There’s something so classic about a vintage engagement ring. Whether it’s a sentimental family heirloom, an Art Deco diamond, or a mid-century modern gold band, choosing a vintage piece is a sweet way to honor the traditions and romance of the past while planning your future.
While modern rings will always be popular (who doesn’t love a classic Tiffany solitaire or an eco-friendly, lab-created diamond?), more and more couples are going vintage when it comes to their engagement and wedding jewelry. Specific eras of jewelry are as timeless as a solid gold band, while others—like the ‘80s-style marquise—are more trendy. But what's certain is that there are a plethora of options for vintage engagement rings to suit any style; even big, bold ‘60s cocktail rings with semi-precious gems can be a fun and unique jewelry choice.
“People are always looking back at styles in the past and modernizing them, like in fashion,” says Easter Ahn-Lee, gemologist and founder of Easter Ahn Design. “The details of vintage style jewelry are beautiful and delicate and bring so much more character to the piece. As fashion styles always come back in a new, modern way, vintage-style engagement rings have also come back with a fresh, modern look.”
Meet the Expert
Choosing a vintage piece is also a more sustainable option, as you’re basically upcycling an existing piece by giving it new life on your hand. If you love shopping secondhand and wear a lot of vintage clothing in your day-to-day life, opting for a vintage engagement ring feels like second nature. Plus, shopping vintage means there’s less worry that someone else will have the exact same ring—or that you’ll look down at your hand and feel like your ring is now dated.
“There is this romantic beauty to [vintage jewelry] that is hard to replicate today,” shares Sue Hopeman, VP of Merchandising at Robbins Brothers. “Each piece comes from another era with its own story to tell, especially with the thought of who that ring was made for and who last wore it. What’s more magical than that?” The high quality of vintage pieces also makes them a timeless choice. “Beyond its mystical nature, vintage jewelry is usually hand-made by skilled artisans that tend to produce more refined and durable work,” Hopeman explains. “It also feels incredibly special when it is a rare piece that only you in the world own and can’t be replicated.”
You can also update certain vintage pieces to make them feel more modern, especially if they’re family accessories that look a bit outdated or don’t quite suit your style, but you want to wear them for the sentimental value. “As a jeweler, I think we can always incorporate a little bit of vintage and modernize the style so it is not too trendy,” says Ahn-Lee. “We can add a halo around the center stone, pave set diamonds on the side band, or add small milgrain details to the band to give it a vintage-inspired yet modern look.”
If you’re considering going vintage and want to keep up on the latest throwback trends, check out some of the most popular vintage engagement ring trends with insights from the pros.
Halo or Cluster Rings
Halo or cluster rings are a romantic and feminine floral-esque style, with a delicate profile that still packs in the glitter. “These rings usually have a primary diamond in the center and are surrounded by smaller diamonds,” explains Hopeman. “The classic halo cluster rings we see today are inspired by the Edwardian period from the early 20th century. Queen Alexandra had a love for flowers, which led to a rise in these flower-like styles.” The unique shape of a cluster ring means you can mix and match band styles to create a wedding stack that’s truly 100 percent you.
“This setting has definitely stood the test of time and has been a very popular vintage style,” says Ahn-Lee. “Most popular has been round diamonds, pave set around the center stone. However, Art Deco-style halo engagement rings, using tapered baguettes or other small fancy shapes prong set around the center stone, have been a new trend.”
We have the royals to thank for the resurgence of the three-stone ring, a gorgeous (and super glam) style. “This trend has been extraordinarily sought after ever since Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle with a three-stone engagement ring,” says Hopeman. “Traditionally, each of these stones are meant to tell the story of the past, present, and future regarding the engaged couple, with the present as the primary center stone.” In general, all three stones are the same size or the center stone is slightly larger. Three-stone rings are perfect for those with classic taste who want something simple but no less impactful.
Move over, diamonds! While the diamond will always rule supreme over the engagement ring kingdom, colored stone engagement rings have been increasing in popularity over the years, including aquamarines, emeralds, and sapphires. “Colored gemstones are getting another life because of the symbolic meaning of why they were chosen in the first place centuries ago,” Hopeman shares. “It’s an incredibly romantic notion to have your engagement ring be one that has withstood the stand of time.”
Milgrain/Art Deco Rings
Intricately detailed milgrain rings are a go-to choice for vintage and history buffs. “This technique translates from French to ‘a thousand grains,’ representing the tiny metal beads that are often arranged into an intricate shape or pattern,” says Hopeman. “Milgrain styles date back centuries, despite not getting its name until the Roaring ‘20s, and its popularity today stems from its ability to add an antique feel to jewelry of any age.”
Rose Cut Rings
Just as the rose is a classic floral choice for a bridal bouquet, the rose-cut diamond is a majorly romantic choice for your engagement stone. “A rose cut diamond is a type of antique diamond that has a flat bottom instead of a culet, and a domed top that contains 24 facets, including several triangular facets arranged in a rose-like pattern,” explains Ahn-Lee. “These vintage style diamonds, which have been around for hundreds of years, have made a comeback with their unique style and affordability. This cut makes a great alternative stone for an engagement ring.”
After years of platinum, white gold, and rose gold, yellow gold is back in a big way. “Meghan Markle’s three-stone engagement ring was the most notable turning point in pop culture’s perception shift to viewing the metal as more of a timeless piece,” explains Hopeman. “In the jewelry space, we are seeing a lot more millennial brides turn toward more long-lasting traditional options such as the yellow gold, as it shifts toward a more sentimentality, bringing about memories of the jewelry someone’s mother and grandmother and great grandmother had and still have.”
Whether you’re going for a yellow gold band with a colored stone or mixing yellow gold with other metals, it’s a style choice that will always look good, regardless of the year. “It took time for people to get used to the color when mostly white gold was worn for a while, but as yellow gold has come back in accessories, fashion jewelry, and the ‘90s fashion trend, yellow gold chains and jewelry have come to the forefront,” shares Ahn-Lee. “With yellow gold jewelry being worn more often today, I think people have grown to also love the color for engagement rings.”