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It's easy to see the appeal of a vintage engagement ring. With this nostalgic piece of jewelry comes an innate sense of history and a strong feeling of romance. If you and your partner have decided to go the vintage route, there's a handful of details and terminology you'll want to know about before diving in.
It’s helpful to think of vintage engagement rings in a few key periods of time: Georgian (1714-1830), Victorian (1837-1901), Edwardian (1890s-1915), Art Nouveau (1890s-early 1910s), and Art Deco (1920s-1930s). If you're interested in a vintage engagement ring, it's worth your time to dive into each of these eras to discover what you do (and don't) like.
Georgian jewelry is considered rare and can be difficult to find. Among its more notable characteristics is the ornate metal detailing and motifs like flowers and foliage. Victorian jewelry, named after Queen Victoria and her 64-year reign, speaks to an era of romantic design motifs including hands and hearts. Hallmarks of Edwardian jewelry (also referred to as La Belle Epoque) include intricate details as well as the use of platinum. Art Nouveau can be characterized by its use of whiplash lines and asymmetry. Lastly, Art Deco engagement rings can be identified by their geometric patterns and use of diamonds and contrasting gemstones.
This Edwardian ring features transitional-cut diamonds and two stepped shoulders with single-cut diamonds. Translate this 1910-era ring to now by styling it with your favorite jewels.
What to Look for When Choosing a Vintage Engagement Ring
As mentioned before, an easy way to give context to your vintage engagement ring is to identify the time period it was created during and defining characteristics you can expect. For example, if you’re a hopeless romantic, consider a ring from the Victorian era because jewelry from that time often came with sentimental motifs incorporated into the piece.
Wear and Tear
Because you’re buying a vintage engagement ring, the likelihood that a piece might show signs of damage is not uncommon. While some wear and tear can give the ring character, make sure that there are no fundamental issues that should be addressed by the jeweler, such as loose prongs.
Because a vintage engagement ring comes in just one size, if you choose to get it resized many retailers will not accept returns. Always check with your jeweler to ensure a ring can be returned if necessary.
What’s the difference between vintage, estate, and antique?
Antique implies the piece of jewelry is at least over 100 years old, whereas vintage is something that isn't old enough to be considered antique but doesn't fall under the contemporary umbrella either. As for estate jewelry, this signals that the piece is pre-owned and can be antique, vintage, or even modern.
How much do vintage engagement rings cost?
Naturally, there's a great deal of variety when it comes to vintage engagement rings, which means the price range is equally as expansive. You can expect anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars up into six-figure digits depending on the gemstone, cut, setting, band, and so forth. In other words—you've got options.
Do vintage rings require more maintenance?
Unsurprisingly, an older engagement ring is likely to require a bit more TLC. Design elements can wear with time, so it's important to discuss with your jeweler the best ways to take care of your ring.