The most valuable antique jewelry in the world is held by the likes of Kings and Queens… but there’s a fair amount lost to history too! Whether you’re hoping to stumble onto some valuable antique jewelry at a yard sale or attempting to find something of value for your family heirloom, this guide should help.

We’re going to count down through 10 highly valuable fine jewelry items and 8 impressively valued costume jewelry pieces.

If you want to find out what classifies as jewelry and how to value your antique jewelry, scroll down to our guide and helpful FAQ section. You might stumble upon a real gem…

Antique Fine Jewelry vs Antique Costume Jewelry

Before we dig in, it’s good to understand the difference between fine jewelry and costume jewelry:

  • Fine Jewelry – made with fine materials and jewels, e.g., 24 karat gold and real diamonds. Made in limited quantities, sold to only the rich, and often one-of-a-kind.
  • Costume Jewelry – made with lower-quality materials to mimic the real thing, e.g., gold-plated alloys and glass gems. It’s made in vast quantities to allow the masses to wear jewelry that imitates the real thing.

In this guide, we’re looking at antique jewelry. This means that the pieces were made over 100 years ago. If you see any item marked as vintage instead, that means it was made over 20 years ago. So, your mom’s 80s jewelry is considered vintage. Your great grandmother’s 150-year-old jewelry, on the other hand, is definitely antique whether it’s costume or not.

French Natural Saltwater Button Pearl Diamond Earrings
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Which is More Valuable?

If we look at the face value, fine jewelry is almost always worth more. For example, let’s say you have two necklaces – one is costume, and one is fine jewelry. You take them to an evaluator and discover that both are worth nothing historically. The brands that made them don’t add any value.

So, you’re left with a piece of fine jewelry made of rare and valuable materials… and costume jewelry that’s made of lower quality materials. You can sell the fine jewelry as materials to be reused or melted down (gold is currently worth around $54 at the time of writing) while the costume jewelry really is worthless.

When it comes to items that have historical value, e.g., costume jewelry that was owned by a famous person, or fine jewelry that is one-of-a-kind or very rare, the value is much harder to determine.

For more info about identifying jewelry and having it valued, see our guide below.

Top 10 Most Valuable Antique FINE Jewelry Items

These fine jewelry items, made over 100 years ago, are examples of the ingenuity of jewelry makers in the US, Europe, and beyond. They are worth a lot of money, not just because they hold some seriously precious and large gems, but because they are examples of styles and eras gone by.

Important Note: as beautiful as these pieces are, there are a lot of ethical problems with jewelry – especially jewelry made as a result of empire. Some countries want their gems returned, and others prohibit the trade or sale of antique gems originating in their country. So, do your research before making a purchase.

1 – Georgian-Style Floral Tremblant Brooch

Georgian-Style Floral Tremblant Brooch
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Brooch
  • Year: 1820
  • Value: $1,100,000

This Georgian-style broach was created around 1820 and features 324 hand-cut diamonds. It was also created with the most up-to-date styles and techniques at the time, creating this ‘trembling petal’ effect where the flower brooch almost looks as if it’s blossoming.

The combination of age, good condition, and the sheer number of diamonds give it an incredibly high value.

2 – Art Deco Kashmir Sapphire Ring

Art Deco Kashmir Sapphire Ring
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Ring
  • Year: 1910 to 1920
  • Value: $750,000

Only just classified as antique, this Tiffany & Co. ring features a stunning 5 carat sapphire. This ring has an art deco style which is where we see the line between antique and vintage start to shift. Dating before 1920, it is now firmly considered an antique item. It also has AGL certification, which proves that it is a genuine item.

3 – Antique Burma Ruby and Diamond Necklace

Antique Burma Ruby and Diamond Necklace
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: 1880
  • Value: $685,000

With a total of 50 carats from the Burma rubies, plus the diamonds which add a combined 30 carats, this is a beautiful item. With no question over its antique status, the current seller is seeking over half a million dollars for it! The Victorian era style is always a classic, and Burma is well-known for its beautiful ruby gems.

4 – Ceylon Sapphire Pendant Necklace

Ceylon Sapphire Pendant Necklace
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Source: Invaluable

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: 1900
  • Value: $610,048

The 175.22 carats yellow sapphire held by this antique Victorian pendant necklace has been classified as exceptional. It really is beautiful to behold and the jewelry maker, Danish jewelry house, A. Dragsted, has showcased the gem rather than distracting from it. This is one of the highest-priced fine jewelry items sold through Invaluable.

5 – Bulgari Fringe Necklace (Modern)

Bulgari Fringe Necklace (Modern)
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: 1965 (1660-1669 mock)
  • Value: $585,000

Here’s a great example of a necklace that appears to be antique but is actually vintage. Manufactured in Italy in the 1960s, it even fooled our researchers until they read the seller’s description! However, we decided to include this item anyway because it shows that even vintage jewelry that’s made by a reputable jewelry maker with high-quality materials will fetch a very high price.

6 – Victorian Natural Pearl and Diamond Cluster Necklace

Victorian Natural Pearl and Diamond Cluster Necklace
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: 1880
  • Value: $558,755

The Victorian era produced some truly exquisite jewelry pieces. This pearl and diamond cluster necklace was made in the mid to late Victorian style and was manufactured by London jewelers by appointment of Her Majesty the Queen (Queen Victoria, at the time). Although the condition is only ‘good’ the quality of the gems gives it a higher value.

7 – French Natural Saltwater Button Pearl Diamond Earrings

French Natural Saltwater Button Pearl Diamond Earrings
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Earrings
  • Year: 1890
  • Value: $550,000

Made in France during the late 19th century, these button pearl earrings have retained a lustrous shine. Weighing 575g together, however, they’ll certainly weigh down your ears! Perhaps it would be best to treasure these earrings in their box, rather than wearing them. The rose gold is also noteworthy – it’s rather beautiful.

8 – Pigeon’s Blood Burmese Ruby and Diamond Piece

Pigeon's Blood Burmese Ruby and Diamond Piece
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Necklace/Tiara
  • Year: 1915
  • Value: $482,293

This is a unique item. The long string of Burmese rubies and diamonds can be worn as a necklace or transformed into a tiara with the velvet tiara frame. Made in 1915, it features pigeon’s blood rubies originating from Burma. This is also where the term ‘pigeon’s blood’ came from, as it was used to describe rubies that had the perfect red color.

9 – Oscar Massin Diamond Necklace

Oscar Massin Diamond Necklace
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Source: Invaluable

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: Late 19th Century
  • Value: $253,622

Stamped with a maker’s mark for French jeweler Oscar Massin, this late 19th-century diamond necklace is another beautiful example of Victorian jewelry. It was sold at Sotheby’s auction in London in 2018 for £220,000 (we’ve converted this to dollars, see above). The diamonds are described as bright and lively, even though they’re very old.

10 – Diamond Pansy Brooch

Diamond Pansy Brooch
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Source: Invaluable

  • Item: Brooch/Pendant
  • Year: 1880
  • Value: $83,003

Our final item is another jewelry piece from Oscar Massin. This pansy-shaped brooch is made with diamonds and colored diamonds. It can also be detached and worn as earrings, thanks to the loops attached to the individual petals – these were added later, which may explain why the item isn’t as highly valued as others on this list.

Top 8 Most Valuable Antique COSTUME Jewelry Items

Costume jewelry is generally cheaper than fine jewelry. Firstly, the idea of creating costume jewelry really took off when mass production became easier – particularly when plastic was invented. But this wasn’t in the antiques bracket. Jewelry produced less than 100 years ago is classed as vintage.

So, there’s not a huge deal of antique costume jewelry at the moment. In 20 years, that will all change.

But for now, here are some of the most valuable costume jewelry items that we could find for sale. The price range goes from $20 to $5,000 for costume jewelry and you can find it available on less specialized antique sales websites. eBay and Etsy both have a range of costume jewelry sellers.

1 – Egyptian Style Opera Necklace for Aida

Egyptian Style Opera Necklace for Aida
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: 1900-1920
  • Value: $2,600

This Egyptian-style necklace was made for Giuseppe Verdi’s Opera Aida at La Scala. It’s a brilliant example of costume jewelry that has an amazing history. Although it’s made with brass and glass gems to mimic real gemstones and gold, it still has a relatively high value. The Corbella atelier made a lot of costume jewelry for operas, so keep an eye out for the name.

2 – Aqua Crystal and Peach Moonstone Necklace

Aqua Crystal and Peach Moonstone Necklace
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Source: MadrigalleryDotCom (Etsy)

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: Early 20th Century
  • Value: $2,360

This brightly colored necklace has a style that dates back to the early 20th century, right as the art deco era sparked to life. It’s made with a silver alloy metal, which has patinated over the years, and brightly colored aqua crystals – a type of quartz that’s a much more affordable alternative to the likes of diamonds and sapphires.

Also Read: How Much Are Crystals Worth? (Quartz, Amethyst, Swarowski, And Other Crystals)

3 – Egyptian-Style Collar Necklace

Egyptian-Style Collar Necklace
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Source: MadrigalleryDotCom (Etsy)

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: Early 20th Century
  • Value: $2,250

Like many costume jewelry items, this piece is made with glass gems to mimic the look of sapphires and other brightly colored precious gems. The mock Egyptian style and aging of the brass metal components suggest that it was produced in the early 20th Century, much like the opera piece listed above. $2,250 is a fair price for a beautiful item like this.

4 – Edwardian-Style Paste Necklace Pendant

Edwardian-Style Paste Necklace Pendant
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Source: VictoriaSterling (Etsy)

  • Item: Pendant
  • Year: 1890
  • Value: $1,775

Produced around 1890, this necklace is made with pastes to mimic diamonds and demantoid garnets. At the time, it would be safer to wear this necklace to the theater or dinner than to take the real jewels, in case they were stolen. It’s a reminder that costume jewelry wasn’t just an invention for Hollywood stars and opera singers!

5 – Indonesian Gold and Coral Kerosang Kebaya Pin

Indonesian Gold and Coral Kerosang Kebaya Pin
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Kerosang (Indonesian pin-style brooch)
  • Year: 1900
  • Value: $1,600

This is an Indonesian kerosang, which is a type of pin that was used to hold a kebaya (a type of blouse) in Indonesia. It’s made with yellow gold and coral pieces, rather than gems. The current seller believes that it was used as costume jewelry by a Dutch lady living in Indonesia around the start of the 20th century.

6 – Antique Emerald Paste Sterling Rivière Necklace

Antique Emerald Paste Sterling Rivière Necklace
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Source: arleneabelowvintage (Etsy)

  • Item: Necklace
  • Year: 1840
  • Value: $1,299

The paste stones set into the sterling silver necklace are made to replicate beautiful emerald gems! Currently, the seller estimates that similar necklaces were made around 1840. They comment “Its beauty and condition would make it a worthy candidate for the iconic rivière collection of Anna Wintour, the long-time editor of Vogue. It is simply stunning, elegant & sublime.”

7 – Art Deco Fruit Salad Dress Clips

Art Deco Fruit Salad Dress Clips
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Dress Clips
  • Year: Early 20th Century
  • Value: $600

Valued at around $600, these fruit salad dress clips were super popular in the 1920s and 1930s to secure a dress on either side. The clips are made with rhodium-plated white metal, glass gems, and clear rhinestones – a clear indicator that this is costume jewelry rather than the real deal. The art deco style remains popular today, so nice costume jewelry items in this style can sell quite fast.

8 – Amethyst Seed Pearl Oval Pin Brooch

Amethyst Seed Pearl Oval Pin Brooch
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Source: 1st Dibs

  • Item: Brooch
  • Year: 1890 to 1910
  • Value: $483

Made with a large amethyst gem instead of a purple diamond or alexandrite, this 9 karat gold brooch is a pretty costume jewelry item from the late Victorian period. The gem is oval cut and it was made in France. Although brooches are rarely worn in today’s fashion, they are great heirlooms to keep at home and pass down to younger generations.

Read More: Most Valuable Costume Jewelry: Identification, Valuation, And Buying Guide (Rare & Vintage)

Items Considered Jewelry

The antique and vintage jewelry market trades in the following:

  • Necklaces (pendants, chokers, and any other style),
  • Bracelets (cuffs, chains, etc.),
  • Brooches,
  • Pins,
  • Watch chains,
  • Earrings,
  • Tiara/Crown,
  • Parure (a fancy word for a matching set of jewelry items).

Some auction sites will also include jeweled items (e.g., a handbag or watch) in this category, but often you’ll find these items separate.

Items Considered Jewelry
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List of Costume Jewelry Designers

Not all costume jewelry is marked. Some of the most prestigious makers of costume jewelry include:

  • Alexander Calder
  • Corbella
  • Coro
  • Elsa Schiaparelli
  • Hattie Carnegie
  • Hobe
  • Marvella
  • Trifari

There are many more, of course, but these are some of the best that were creating costume jewelry over 100 years ago.

List of Rare Antique Jewelry Designers

When it comes to fine jewelry, some of the names producing beautiful items today were around 100 years ago too! Here are some names to keep an eye out for:

  • Bulgari
  • Dragsted
  • Florence Koehler
  • Gorham Corporation
  • Jaccard Jewelry Company
  • James H. Winn
  • Krementz
  • Marcus & Co.
  • Oscar Heyman & Brothers
  • Oscar Massin
  • Potter Studio (Ohio)
  • Blackinton & Co.
  • Reed & Barton
  • Shreve & Co.
  • Spaulding & Co.
  • Theodore W. Foster & Brothers Co.
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Unger Bros.

For a more in-depth list, check out RetroWaste.

What Makes Antique Jewelry Valuable?

What Makes Antique Jewelry Valuable?
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Putting the face value gems aside, here are the factors that can add to the value of your antique jewelry.

Marks

The marks left on a piece of jewelry can signify many things, from the materials used to the jewelry designer to the year it was made. This is very helpful when working out if your jewelry is valuable.

Obviously, a maker’s mark from a prestigious jewelry maker will increase its value. Marks of high karat gold will do the same. Other stamps, like specific stamps to mark metal purity, were brought in at different time periods – so they can help you identify the age of your piece.

Don’t panic if you can’t find a maker’s mark. Some are hidden. Take it to an expert who knows where to look!

You can also read Invaluable’s Guide to Maker’s Marks for more information.

Materials

The materials used impact value. It’s not just about what they are, but how they were put together. You should also look for damage to the materials.

Another aspect that impacts the value of antiques is whether the item has been repaired or units replaced – this can really knock down the value, even if the repairs improved the overall quality.

Rarity

In some antique markets, like the coin market, having a very rare item improves the value – usually because so many identical items were made that having something unique creates desire. However, with fine jewelry and even some costume jewelry, one-of-a-kind items are the norm.

So, when we talk about rarity in the jewelry market, we are looking for unique styles, very unusual gems, or a history that adds value. For example, one of our custom jewelry items is made from glass… but was worn for an opera, and thus has historical significance.

Conclusion – Discovering Valuable Antique Jewelry

Antique jewelry can be lucrative, but you need to know what you’re looking for! If you want to go all in, purchase or find some fine jewelry. If you want to make a little profit, costume jewelry is a good antique market to enter.

As the years go by, more and more costume jewelry enters the antiques bracket as it passes the 100-year mark. It’s an exciting time to collect valuable antique jewelry!

FAQs

FAQs
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Is unmarked vintage jewelry worth money?

It can be! The style and age of the jewelry may be enough to give it value. Furthermore, if it’s fine jewelry that you’re selling, the materials may be worth more when separated. E.g., removing the diamonds to sell, then melting down the gold. Best let a professional do this.

What antique jewelry is worth money?

Just like modern jewelry, antique jewelry that’s made with precious materials and is in good condition will be worth more than damaged, low-quality jewelry. The mark on the jewelry, the exact age, and any significant wearers will also add value. From our research, we found that heavily jeweled bracelets and broaches, along with pendant necklaces, tend to be the most valuable.

How can I know if my antique costume jewelry is valuable?

First up, identify the materials. This will tell you if it’s antique or vintage. Next, figure out what style it is in and search for similar style items on sites like eBay, Etsy, and 1st Dibs. You can also ask forums or take it to an expert for evaluation.

What’s the difference between antique and vintage jewelry?

Antique jewelry was manufactured over 100 years ago. Vintage jewelry was manufactured over 20 years ago but under 100 years ago. Not all sellers (especially amateur ones) label their products correctly for online sales and auctions, so double-check the date or era it was produced in to correctly determine if it’s antique or vintage.

What’s the most expensive antique jewelry brand?

Tiffany has produced some of the most expensive jewelry items, many of which are becoming antique rather than vintage as the years go by. If you want to find the most expensive in the world, regardless of antique status, then look at the jewels created for royals. For example, the late Queen Elizabeth II owned a Cullinan brooch valued at $57,641,500.

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