ons of people buy old jewelry because they like the style. Other people buy gently used fine jewelry hoping to save money. Is estate jewelry cheaper than new jewelry? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
In most cases, second-hand jewelry is a lot cheaper than new jewelry, especially if you know how to find a bargain. However, antique and vintage jewelry might be more expensive, depending on a few factors like rarity and demand.
Estate jewelry is any second-hand jewelry. Vintage jewelry should be at least 20-30 years old. Antique jewelry should be at least 75-100 years old.
Remember, there are risks involved when you buy fine jewelry from an estate sale or off Facebook Marketplace. What if the diamond is fake? What if the item is gold-filled instead of solid gold? Depending on your comfort level and taste, it might make more sense to buy new fine jewelry and spend the extra money for the peace of mind.
The following advice will help you go into the fine jewelry buying process with a bit more confidence, especially when you’re shopping for engagement rings.
Buy modern engagement rings from reputable jewelry stores.
People usually spend the most amount of money on engagement rings over any other type of fine jewelry. Likewise, it’s natural to want to save money if possible. If you want a ring that looks brand new, you can save money buying that ring second-hand. But should you?
Use extreme caution when buying second-hand engagement rings from estate sales, flea markets, or any other pop up shop like Craiglist. There are so many scams and to-good-to-be-true deals. Also, the jewelry could be stolen. Why are these scams possible? Because most people can’t tell the difference between a diamond and a CZ.
If you want to save money, ask your local jeweler if they have a gently used section. Some jewelers will have a case of cheaper, gently used estate jewelry. Also, it’s wise to have an engagement ring you purchase appraised through a third party. There’s one exception to this advice. If you can tell whether a diamond is real or fake, then go ahead and buy from anyone and have the ring re-certified.
Buy antique engagement rings from highly-rated dealers.
The antique jewelry market has a lot more variance than the fine jewelry market, which makes purchasing an item like an engagement ring a little more complicated. For instance, if you want a brand new 1-carat diamond solitaire that is SI1 clarity and G color in a white gold setting, pricing will be relatively stable. You might pay a little more for a better cut, but jewelry stores need to be more consistent. Your price will hike up or down depending on the setting you pick.
That same 1-carat engagement ring in an antique setting (that’s over 100 years old) might have a cost variance of several thousand dollars. Let’s see if I can give you a general idea of how pricing works. Remember, there are exceptions. Here is a list of places you can buy antique engagement rings from the least expensive to the most expensive, generally speaking:
- Local antique shop: $
- eBay auction: $$
- Etsy seller: $$$
- Etsy seller with a brick and mortar: $$$$
- Large scale antique jewelry website like Brilliant Earth: $$$$$
You can find similar items on all of these marketplaces, but the cost will differ based on their overhead and branding. Your best bet is to educate yourself on antique jewelry as much as possible, read reviews, and compare compare compare. That’s how you find the best deal. Just because you spend more money doesn’t mean you got a “better” antique ring.
Antique vs. Modern Engagement Rings
It’s difficult to compare prices of antique or vintage rings that are over 50 years old with the prices of new diamond rings. In my opinion, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The factors used to judge and price antique rings are not the same used to price new jewelry.
So is estate jewelry cheaper? Yes. However, there’s a lot of risks involved when buying second-hand engagement rings unless the seller is reputable and offers a money-back guarantee. If you’re buying an antique ring, you have no choice but to find a reputable dealer. If you want a new ring, stick to the jewelers who know best and offer the best guarantee (unless you can confidently spot a fake).