Vintage engagement rings are, as you might expect, engagement rings over a certain age. There is often confusion generated (sometimes deliberately!) when “vintage”, “antique” and “retro” get used interchangeably, but they all actually mean very different things.
Antique usually refers to any object more than 100 years old, whereas retro is more of a style statement and refers to something that is designed to mimic objects or styles from past eras, but which could just as easily have been manufactured yesterday.
Vintage falls somewhere in between. The authorized version of what is considered vintage is something older than 20 years but younger than 100, at which point it would become antique. So, when we talk about vintage engagement rings in 2016, we are really talking about rings that were made after 1916 but before 1996.
It’s also possible to consider vintage as applying to a particular era, such as pre-war vintage or 1960s vintage, and, with jewelry, it is common to apply the actual period name to the piece when talking about specific vintage styles eg. Art Deco, Edwardian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, etc.
As a result, vintage diamond engagement rings are usually more common than antique, with the added consideration that current vintage rings will become antique as they get to be 100 years old and that the number of antique rings will increase accordingly. Indeed, we are currently going through a period in which original Art Deco pieces are coming up to 100 years old and will go from being vintage engagement rings to antique engagement rings. This doesn’t stop them being Art Deco, of course, and the antique qualifier will usually be added to the description as an indication of age.
Vintage Engagement Ring Eras
Beautiful as they are, vintage engagement rings have a lot of historical and cultural value. Ring styles often give away information about the time period when they were made.
Every era of a vintage engagement ring has its own style and charm, which makes them both beautiful signs of love and interesting pieces of history.
Victorian Era (1837-1901)
Romanticism and emotion were big themes in the Victorian era, which had an effect on the style of engagement rings. During this time, rings often had elaborate designs and motifs that meant something. Snakes with emeralds set in their heads were used as a symbol of endless love in Queen Victoria’s engagement ring. This started a trend for jewelry with snake designs. Hearts, flowers, and birds were also popular designs, and each one meant something different when it came to love and loyalty. In the Victorian era, engagement rings were usually made of yellow or rose gold, and diamonds and other colored gems were often used to decorate them.
Edwardian Era (1901-1910)
Engagement rings from the Edwardian era look like they were made during a time that was known for being classy and elegant. Platinum, a metal that had just become famous because it was strong and could hold small, complicated designs, was often used to make rings. Styles of engagement bands from the Edwardian era were lacey and filigree, influenced by the garlands and ribbons of the time. Milgrain detailing, which makes an edge with beads around the stones, was also very popular. Sapphires, emeralds, and pearls were also used, but diamonds were the most common.
Art Nouveau (1890-1910)
These engagement rings were very different from the styles of the Victorian and Edwardian times. Art Nouveau rings had flowing, organic patterns that were based on natural shapes and forms. Mythical animals like dragons and fairies were often carved into rings, along with flowers, leaves, and vines. The beauty of the materials was emphasized, and jewelers often used enamel, pearls, and colored gemstones along with diamonds. Setting details were often very complicated, and the design was meant to look like it was moving and full of life.
Art Deco (1920-1935)
During the Art Deco period, things were made with bright, geometric shapes and lots of expensive materials. During this time, engagement rings often had geometric shapes like triangles, rectangles, and squares, as well as symmetrical and linear designs. It was also popular to use colors and materials that didn’t go together. For example, diamonds were often set with bright gems like sapphires, emeralds, and rubies. Platinum was chosen because it was strong and could hold patterns with a lot of small parts. Art Deco engagement rings had clean lines and bold designs that showed how modern and hopeful the time was.
Engagement rings from the middle of the 20th century were affected by the design trends of the time, which were shaped by the changes in society and the economy after World War II. During this time, rings were often less flashy and simpler than rings from earlier times. This was because people wanted rings that would be useful and practical. People liked solitaire diamonds and smaller diamonds set in white gold or platinum to make the piece stand out. The focus was on clean lines and simple beauty, which shows how design is moving toward modernism.
Best Place to Shop Vintage Engagement Rings
When it comes to engagement rings, an antique one is one that is at least 50 to 100 years old. These rings usually have unique craftsmanship, historical importance, and sometimes a more complicated design than modern rings. A lot of people find these rings charming because they have a sweet, classic look.
There are a lot of places to buy an antique engagement ring, such as specialized antique shops, estate sales, auctions, and even websites that have been checked out to make sure they are trustworthy. When you go shopping, it’s important to find rings that come with a certificate of authenticity. This proves that the item is real and of the quality that was described. Click here to check the Top 10 Antique Jewelry Stores in the US.
It should be remembered that applying the term “vintage” to an engagement ring in no way implies a style or value. You can have vintage Art Deco, vintage Victorian, or vintage anything as long as it meets the age criteria. There is usually some hope that applying “vintage” to an item description will add some gravitas (and value!) to the piece, and even more so with “antique”, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
Vintage is indeed likely to be preferred to pre-vintage (items not old enough to qualify as vintage), assuming the quality and condition of the ring aren’t compromised, and a good vintage ring is far more likely to increase in value as it gets older. Simply applying the term vintage to a description, however, should only ever be considered informative and not as any indication of quality.
Despite the broad depth of what technically constitutes a vintage engagement ring, it should be said that many engagement rings that currently do qualify as vintage come from eras that produced pieces of spectacular design and very high quality. Art Deco, in particular, is still a much-copied style among present-day designers, and the best examples are highly sought after by collectors and individuals alike.
The simple fact is that, if you see something designed as a vintage engagement ring, it will usually be worthy of further investigation. Despite what we’ve said earlier about the term not indicating quality or value, the fact is that if a ring has lasted long enough to be classed as vintage and is in good condition, it’s been well looked after for a reason. Usually, the reason for this is that the quality has been maintained throughout the decades.