What is estate jewelry? We’re asked that question a lot as a jeweler that buys and sells estate jewelry. 

Estate jewelry are pre-owned pieces typically considered vintage or antique that are often (but not always) left as part of a person’s estate. 

what is estate jewelry

There are differences between estate jewelry and antique jewelry and just plain old used jewelry.  Each may fetch a different price at resale.

To further complicate things, each category above can go even deeper. For example:

  • fine jewelry
  • signed jewelry
  • costume jewelry
  • art nouveau
  • period pieces
  • contemporary pieces
  • one of a kind pieces

What is Estate Jewelry?

Estate jewelry roughly means jewelry that has been previously owned. Generally most estate jewelry is left behind by its owner’s estate.

Typically estate jewelry is higher end and features fine workmanship and high quality stones.

Most estate jewelry is one of a kind and irreplaceable, hence why it commands a high price on the buyers and sellers market.

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

Periods of Estate Jewelry

Art History knowledge comes in handy because estate jewelry may be from different periods. Each time period has distinct characteristics to distinguish the pieces, which helps to identify them.

  • Early Victorian
  • Late Victorian
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Art Nouveau
  • Georgian
  • Edwardian
  • Art Deco
  • Retro

Each of these time periods has distinct characteristics to distinguish the pieces, which helps to identify them.

Keep reading for a bit more info about each period.


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.


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

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 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. If you purchase based on the guidelines above, this type of jewelry only goes up in value.

If you ever need your estate jewelry appraised, then contact the ASA and find a professional appraiser in your area. Finally, if you ever have estate jewelry to sell, give us a call!

Are you looking to buy or sell estate jewelry?  Vintage and estate jewelry can be the perfect way to stand out from the crowd while having a piece that’s full of history and intrigue.

We carry a wide selection of vintage pieces from different time periods and major brands like Tiffany and Cartier. Schedule an appointment below or click through to view our eBay selection.

For more on antique jewelry, take a look at our Facebook page, Twitter account, and official Instagram! Also be sure to follow our personal Instagram accounts below:

Sergio Nuncio

Jay Freedman

Keifer Nuncio

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