and crescent designs and hatpins became very popular.

Edwardian Diamond RingEdwardian – The estate jewelry during the Edwardian period consisted of elaborate designs using expensive gems such as diamonds, emeralds and rubies.  This period marked the time when Edward became King after Queen Victoria died; it also marked a time of excess.

Art Nouveau – When you think of Art Nouveau estate jewelry think of vintage Lalique with curves and natural designs that show butterflies and flowers.  Think of Paris and romance and women with long hair. Think beauty.

Art Deco BroochArt Deco – The estate jewelry becomes more stylized and designed as we enter into the 1930’s and the age of Art Deco.  Art Deco is more abstract and geometric with influences from cubism and Dadaism.  Out of all the eras of estate jewelry, Art Deco is the most sought after and commands the highest price at auctions and on the open market for resale.

Retro – Retro is inspired by Hollywood and it is jewelry that is bright, bold, elaborate and colorful.  The pieces are large and many were worn at once.  This time period covers up to 1960.

Once you get above 1960, estate jewelry is then considered contemporary.

What to Look for in Estate Jewelry

There are specific things we look for when we buy estate jewelry, and these are the same things you should look for when you are buying your own estate jewelry or selling your estate pieces.

  • Are there any dents or deep scratches
  • Are there any missing stones
  • Have there been any previous repairs to the joints, and if so is there a receipt for the repairs
  • If there are diamonds or gemstones, do they have a certification from a lab
  • What is the history of the piece, where did it come from
  • If buying from a dealer do they have a good reputation
  • Everything is negotiable!

By taking care of your estate jewelry you can enjoy years and years of wear from it, and if you purchase right, this type of jewelry only goes up in value.  If you ever need your estate jewelry appraised, we suggest you contact the ASA and find a professional appraiser in your area, and if you ever have any estate jewelry to sell, we suggest you call Jonathan’s Diamond Buyer!

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Sergio About Sergio

Sergio Nuncio has been a diamond and watch buyer for over 20 years. He loves valuating fine estate jewelry, diamonds, watches and gold. When Sergio isn't working with diamonds, he is working on his salt water aquarium, fishing or spending time with his wife and children.

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