Differences between Antique, Vintage and Retro
Vintage, antique, or retro—these terms are frequently used and can often be confused with one another. Is there any difference? What makes a piece retro and not vintage, antique and not vintage? It can be relatively easy to consider them interchangeable and mean the same thing, yet there are differences.
Let's explore the distinctions and understand the difference between antique, vintage, and retro.
How old does a piece of furniture need to be called an antique? According to the antique industry, the common consensus is that for a work to be accurately labeled an antique, it must be at least one hundred years old. This rule is for any item, including furniture and more delicate goods.
Over the past centuries, several different antique periods have had distinctive designs and styles. For example, an antique desk from one hundred years ago will look quite different from an antique desk creative more than two hundred years ago. Below is a small sample of the more distinctive antique periods.
• William and Mary: 1685-1720
• Queen Anne, Louis XV: 1720-1760
• Chippendale: 1755-1790
• Sheraton: 1790-1810
• Hepplewhite, Federal: 1790-1815
• Empire: 1805-1830
• Victorian: 1830-1901
• Rococo Revival: 1845-1870
• Naturalist, Aesthetic: 1850-1914
• Neo-Greek, Eastlake: 1855-1890
• Arts and Crafts: 1895-1915
• Art Nouveau: 1896-1914
The word antique comes from ancient French and means old. Antique furniture is prized for its craftsmanship because many were created well before factories became widespread. Many were handmade and one-of-a-kind, no longer produced, making them both deeply rare and personal to those who own them.
If a piece is 300 years or older, these pieces may be referred to as antiquities or artifacts.
While antiques must be aged 100 years or more to be considered genuinely antique, vintage items have no set age. Vintage simply means 'of age,' which makes it difficult to assign an exact date or age requirement for something to be vintage. For example, a pair of jeans made in the 1980s could be considered vintage, and a footstool made in the 1950s would also be called vintage. A few experts say that anything between the ages of twenty to ninety-nine makes a piece vintage or anything between the years 1900s to the end of the 1960s. But there are no official regulations on what number makes an item worthy of being vintage.
You could also view vintage as a descriptive word to represent outdated items that carry nostalgia and fond memories to those who collect them. Many vintage pieces are still functional and, in some cases, have a style that incorporates into modern daily life. Examples of vintage goods are trading cards, comics, toys, board games, china sets, jewelry, and clothing.
Retro comes from the French word retro, meaning to move backward. The world's first use of this term was in 1972, encompassing colorful new technology and fashion until the 1990s. Any item fifteen years old can be considered a retro item. However, you can still call an item created today that evokes the vibrant styles of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and early 90s retro.
An example of new items being retro would be vaporwave, taking styles from the early 2000s and combining 80s or 90s imagery with electronic art. Retro goods are designed to mimic the styles and designs of the past created in furniture and items that are brand new, like a new dresser but in the art deco style.
Retro and vintage can be commonly confused. The easiest way to tell the two apart is to remember that retro goods are current reproductions or imitations, while vintage is genuinely older items. Another distinction to remember is that retro goods are typically more affordable than vintage goods and retro goods are easier to find and purchase than vintage.
For those who love vintage items but have a limited budget, many often turn to retro as an option.
Examples of popular retro items currently:
• Mood rings
• Regencycore, thanks to a series called Bridgerton
• Sage green paint in homes
• Curved lines and rounded edges in décor
• Return to colorful appliances
• Wood accents
• Textured textiles like boucles (uneven fabrics of three plies which form loops at intervals), tweeds, and crushed velvets
Antique vs. Vintage vs. Retro: What's the difference?
For an item to be an antique, experts agree that it must be at least or over one hundred years old. While there's no official expert consensus for an item to be considered vintage, many agree an item should be between twenty to ninety-nine years old. An item regarded as retro is made recently but designed or in the style of items from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and very early 2000s.
Before you begin looking for the ideal antique, vintage, or retro item to add to your home or collection, understanding the subtle differences between them is essential. Doing so will help you learn how to identify it and how much you should be paying for it.
Why is it so easy to confuse Antique vs. Vintage vs. Retro?
The reason why many confuse these terms most likely stems from what they do have in common. Antique, antiquities, vintage, and retro items or collections are all ways for us to feel connected to the past and appreciate the craftsmanship from yesteryears.
Regardless of art, furniture, fashions, jewelry, or décor—these phrases belong to periods of styles for these items, and the critical difference to remember is the era of that item.
We hope you've enjoyed delving into the world of design from the past and better understand what makes an item an antique, vintage, or retro. Should you find yourself in love with antiques designed like ours, please feel free to browse our extraordinary handmade antique reproductions. We have a vast array of styles that follow the old-world mortise and tenon construction that created furniture that capture the heart and minds of millions still to this day.
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