Something that many couples consider these days is investing in antique rings. Most people think of antiques in general, and immediately jump to the conclusion that they must be extremely expensive. Surprisingly though, you might find quite the opposite to be true. What you will also find, if you do a little research, is that the quality and craftsmanship will probably be better than any of the more contemporary jewelry. And what’s more, you will be taking an antique ring with charm and history, and bringing it into your own family, to be passed down as a family heirloom to your kids and grandchildren.
Antique rings are generally accepted by jewelers to be rings which are over 50 years old. The number usually varies among different people, some insisting that the ring should be over 100 years old, whereas others just say that it needs to have some age in it. Another common name that is bandied about is “vintage rings”. This can mean almost anything; and the same goes for “estate rings”. It definitely pays to do a little research before you launch into buying antique rings, and if need be, go to a large and reputable jeweler so you can get advice, especially if you are new to antique rings. Something that is generally best avoided is the so-called antique style rings. These are modern rings, rather than truly old ones, and they are simply designed to emulate the real antique ones. Of course, this might be exactly what you are after, but make sure you know the difference first!
There are five major groups to consider, if you are shopping for antique engagement rings.
1. Victorian Antique Rings
These date from the reign of Queen Victoria and cover the era from 1837 to 1901. They include a diverse selection of styles, often in yellow or rose gold, and from the minimalist of designs to some very intricate ones. During the age of empire, Victorian rings and other jewelry were encrusted with diamonds from South African mines. Seed pearls and other colored stones were common features of this era. The mid-Victorian period saw the production of very sombre jewelry styles, after the death of Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband. The rings were set with jet and onyx. Later in the period, everyday jewelry became more widespread, with sterling silver rings, and diamonds making a comeback.
If you are hoping to buy a Victorian antique ring, be careful to ensure you get all the relevant information, and preferably some kind of guarantee from an expert to validate that it is really from that period.
2. Art Nouveau Rings
Designs of rings from this period overlapped somewhat with the late Victorian era, covering 1890 to 1915. New technology enabled far more elaborate detailing, and these antique rings are characterized by curving lines, artistic shapes generally of birds or insects and flowers, and the introduction of filigree patterns.
Again, check to make sure you can date these art nouveau rings accurately and be on the look out for cheap, lower quality copies.
3. Edwardian Antique Rings
Platinum became popular during this period, and the ability to work metals more intricately led filigree to become far more popular, and far more detailed. The Edwardian jewelry was made between 1905 and the 1920s. The antique rings from these times are curvy and intricate, often with diamonds or brilliant sapphires, and along with platinum, white gold jewelry was also developing.
4. Art Deco Rings
The 1920s also saw the dawn of the Art Deco movement. Geometric shapes and streamlined designs replaced the romantic swirls and curves and natural forms of the Art Nouveau and Edwardian styles. Sharp lines and contrasting, clean colors were the order of the day, with regimented filigree patterns in white gold or platinum, combined with sapphires and rubies and pave diamonds.
These Art Deco rings are by far the most popular these days for couples looking for antique engagement rings. If you want a genuine one, find a reputable jeweler rather than opting for Ebay! If you love the look and are happy with a modern emulated Art Deco engagement ring, then Amazon is a good place to start.
5. Retro Jewelry
This type of jewelry appeared in the 1940s and 1950s, during and after the war, when precious metals, especially platinum, and stones were harder to find. Yellow gold made a comeback at this point, and other precious and semi-precious gems appeared in these vintage rings. This began the age of bulky, highly colored jewelry, often worn by movie stars, and repeated by their loyal fans – a bit like today!
If you know where to look, and you take your time, you will almost certainly find many antique rings for sale, which are both incredibly beautiful and easily affordable. And as the old designs, especially the Art Deco ones, continue to gain wider appeal today, even if you cannot find a genuine ring from the period, you will be able to find a lovely modern version that you’ll probably love just as much.
Making a Comeback in Modern Times
When you wish to buy a special ring for yourself or for a gift, consider investing in an antique ring. With the number of jewelry stores and online sites where you can now purchase used jewelry, it is possible with some careful research to find a superb antique ring at a lower price than you would expect to pay for a new one.
A ring actually becomes “antique” when it is more than 100 years old. Before that milestone is reached it should really be called a vintage ring, although some sellers do seem to think than anything over 10 years old is antique. The ability to accurately date fine antique pieces is dependent on where it was made as in some countries the date is an integral part of the hallmark, whereas in others the only way to tell the age is by having an expert judge it by the design and materials used.
There are many advantages to buying antique jewelry, one of which is that if you find an antique piece that is still in excellent condition today then you can be sure that it was well-made or it would not have survived until now. Another plus point is that antique rings were often made with designs and sentiments that are not normally found today so if this kind of thing appeals to you then an antique example is your only option. For instance during the 19th and early 20th century, rings were often made to express a sentiment, such as REGARD rings. These were made with gemstones the first letter of which spelled out the word conveyed by the ring – so in this case Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby and Diamond.
An antique ring might also contain gemstones with an old-fashioned cut or setting not so often seen today. An example of this would be cushion cut diamonds. Also having diamonds or other gemstones in a “gypsy” setting, this involves the stones being set so that they do not stand proud of the surrounding gold. This was often combined with a star shaped setting to give the illusion that the diamonds were larger than they actually were.
Nowadays you can often find very fine antique jewelry being sold at auctions or estate sales. Surprisingly there is also a large amount available on eBay, although you do have to exercise some caution here as truly antique pieces were sometimes not hallmarked so it is important to check that you are buying from a reputable seller and that you know exactly what you are getting. Some sellers include an independent valuation with jewelry they are selling online, which may mean that you will pay a little more to cover the cost of the valuation, but this will be worthwhile to ensure that the piece is genuine.
Antique rings were cleverly made to make the most of smaller gemstones and often unusual combinations of stones. As today’s technology was not available to mine, cut and polish gems, larger, high-quality stones were only accessible by the very wealthy. This fact adds a charm to antique pieces made by painstakingly setting large quantities of smaller stones and tiny seed pearls to make a truly unique item that could not be confused with a modern mass-produced piece of jewelry.