Photo: Courtesy of Erstwhile Jewelry
From their romantic history to their intricate, one-of-a-kind designs, it's no wonder beautifully-detailed vintage engagement rings are all the rage these days! But, if you're not about to inherit your great Aunt Bess' heirlooms any time soon, how do you go about searching out a special vintage engagement ring that suits your taste and style?
We've rounded up the top places to shop vintage (rings, that is!) in NYC. Check out the below jewelers to learn all about their baubles, as well as some tips on how to find "the one" vintage ring you'll love forever.
Erstwhile Jewelry (Above)
Founded on five generations of jewelers with a unique family story spanning from Russia to Manhattan, owner Jared Klusner prides himself on finding uniquely crafted vintage rings, with an eye for 19th-century Victorian, turn-of-the-century Edwardian, French Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and 40s styles with high quality stones. They seek pieces that work for a modern lifestyle, but also have strong roots in the design motifs of the past. In fact, Erstwhile Jewelry inspires clients to mix and match vintage rings with their contemporary pieces. In addition to curating vintage rings, the jewelers design and make their own collection using vintage stones and recycled metals, such as their "The One For You" ring, which is inspired by 18th- and 19th-century designs, and features a vintage cushion-cut diamond in the center.
If you're having trouble finding the right vintage ring, Erstwhile's Jared Klusner tells BRIDES: "Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Beautiful engagement rings don't have to be centered with a diamond. Throughout the centuries important and significant rings have been exchanged with a variety of gemstones and there is no reason a modern bride can't embrace the same sentiment!"
Doyle and Doyle
Sisters Elizabeth and Irene Pamela Doyle founded their warm and friendly shop on West 13th Street "to create a beautiful, inclusive, and bejeweled world where we could share our passion for jewelry and its history with our guests." Doyle and Doyle has since become a downtown mainstay in the Meatpacking District, welcoming brides of all budgets in search of the one-of-a-kind engagement ring design. The Doyles opened their doors in 2000, bringing intensive backgrounds in market as both gemologists and diamond buyers. Given their experience, the sisters carefully select their vintage rings so they are priced fairly. They maintain a thorough four-part inspection for quality and strength before they are even passed to the customer for consideration. "In short, we take away the legwork. All you have to do is fall in love," says Elizabeth.
The store carries a wide range of vintage rings, and the owners pride themselves on truly having something for everyone. "We work together with our customers to identify the perfect ring for them," Elizabeth tells BRIDES. "It needs to be a combination of beautiful, special, and practical. It's fun to try on rings together to figure out which ring fits all of the criteria. And there is absolutely nothing better than when we find the right one and the customer's face lights up. It is truly magical." Read real brides' reviews here!
For over 40 years, Alice Kwartler has been largely devoted to providing gifts for major life events such as engagements, weddings, and anniversaries. She curates a large selection of antique and estate engagement and wedding rings, with many signed Tiffany and Cartier pieces. Rings vary in style, size, and price, ranging from under $1000 to over $50,000. While classic center stone rings are still the most sought-after at Alice Kwartler, many people opt for different configurations, such as three-stone rings or diamond-shaped stones. One such Alice Kwartler ring is set in an intricate platinum setting. The center stone is 1.49 carats, a round old European cut, with a GIA certificate. The mounting is sprinkled with smaller diamonds — perfect for the romantic bride!
Alice tells BRIDES she looks for "distinctive rings," because modern rings are all "variations on a theme — they look more or less the same." She searches for vintage pieces with "lovely unique mountings," adding that "the old stones were cut differently and have a 'glow' one doesn't see in many modern stones." The store also encourages shopping with your groom-to-be. "We see many couples who come in looking for rings together," says Klusner. "It can be a fun way to learn about each others tastes and also celebrate what will be a very romantic occasion!"
Leigh Jay Nacht
Leigh Jay Nacht's showroom is located in the Diamond District, but its online presence is just as strong. Both the showroom and site offer a unique collection of original vintage antique engagement rings from the 1910's through the 1940's as well as exclusive replicas of the originals, which they make in house. Buyers rave about the customer service experience at Leigh Jay Nacht, saying their product know-how and patience is second to none. The jeweler stocks rings ranging from $500-$40,000, and each is marked as a "genuine antique," "vintage," "estate," or "reproduction."
When shopping for a vintage engagement ring, it's important to know the different classifications. In order to be legally considered an antique in the United States, a piece of jewelry must be 100 years old or older, while "estate" is any item that was previously owned. "Vintage" is actually term for types of estate jewelry from a particular era, such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Retro Moderne, Victorian, and Edwardian. Leigh Jay Nacht's reproduction pieces are made in their New York showroom and are not for sale anywhere other than at Leigh Jay Nacht, Inc. Read real brides' reviews here!
Stephen Russell's storefront on Madison Avenue caters to the selective vintage-jewelry buyer, who craves a carefully chosen collection of vintage rings that are, above all, designed with great style. They specialize in period rings from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco eras, as well as their own Stephen Russell Collection. He also suggests vintage buyers stay away from trends, saying, "This is a ring that you want to have forever. Having said that, I think it is important to be unique!" One such unique ring, shown above, is a platinum asscher cut 5.82ct diamond ring, signed Lacloche Freres, from Paris, circa 1935.
Like their discerning clients, Stephen Feuerman and Russell Zelenetz are collectors at heart, and travel the world to acquire their pieces. Their jewelry collections have been featured in fine art books, as well as accessories for runway collections at New York Fashion Week. With stand-out pieces being the name of the game at Stephen Russell, co-owner Russell Zelenetz advises that "brides (and their fiancés) buy the best of whatever it is that you like!"