Put a (Vintage) Ring On It
Want an engagement ring that will stand the test of time? Choose one that already has.
Vintage engagement rings are coming back into style with today’s couples in a big way. This trend toward the past is due in large part to a desire for unique jewelry that stands out from the crowd.
“With all the fast-paced consumer jewelry being thrown onto the market, the excitement towards ‘modern jewelry’ is fading,” says Afshin Shaddaie, curator and manager at Estate Diamond Jewelry in New York City. “Women want to wear jewelry that is one-of-a-kind or can't be duplicated easily and only vintage jewelry will provide that.”
Since most people have never shopped for an engagement ring, let alone a vintage one, it can be an overwhelming search. To make the process a little easier, here is a quick guide to finding the perfect vintage ring.
1. Choose a reputable dealer
“My strongest advice is only to buy vintage jewelry from a reputable seller,” says Shaddaie. “Unless you're a vintage expert, you won't be able to verify so much of the information being told to you. It is critical to make sure that the person selling the ring is trustworthy. If you have any doubts, just walk away.”
2. Know your eras
Vintage rings vary greatly in terms of design, price and availability depending on what time period they’re from. Here are some of the most popular eras and their defining styles:
• Victorian (1830’s-1900): Rings created during this era are made with yellow or rose gold with prong or bezel-set gems in small cloisters or rows. Couples may also enjoy the symbolism of a ring forged under Queen Victoria’s reign, who famously was married for love to Prince Albert.
• Edwardian (1901-1920): At the dawn of the 20th century, rings took a turn toward the intricate. With the invention of platinum, designers could create more elaborate metalwork (aka filigree) into everything from wreaths and ribbons to lace and tassels.
• Art Deco (1915-1935): The roaring twenties are the most popular era among today’s brides according to Shaddaie. These types of rings are best characterized by bold geometric shapes, contrasting gemstones and futuristic motifs.
• Mid-Century (1940-1965): This is the era when diamonds became a girl’s best friend. Mid-century rings are inspired by the glitz and glamour of old Hollywood with big diamonds and sleek settings.
3. Budget appropriately
For an authentic vintage diamond engagement ring, couples should expect prices to start around $1,000, but can range up into the millions, says Shaddaie. “In our collection, because of our high standards, we don't usually have any rings that are under $3,000,” he adds.
If you’re looking for a ring that’s a bit more budget-friendly, you may want to consider a modern ring inspired the style of a bygone era instead.
4. Look for markers of quality
In addition to the traditional four C’s (color, clarity, cut and carat), shoppers of vintage rings should add craftsmanship and condition to the list, says Shaddaie.
“The jewelry standards used to a lot higher than they are today, but that doesn't mean that all vintage rings are of a high standard,” he says. “It is a very good idea to have a jeweler carefully examine the ring before purchasing.”