What is Estate Jewelry?

Estate jewelry is a term applied to antique and period jewelry from a particular design era that has been previously used or owned by another individual. This jewelry tends to appeal to people with an eye for quality workmanship who look to the estate jewelry market for well-made items that were much more expensive when new and bought at a retail store.

Estate jewelry can be a source for stones that are rare and hard to find.

Victorian Era Jewelry


Kashmir sapphires, for example, are essentially mined out at the original source locality and the best way to obtain this rarest of the rare is from late Victorian jewelry.

The Kashmir sapphire mine was a single locality discovered during the 1880’s and quickly mined out within ten years of its discovery.

If you have ever looked into the magical depths of a fine blue sapphire of Kashmir origin (from India or Pakistan, depending upon the government you listen to), you understand the thrill of discovering this quality of sapphire in an older piece of jewelry!


Kashmir Sapphire

Other rare sapphires found mainly in estate and older jewelry are sapphires from Montana, U.S.A., which can possess a very lively “cornflower” blue hue and were only mined commercially for a short time.

Montana Sapphire

Hard-to-find stones found most commonly in older pieces of jewelry include demantoid garnets.  Unlike the more popular conception of garnets as being a red stone, demantoid garnets are a rich bright green color with a dispersion factor higher than diamond. Until the late 1990’s when new deposits were uncovered, demantoid garnets were only found in estate jewelry, mostly around the turn of the last century.


Demantoid Garnet Brooch

You can search for your own rare estate gems in our upcoming December 8 Jewelry Signature Auction that features Estate Jewelry, or if you can’t wait, try our weekly estate jewelry auctions!

By Jo Ellen Cole

Posted by Heritage Editorial

This article was written as a collaborative effort by multiple experts within the category at Heritage Auctions.

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