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You Asked, We Answered - What Makes A Piece of Jewellery Antique?

We always get asked this question, what officially is an antique jewellery? How do you date antique jewellery? In our time, we have bought and sold over 6000 pieces of vintage and antique jewellery since 2016. Not to mention, our collective 10 years of experience has meant that we are in an apt position to judge whether a pendant, bracelet or  is antique or vintage.

Antique Mourning Rings, Source - Lillicoco

For a jewellery to be antique, it has to be over 100 years old. So, currently in 2021, jewellery crafted in 1921 and before are now officially antique. With this in mind, if something is described as “Victorian”, “Edwardian”, “Post-Edwardian”, “Belle Epoque”,  “Georgian”, “Stuart”, “Arts and Crafts”, “Art Nouveau” and “Tudor” are all known as antique. Only some parts of Art Deco jewellery (1920-1939) are currently known as antique, such as pieces that are crafted in the early 1920s. As each year passes, the exact year a century before instantly becomes antique, making every piece of antique and vintage jewellery a worthy investment.  One of the ways to officially know if a piece of jewellery is antique is through jewellery hallmarking. 


Art Deco 22ct Gold Wedding Band, c.1920,  Hallmarks are, "H.A", Crown, "22", Birmingham assay, date letter "v" for the year 1920, Source - Lillicoco

British jewellery hallmarking was officially established over 700 years ago in London in 1327, but you may be surprised to know that a large amount of antique jewellery isn’t actually hallmarked. This is because it wasn’t until 1973 where it became, officially, a legal requirement for a jewel to be hallmarked. Prior to this there was numerous conflicting statutory information and requirements about hallmarking jewellery. So, the Hallmarking Act 1973 streamlined all of this information into one valued piece of legislation. Not to mention, it also costs money to get a piece hallmarked, so you can see why quite a few Victorian and Georgian pieces slipped through the cracks!

Antique and Vintage Jewellery, Source - Lillicoco

So, if no hallmarks are present, how can we know if a piece is antique, vintage or contemporary? Each era has their own personality and spirit, so there are quite a few stylistic signs to look out for when determining whether a piece is antique or vintage. For example, due to different lapidary and goldsmithing advancements in each century, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco all look incredibly different from each other. But there are also subtle nuances. For instance in an antique Gold chain, you can tell by certain clasp like a barrel clasp or large dog clip, or perhaps the unusual style of links


If you would like to find out more about how each jewellery era, you can read all about them in our Lillicoco University guides, and soon you will be an antique expert just like us!

Molly Chatterton

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