I am always asked what defines an antique vs. a vintage piece. Both are somewhat fluid terms today. A purist would say an antique must be 100 years and that a vintage piece is anything less.
However, the “100 year“ rule was more applicable when methods of production were different, periods of style had longevity and eras were more constant. The lengths of eras or periods have progressively gotten shorter over time. Today, styles or periods change in a matter of years or decades vs. centuries. Quality has deteriorated and items are not made to last for future generations. "AN ART DECO OR MID-CENTURY MODERN PIECE IS BY DEFINITION "VINTAGE". TODAY THAT SAME PIECE IS CONSIDERED BY MOST IN THE DESIGN BUSINESS AS AN ANTIQUE".
Therefore, I suggest the following explanation. A used item is something that can be purchased new but has changed character as a result of use. A vintage item’s character has changed as a result of production. It may be a different raw product used such as a different quality leather, wood or type of stone that is no longer available. It may be a change of design such as shape, color or simply functional adaptation. It may be a different method of production such as machine stitched vs. hand-stitched or a rubbed finish vs. a sprayed finish. This change makes the vintage piece unique, limited and a more desirable object from the past.
The distinguished character of an antique is based upon longevity. It is completely out of production. It’s origin or provenance is from a different and usually once removed era or period of style. Yet it has withstood change and is still relevant today. In fact, the antique is even more desirable as a result of the aging process and originality that has evolved over time.
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