What does the terms vintage, antique, kitsch, retro and second hand mean in referring to jewellery?
The terms meaning with reference to jewellery explained in this blog?What does the terms or words vintage or antique actually mean when referring to jewellery? - A definition guide explained. The difference between vintage, antique or contemporary or second hand jewellery and what do we mean by retro and kitsch when referring to all sorts of jewellery both fine and costume?
Specifically in using the terms above as I date many of the jewellery items. The guide below gives the age range on when each term can be correctly use and the meaning if applicable.
This term applies to anything that was manufactured between antique and pre owned/second hand. So that's usually over 25 years old and up to about 100 years of age.
In 2021 this is now the years including Art Deco and retro from about the 1920s to around 1996. Now it is very difficult to date many pieces of jewellery to exactly these years - so its easy to say from the 1920s up to the end of the 1990s class as being true vintage and original.
Above a 1970s green bead collar necklace made in Hong Kong and signed. Can be worn facing the front or back showing the ornate clasp.
This term applies to pre Victorian and items that are over 100 years of age. Anything prior to 1921 can be classed as antique. It will include the periods Georgian, Victorian, Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and Edwardian up to about 1921 (Art Deco period).
Second Hand, Pre Owned, Pre loved or Contemporary jewellery
This terms I tend use for any piece of jewellery that is up to 25 years old. Exact would be 1996 onwards - but its is very difficult to be that precise - so I have used the age span from the 2000s to yesterday. This means that items are modern, pre owned or pre loved and so not new.
Second hand is called contemporary in the USA. A different meaning to that which the UK uses. Contemporary jewellery in the UK is usually high class handmade jewellery that is new.
Be also aware that the term second hand is also widely used for any item that has been previously owned, what ever it's age, by many others outside of this website blog.
Modern-Vintage or Vintage-Modern jewellery
Another way of saying pre owned/second hand jewellery that is not quite of real vintage age. But estimated to have been made in the last 20 years.
Vintage Inspired, Vintage Style or Antique style jewellery
In the style of vintage, antique or retro style - you may have seen these terms used. The jewellery is usually brand new but will have some aspect that looks as though it has a designed of many years ago. It has been inspired in the style of a certain defined period. Be aware that many companies that use the term vintage only - actually mean new and in the style of - even though it may be nothing like vintage. They are just jumping on the vintage bandwagon!
The term retro means "old fashioned" or associated with the past/revived from the past. Technically it should be applied to jewellery from the 1940s and 1950s that has a distinct old fashion - quaint look. But nowadays retro can be a term referred to something that has a "days gone by look" especially if it is from the 50s and 60s.
This applies to something that looks fun and quirky and that was once popular and has a sentimental appeal. Now the term refers to items with mass appeal that have become highly collectible. Its can be a stroll down memory lane and can include - kitsch pop it bead necklaces, love beads, macramé and dried flowers embedded in resin (to name just a few items classed as kitsch).
This term is applied to jewellery that is cute and pretty. Very girly often in pretty pastel colours and a novelty to wear. Can be made from plastic, enamel, clay or wood. Designs often include cupcakes, stars, food, flowers, cats, birds, other animals and dolls to name just a few. Kawaii jewellery can be handmade and quite original. Fun to collect and also to wear.
This is now used in reference to broken jewellery that is ideal to upcycle. It is also a term used by some to refer to costume jewellery.
Updated July 2021 Copyright.