Vintage Engagement Rings: A Modern Choice (2024)

Vintage Engagement Rings: A Modern Choice (1)

Getting engaged is one of life’s most exciting and romantic moments. And one of the most fun aspects of getting engaged is the beautiful engagement ring that looks so fabulous that you can’t stop looking at it. So how did engagement rings come into being and how did the diamond engagement ring become one of the most coveted love tokens on the planet? It all started with the ancient Romans.

Roman Engagement Rings

The Romans made rings from bone, ivory, copper, flint and iron as well as gold rings for those who could afford them. It was common practice to have two rings — a gold ring to wear out in public and an iron ring to wear at home.

We can also thank the Romans for starting the practice of wearing an engagement ring on the fourth finger of the left hand. They believed that the vein in the finger next to the pinky on the left hand led directly to the heart, referring to it as the “vein of love”. The romantic notion of wearing a ring on the finger that connects to the heart caught on and continues today.

The First Diamond Engagement Ring

Engagement rings got the official nod of approval in 850 when Pope Nicholas I decreed that gifting a ring symbolized a man’s intent to marry. As we moved into the middle-ages engagement rings were elaborate affairs with generally a ruby or sapphire in an opulent setting. Gimmel rings were also a popular choice during those times. Another big advance in the engagement ring story came in 1477 when Archduke Maximillian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond engagement ring, the first one on record.

By the 1700s engagement rings were becoming more common. In 1727 diamonds were found in Brazil, leading to a steady and regular supply of these gems, which were a must have for fashionable Georgians. The cluster ring featuring a diamond center stone with smaller diamonds around it was popular for engagement rings and sometimes featured colored gemstone accents. It was during this era that England’s King George III gave Queen Charlotte a diamond engagement ring widening its acceptance.

The Tiffany Setting

Three major events happened to further the diamond engagement ring’s place in society during the 1800s. It started with the industrial revolution, which created a tremendous amount of wealth and a burgeoning middle class with money to spend. Next came the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1867, which provided an abundant supply of the sparkling gems. Then in 1886, it was Tiffany & Co. that sealed the deal when it debuted the Tiffany Setting, a simple hoop with the diamond set high and six prongs holding it in place, allowing maximum light to flow through the stone creating exceptional sparkle. It was a sensation then and continues to be one of the most desired styles today.

Edwardian era engagement rings often centered on a diamond set in platinum with elaborate detailing from millegrain and piercing that gave the rings a light and airy look. The Art Deco era continued the movement of platinum (or sometimes white gold) engagement rings, but the white-on-white lacy look of the Edwardian days gave way to geometric forms often accented with ruby, emerald, sapphire or onyx to enhance the linear shapes. The late 1930s and 1940s saw gold return to favor as platinum was declared a strategic metal and was reserved for war use. Diamonds were often pulled from existing pieces to create a new engagement ring. Diamonds solidified their position as the number one choice for engagement rings during the 1940s. As young soldiers went to war overseas it became a common practice for them to give their sweethearts a diamond ring as a promise to marry upon their return.

Twentieth Century Engagements

After World War II ended, the 1950s saw a return to platinum settings in engagement rings. The most popular styles of the time were quite simple — a center diamond, prong set, embellished with two side stones. The popularity of this style continued for many years with gold once again becoming more favored from the 1960s to the 1980s. In the 1990s styles shifted once again and fancy shape center stones became more popular as did a mix of yellow gold and platinum for a two-tone setting. Moving into the early aughts, the halo ring became ubiquitous and continues its reign as a beloved setting with platinum once again becoming the metal of choice.

In recent years, more couples are selecting vintage or antique engagement rings. There are plenty of vintage engagement ring choices, you just have to find the one that expresses your personality and your personal love story.

Featured image (top of page): Clay Banks, courtesy Unsplash

First: Art Deco diamond and platinum ring; Second: Art Deco old European cut diamond and platinum ring; Third: Georgian diamond and 18-karat gold halo ring; Fourth: Platinum and diamond in a Tiffany six prong setting, signed Tiffany & Co.; Fifth: Early Victorian rose cut diamond, enamel and 15-karat gold ring; Sixth: Art Deco diamond, ruby and platinum ring.

Authored by Amber Michelle

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Vintage Engagement Rings: A Modern Choice (2024)


Do vintage engagement rings keep their value? ›

Antique engagement rings hold their value very well if kept in good condition. Rarity is an important factor in jewelry pricing since inevitably some pieces will be damaged or lost over the years.

What is considered a vintage engagement ring? ›

"Vintage" refers to anything at least 20 years old, while "antique" refers to anything at least 100 years old. When it comes to engagement rings, "vintage" usually signifies the ring's style rather than its age.

Are vintage rings worth it? ›

Vintage rings are special because of their timeless elegance, sentimental value, exceptional craftsmanship, and distinctive charm. Not only do vintage rings capture the hearts of many, but they also have the potential to be an investment worth treasuring.

Why vintage engagement rings? ›

Value. Most of the time, buying vintage and antique engagement rings offer more value than buying a new ring. As lovely and unique as they are, these rings are still considered second hand pieces - with a few exceptions.

Why are vintage diamond rings so cheap? ›

Antique cuts actually tend to be less expensive than modern cut earth-mined diamonds if and when you can find them. Part of this reason is because they don't require new mining and all of the associated costs that come with that.

What are the best engagement rings that hold value? ›

Classic designs and popular shapes like round or princess-cut diamonds typically fare better in the market, so it's best to opt for a classic design, if you're thinking about the resale price.

What kind of engagement ring is timeless? ›

Solitaire engagement rings are a timeless classic that will never go out of style.

Are vintage diamond rings worth more? ›

Rarer cuts like the old mine and European cuts found in antique engagement rings have a higher value and make them more expensive. It's all supply and demand.

Why are vintage rings so expensive? ›

Vintage rings often appreciate in value over time, making them a wise choice. Different from modern mass-produced jewellery, which tends to lose value quickly; vintage rings can become more valuable as they age. The rarity of certain vintage styles and the scarcity of specific gemstones can drive up their market worth.

What makes a ring look vintage? ›

Older estate jewelry features diamonds and gemstones that are hand-cut with different techniques than modern gems. Cuts such as the mine cut, rose cut, and old European cut are key indications that a piece is truly vintage.

How can you tell if a ring is vintage? ›

Patina and Wear: Look for signs of aging, patina, or wear on the jewelry. Vintage pieces may show slight signs of tarnish, scratches, or fading, which can add to their charm and authenticity. Style and Design Elements: Pay attention to the overall style and design elements of the jewelry.

Are vintage rings more expensive? ›

Vintage engagement rings are more budget friendly

Vintage engagement rings are undoubtedly better value for money. They are essentially secondhand, even if this is what gives them much of their charm.

How do you date a vintage engagement ring? ›

Our Margot mid-century diamond ring

First, check for hallmarks and a maker's mark on the inside of your band. These markings may provide information about the jeweller who originally created the piece, its country of origin, and sometimes even the date of manufacture.

Are vintage rings cheaper than new? ›

If you are looking for a ring that offers something a little different, a unique ring that will hold the test of time, many brides opt for an antique engagement ring. These rings are typically less expensive, often have superior craftsmanship and add a unique charm and story to your engagement.

How old is a vintage ring? ›

Most people refer to 'vintage' jewellery as pieces that are between 50 and 100 years old. Certain eras with distinct styles may be referred to as vintage even if the jewellery from that time isn't yet fifty years old. For example, jewellery from the 1980s has mass appeal due to the recent style renaissance of that era.

Does vintage jewelry increase in value? ›

Trends come and go, and the value of gemstones and precious metals is subject to market variations. That said, aspects of both antique and vintage jewelry indicate it will hold its value and probably even appreciate, becoming more valuable over time.

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