You might be looking for a vintage silver engagement ring to match your girlfriend’s style, or just because you know that’s what she’s always wanted. But what does ‘vintage’ really mean and how do you make sure you get a great ring without being ripped off?
Vintage silver engagement rings are increasingly popular for a lot of reasons. For women with a bit of retro style, a brand spanking new bit of finger bling from a jeweller often won’t fit in with their taste in jewellery, clothes or even their world view.
Vintage rings are often less expensive than brand new rings and it can be argued that they’re more ecologically sound, as no recent mining was conducted to produce them. I encourage our readers to always consider the ecological factor when buying jewelry.
Some people also like the idea that vintage rings have a story behind them and they often have more character than a new ring. Minor imperfections that they have picked up over the last 50 years of use add to the story and the charm of the ring.
Vintage silver rings are also more likely to be unique – they would have been handmade by an artisan craftsman over 50 years ago, rather than cut by a robot with a frickin’ laser beam like modern rings. Often the level of craftsmanship of vintage rings would be extremely difficult and expensive to replicate today, sothe level of quality that you can obtain can be out of reach for a new ring.
Types of Vintage Ring
Most vintage rings will be over 50 years old, and they are easily categorised into three buckets, depending on when they were made. As with today, there were definite fashions for engagement rings during these periods, so it makes it easy to classify them and identify when an antique ring was made.
Victorian Engagement Rings: 1835 – 1901
Victorian rings are rare to find because they were made so long ago, but you should be able to find them in specialist antique jewellers. They are usually very intricate and decorative, with engravings of scrolls etc.
They often have a large central stone supported by several smaller stones, a bit like a modern ‘halo setting’. Diamonds were not as common then as they are today, so other stones were commonly used, like sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and pearls.
All of these stones are much less hard than diamonds, so when looking at a ring that is well over 100 years old, you really need to do it in person, to ensure that there is no damage to these softer stones.
Edwardian Engagement Rings: Early 1900s
Edwardian engagement rings are very ornate, with jewellers aiming to make the ring setting look like folded lace.
Bending metal like this is known as ‘filigree’ and was only made possible after the oxyacetylene torch was invented and platinum could be heated up to extremely high temperatures. So, Mr oxyacetylene-torch inventor – future vintage ring wearers and Flashdance viewers alike salute you!
People were keen to embrace the possibilities that this offered and many Edwardian engagement rings are platinum, which is good because it holds up so well to use. An additional decoration that you might see is the placement of small beads of metal in a decorative pattern, which is known as ‘millgraining’.
Stone-wise, diamonds, particularly in the ‘rose cut’ were popular for use in Edwardian engagement rings, but it was before diamonds were widely available, so often less expensive stones were used. Sapphires, black opals and aquamarines were popular choices for the centre stone.
Edwardian engagement rings often have the best craftsmanship out of any antique rings, and should have stood the test of time well.
Art Deco Engagement Rings: 1920s – 1940s
Probably the most popular type of vintage ring are those from the art deco period. Art deco is a broad term, but it basically describes a particular style of visual design that was applied to a huge range of things from1920s until just after WWII – from buildings to cars, paintings to jewellery .
Although there are no hard and fast rules on what makes something art deco, there are some principles that art deco design stick to.
While rings Edwardian engagement rings were decorative, swirly and ultra-feminine, art deco is all about strong geometric shapes and symmetry.
This ties in to the modernisation that was happening around the world at the time – Henry Ford was just starting to crank out Model Ts, air travel was just beginning, and manufacturing equipment was getting more sophisticated – allowing jewellers to do much more than they were previously able to.
Common cuts for stones include the ‘French cut’, which is a basic square cut, and the newly introduced ‘trillion’, which is a triangle cut which has now largely fallen out of fashion. You will often find that stones with contrasting colors have been used – usually sapphires or emeralds contrasting against a white diamond.
One thing that did remain consistent from the Edwardian era was the use of platinum. Although gold and sometimes silver were used, it was the ultra modern platinum that was favoured by those who could afford it.