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Tips For Finding A Vintage Engagement Ring to Last A Lifetime

Antique 18kt Three Stone Diamond Engagement Ring
Antique 18kt Three Stone Diamond Engagement Ring

Martha Stewart knows weddings. That’s a given. But does she (and/or her team) know engagement rings? VINTAGE engagement rings to be specific? We decided to check out her article 11 Tips for Finding A Vintage Engagement Ring You’ll Cherish and were thrilled to read that MSW consulted with someone we consider quite an expert – Elizabeth Doyle of Doyle and Doyle in NYC (we repost lots of their lovelies in our Instagram feed for our #AsILayMeDownToSleep nightly feature. You really should be following us on IG. Lots of awesome stuff there. But we digress. . . .). So what did Elizabeth have to say? We’ll recap it here, with some embellishments of our own.

Head Out On The Town

Don’t just nose around on the internet trying to see what you might like. When it comes to vintage rings, there’s literally something for everyone. But it really takes trying a few on to see how they look on YOUR hand and figuring out what you’re drawn to. What shape works? What size stone fits you best? Do you want color or just diamond sparkle? Sometimes the ring in the case that you’re sure is the one just doesn’t cut the mustard when you put it on. Remember that dress you loved on the hanger but hated in the fitting room? Same goes for jewelry. Try. It. On.

Vintage 14k White Gold Sapphire and Diamond Engagement Ring
Vintage 14k White Gold Sapphire and Diamond Engagement Ring

Know What’s Happening In The Market

Crazy about Edwardian Rings? Great! Art Deco? Yippee! You’ll want to work with a jewelry store you trust to locate several for you to try on. And. . . .  that could take a while. Depending on what styles are all the rage right now and on simply what’s available, so that finding you that perfect two carat, old cushion cut with onyx kite-cut side stones set in platinum may take a little bit. Make sure you give your jeweler enough time to conduct a search, so that you can get exactly what you want.

vintage diamond engagement ring
Vintage Diamond Engagement Ring
Photo credit: Pinterest

Read Your History Books

Ok, well maybe not the ones you read in school, but there are some great books out there that will educate you on vintage jewelry and engagement rings in particular. Rings: Jewelry of Power, Love and Loyalty is a great source with LOTS of photos. Starting To Collect Antique Jewelry is a also great resource for finding your style when it comes to engagement rings or any type of antique jewelry. Not all vintage eras produced jewelry conducive to everyday wear. Art Nouveau jewelry is gorgeous, but often made up of pearls and enameling. Neither of which stand up well to every day wear. Find examples of what you like and then read up to see if they can stand the test of time. At least the time on your hand.

Vintage 14kt WG Columbian Emerald and Diamond Bezel Set Halo Engagement Ring
Vintage 14kt WG Columbian Emerald and Diamond Bezel Set Halo Engagement Ring

You’re A Real Gem

Tying in to our last point, not all stones are great for dealing with laundry, dishwashing, dragging sports duffles out of the trunk and the rest of every day life. Pearls, Emeralds and Tanzanites, for example, are fragile stones. Probably best for those that will wear their engagement ring on special occasions. Or the wealthy that have folks to do all of the above for them. If that’s you, we’re happy to help you find just the right ring. If it’s not. We’re still more than happy to help you find the right ring. We’ll just try to steer you away from the delicate stones.

Old European Cut Diamonds Halo Ring
Old European Cut Diamonds Halo Engagement Ring

Cut Yourself Loose

Diamonds weren’t always the super flashy zingers we know them to be today. Modern day cutting techniques have helped to add facets and sparkle to the modern cuts. But the older cuts – Rose, Miner, Old European, etc. – display their own kind of beauty and often sparkle up a storm, without modern-day advancements. And they ooze charm as well as an old world feel. Like the halo engagement ring pictured above. That baby sparkles like there’s no tomorrow. Extra facets be damned.

Vintage Diamond Engagement Ring, Cushion 1.54ct
Vintage Diamond Engagement Ring, Cushion 1.54ct
Photo Credit: Doyle and Doyle

Going for the Gold Doesn’t Always Mean Coming In First

Choosing the metal your ring is made from is another decision all together. Folks often think of gold as the most used metal, but platinum has been a long-standing favored choice for jewelers due to its pure white color (white gold still has yellow gold in it and can still have a bit of a yellowish cast to it) as well as its strength and durability. We’ve seen a resurgence in platinum in recent years and while it used to be much more expensive than gold, that’s not the case these days.

Art Deco Eternity Diamond Engagement Ring
Art Deco Eternity Diamond Engagement Ring
Photo Credit: Ivy and Rose Vintage

The Perfect Fit

We’re not talking about your true love here (although we realize that’s how you got here). We’re talking about your ring. Find an engagement ring you love but it’s not your size? Many rings out there are very re-sizeable. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. Eternity bands, for example, are first fit, first served and can’t be resized. And there are on occasion rings that, due to their make up or gallery (the portion of the ring under the stone that’s supporting it), don’t allow for much of a resize. And rings with embellishments like enamel? Well, if you resize it, be prepared that you may need to repair the enamel work too, since it could crack in the process. Working with a knowledgeable jeweler is always best when you have ring that needs to go up or down a size or two.

Estate Ruby and Diamond Halo Engagement Ring
Estate Ruby and Diamond Halo Engagement Ring

Get Your Ducks in Order

When you’re buying a vintage engagement ring, the 4 C’s that so many of us have studied up on aren’t necessarily the name of the game. Those rules generally apply to modern stones and because stone cutting, for example, was a very different animal 100 years ago, using today’s standards just wouldn’t match up. That said, make sure that you have your ring appraised by a jeweler that understands vintage stones. Many of these rings are one of a kind and virtually irreplaceable, so you’ll want to be sure to have your ring insured at a rate that’s commensurate with its real replacement value, so if something happens, you can get a replacement that’s as close to your original as possible.

Antique Art Deco 14kt yellow & white gold .30ct Diamond Engagement Ring
Antique Art Deco 14kt yellow & white gold .30ct Diamond Engagement Ring

Count Your Pennies

Vintage rings can be found in any price point. Just a few hundred dollars can get you a piece of the past. When you start adding gemstones to the equation, prices will go up. And sometimes, to the average person, the cost for some rings that lean on the rare side can see high relative to modern-day rings of the same size. Keep in mind, the old adage you learned in fifth grade about supply and demand. There are fewer vintage pieces out there, just by the nature of the beast. So some of the most prized styles may cost you a pretty penny. A jeweler specializing in vintage pieces can help you set a budget and work to find you just the right engagement ring for what you have to spend.

Estate Fancy Orange Sapphire & Diamond Engagement Ring
Estate Fancy Orange Sapphire & Diamond Engagement Ring
Photo credit: Doyle and Doyle

Color Me Beautiful

Just because your mom had a diamond engagement ring, and so did her mom and your sister just got one, doesn’t mean you have to have a diamond too. Diamonds used as the main stone in an engagement ring really only became popular starting in about the 1930’s. Prior to that, colored stones were all the rage. And we’re seeing them making a comeback. Love pink? Try a morganite. Feeling very princess-ish? Maybe a sapphire is up your alley.

Victorian Ruby Engagement Ring
Victorian Ruby Engagement Ring

Write Your Own Story

As vintage jewelers, we’re often asked about the history of a particular piece. Sadly, we don’t always know it. But think of your vintage piece as a chance to write its next chapter. This is your story to create. Not only are the two of you creating a new life together, you’re creating a continuum for your ring and bringing it a whole new life.


6 Responses

  1. My brother is starting to look for an engagement ring for his girlfriend. She wants a vintage ring but hasn’t said anything else about what she wants. I liked that you explained that it might be smart for him to look into silver pieces or white gold.

    1. Hi, Penelope:

      Thanks for the note! Picking an engagement ring can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be. With just a few questions we can help your brother pick out something we think his future fiancé would love. If he’s open to it, we’d love to help him find the perfect ring!

      WendyKate & Team

  2. That three stone diamond engagement ring is absolutely stunning! I like your idea of going out on the town to see what you like. You may find something online but you never know what it’s truly like until you try it on. And you may find something you like better than you did online.

    1. Kendall: Why thank you! It’s always good to try various styles on before you pick one. And also good when working with an online only vendor, like we are, to make sure there is a return policy that allows you to return the item if you don’t like it. That way you can be certain to find just the right thing! xoxo

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