Ultimate Guide to Vintage Engagement Rings

Buying a vintage engagement ring can be a romantic and meaningful way to symbolize your love and commitment. These rings offer unique designs and craftsmanship and often carry a rich history. However, buying your dream vintage engagement ring isn’t as simple as you may think. From figuring out which era suits you to choosing a reputable brand to purchase from (hint: Erstwhile), there’s a lot that goes into the decision. That’s why we’re breaking down everything you need to know to ensure the process goes smoothly.

What is a Vintage Engagement Ring?

Vintage jewelry is generally considered to be at least 20-30 years old. However, it can be up to 100 years old. Once it’s over 100 years old, it’s considered antique. Understanding these terms can help you better navigate the market and set appropriate expectations for the age and condition of the ring you seek. It’s also important to note what an estate ring is–aka one that is pre-owned but can be newly made. 

When you search online for vintage engagement rings, you may find many results for companies that sell newly made rings meant to look vintage. Many retailers will sell both authentic vintage rings and newly made vintage-style rings set with antique diamonds, so going into the ring-buying process knowing exactly what you’re looking for will help you determine where you need to go to search for a legitimate vintage wedding ring.

How to Buy a Vintage Engagement Ring

Define Your Budget

Before starting your search, it’s crucial to establish a budget. Vintage engagement rings vary widely in price depending on age, craftsmanship, materials, and brand. Setting a budget will help narrow down your options and prevent overspending.

Research Styles and Eras

vintage engagement rings infographic

Vintage rings often reflect the design trends of their era. For example, Art Deco rings are characterized by geometric shapes and bold colors, while Victorian rings usually feature intricate detailing and romantic motifs. By researching different styles and eras, you can identify which ones resonate most with you or your partner. Keep in mind that rings from different eras often overlap in design, especially when a piece is from a transitional period. For example, the Retro period has elements of both the prior Deco period and the upcoming Mid-century era.

Some popular eras include: 

  • Georgian engagement rings (1714-1837) – These rings are known for their nature-inspired motifs and rose-cut diamonds. They are typically more delicate, making them more difficult to be worn daily, though it is not impossible. However, they require extreme care. This ring is the perfect example.
  • Victorian engagement rings (1837-1900) – These rings often feature romantic designs with gemstones like pearls and opals. This is when the first round-shaped diamonds, called old mine cushions, began to appear. Cluster rings like this one also became popular. 
  • Edwardian engagement rings (1900-1915) –These rings were characterized by delicate filigree work and feminine designs featuring bright diamonds in two-tone and platinum settings. Look out for special settings featuring pearls and rubies.
  • Art Deco engagement rings (1920-1935) – These rings showcase geometric patterns, vibrant colors, and bold diamond cuts like the Asscher, emerald, and marquise.
  • Retro engagement rings (1939-1950) – These rings embraced bold, three-dimensional forms, often featuring oversized gemstones like aquamarines and amethysts in elaborate settings
  • Mid-century engagement rings (1950-1960) – These rings embraced a glamorous style with cocktail-inspired designs. 

Know Your Partner’s Preferences

Consider your partner’s personal style and preferences when choosing a vintage ring. Pay attention to the type of jewelry they currently wear, their favorite eras or design elements, and any hints they may have dropped about their dream engagement ring. Remember, this ring will be a reflection of their taste and personality, so it’s essential to choose something that aligns with their preferences.

Learn About Gemstones and Settings

Vintage rings can feature a variety of gemstones, including diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and more. Educate yourself about the characteristics of different gemstones, such as color, clarity, cut, and carat weight. Additionally, familiarize yourself with different setting styles, such as prong, bezel, pave, and channel settings, to understand how they can enhance the beauty of the gemstone.

Shop from Reputable Sources

When purchasing a vintage engagement ring, it’s essential to shop from reputable sources to ensure authenticity and quality. No matter where you shop, ensure that it’s a well-established company specializing in vintage engagement rings, as these brands will know exactly how to take care of something so precious.

Erstwhile, for example, has been around since 2010 and was founded by fifth-generation jeweler Jared Klusner and his wife, Alisa. They travel high and low to find the most exceptional vintage engagement rings and have spent the last 10+ years ensuring that every ring they come across undergoes a meticulous process to restore it to its original beauty.

Ask Questions and Inspect the Ring

Before purchasing, don’t hesitate to ask questions about the ring’s history, condition, and any necessary repairs or maintenance. Inquire about the ring’s previous owners and any available documentation or certificates. Additionally, if possible, inspect the ring closely for any signs of damage, wear, or alterations, as these can affect its value and longevity.

Factor in Maintenance and Care

Some vintage rings require repairs and ongoing maintenance, which should always be done by a knowledgeable source. There are countless horror stories where 100-year-old rings are polished or prongs redone in a modern way, completely changing the look of the ring. It’s also important to buy something that fits your lifestyle. While many antique and vintage rings are great for everyday wear, some shouldn’t be worn during vigorous activities or showering. 

Compare Prices

Remember that the price of a vintage ring can vary based on factors such as age, condition, rarity, and market demand, so it’s essential to do your research. Antique diamonds are very different from modern stones and require a different cost/value analysis. Many are extremely rare and unique, so setting a value depends on the expertise of the jeweler.

Trust Your Instincts

Ultimately, trust your instincts and choose a vintage engagement ring that speaks to you and your partner. While it’s essential to consider factors like style, quality, and price, the most important aspect of the ring is the love and commitment it represents. Whether you’re drawn to a particular era, design, or gemstone, follow your heart and select a ring that symbolizes your unique love story and future together.

Our Favorite Erstwhile Vintage Engagement Rings

erstwhile vintage engagement rings

French Belle Époque Old Mine Cushion Three Stone Ring; 2. Midcentury Old European Cut Diamond Toi et Moi Ring; 3. Art Deco Dome Diamond Ring; 4. 1920s Emerald Cut Fancy Intense Yellow Diamond

By taking the time to research, ask questions, and explore your options, you can find the perfect vintage engagement ring that celebrates your love and commitment in a timeless and meaningful way. If you’re ready to go shopping for your dream ring, take a look at Erstwhile’s vintage engagement rings and prepare to fall in love.

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