Retro, Vintage, and Antique Jewellery - What’s The Difference?

When buying old jewellery, you'll notice that some pieces are marked as antique, some as retro, and some as vintage.  The category into which a piece falls can have a big influence on price and future value.  So, what's the difference between each and what factors determine the category into which a piece falls?  Read on for more information.

Vintage jewellery

For jewellery to be classified as vintage, it should be at least 20 years old.  Vintage jewellery can be made of anything, even plastic and glass, and takes many forms.  Good sources of vintage jewellery include flea markets, junk shops and car boot sales, although some jewellers also stock it. 

Prices vary widely, depending on the construction of the piece.  Items made by popular modern designers from the 1960s, 70s and 80s can fetch high prices, but be aware that fashion trends change and what may be en vogue today could be yesterday's news tomorrow.

Retro jewellery

Retro jewellery is usually made from brightly coloured precious and semi-precious stones that are typically set in gold or gold-coloured metal.  To be a genuinely retro piece, the item should have been made in the 1940s to 1950s and reflects the glitz and glamour of post-war Hollywood.  Pieces tend to be large and eye-catching with brooches, statement necklaces, charm bracelets and rings being particularly popular.

Genuine retro jewellery generally falls within an affordable price bracket for most pockets.  Good places to buy retro include car boot sales and charity shops, as well as good jewellers.

Antique jewellery

Genuine antique jewellery must be 100 years old or more.  Although some items of antique jewellery have settings made from base metal, the majority are silver or gold.  Popular pieces include rings, pendants, cameos, and brooches.  Most are set with precious or semi-precious stones, although beautiful glass enamelled designs are also extremely sought after.

The value of antique jewellery varies enormously, depending on the age and quality of the piece.  You may find good pieces at affordable prices in antique sales or auctions, but do check for a maker's mark and hallmarks to ensure that what you're buying is genuine.  Alternatively, many jewellers specialise in antique pieces and will be able to provide you with provenance for the items you purchase.

In conclusion

Buying old jewellery can be a good way of making an investment that you can wear and enjoy too.  If you can't afford to buy a rare and expensive antique piece, remember that a cheaper retro item bought today will accumulate in value and will eventually become an antique. Check out a shop like Chilton's Antiques to browse their selection of antique jewellery.