From 1800s to 1970s, how to find your perfect antique sparkler...
Have you set your heart on a vintage engagement ring?
These days an estimated one in three women will pick out their own engagement ring. While there’s obviously something incredibly romantic about your boyfriend dropping on one knee with a ring he’s picked out himself, an increasing number of women opt to shop around (you will ideally be wearing it for the rest of your life, after all).
If you’ve decided to go old school with a vintage engagement ring, the wide range of eras and styles means there’s even more reason to hunt for it yourself – or drop some very specific hints.
Need a little help narrowing down your search for a vintage engagement ring? We asked Berganza Director Justin Daughters to talk us through the different styles to buy, so you’ll know your coronet cluster from your Art Deco cushion cut.
1) Georgian two row diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1740
‘Original Georgian rings are extremely rare, made in silver and gold with closed back settings to reflect candle light. Very few people would have had the wealth to own jewellery at the time, either being a land owner or merchant.’
2) Georgian diamond and sapphire double heart cluster ring, circa 1820.
‘Messages within jewellery were used between two lovers, often with gemstones spelling out these hidden messages. These types of rings are delicate so would need to be taken off if the wearer is doing anything physical.’
3) Antique pink Burmese sapphire three stone ring with diamond points, circa 1900
‘Rings were carved out before casting and solders. The Burmese mines were exhausted a long time ago so these stones are very hard to find today.’
4) Edwardian diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1905
‘The Edwardian period was inspired by nature and flowers (the pretty period). Platinum was first used after 1900. Its strength enabled delicate work even though gold was still preferred against the skin. Stones were cut by hand so won’t be exactly the same but can still be matched beautifully.’
5) Antique diamond cross over ring, circa 1905
‘Before the arrival of the famous solitaire, two stones were the engagement ring of choice referred to by the French as a (moi et vous) ‘me and you’ ring.’
6) Burmese sapphire and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1910 by Mappin and Webb
‘Round or oval shaped target rings were given as love tokens. Gemstones would have been natural before treatment, and with no colour enhancements pieces were considered works of art before the mass market.’
7) Solitaire old cut diamond ring with diamond set shoulders, circa 1910
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‘By the end of the Edwardian period jewellers had mastered working in the platinum. Rings made in England during this time were of a particularly fine quality.’
8) Fancy colour yellow and white diamond three stone ring, circa 1910
‘Gold was sometimes used to set off different colour gemstones. Fancy coloured diamonds were most likely from the old Indian or Brazilian mines, where some of the rarest diamonds in the world would have also come from.’
9) Art Deco cabochon ruby and diamond ring by Cartier, French circa 1925
‘The Art deco period originated in France, going against the flower periods beforehand with its modernist squares and straight lines. Expect to pay a premium for signed pieces that display exceptional work. Makers were considered artists.’
10) Art Deco emerald and diamond ring, circa 1925
‘Lots of colour was used because mines were still open where the best coloured stones were sourced. Columbian emeralds are still regarded as the best emeralds.’
11) Art Deco diamond ring, circa 1930
‘Most of the square cut diamonds were developed during this period. Unusual step cut diamonds are rare and they are not done today.’
12) Vintage solitaire diamond dress ring, French, circa 1945
‘The cocktail period was all about going out and celebrating big bold jewellery influenced by the movies and stars who wore them. French makers worked with chucky gold as platinum was scarce after the two world wars.’
13) Emerald-cut diamond ring, circa 1950
‘A lot of top American makers made their name during the boom period in their history. Iridium was added to platinum in America and Canada for strength.’
14) Diamond & ruby cluster ring by Mellerio
‘Some makers were known for their quality as well as design. Distinct designs by makers hold their value over time.’
15) Diamond ballerina ring by Tiffany & Co, circa 1970
‘Abstract designs were created in this period, sometimes referred to as the retro period. Different textures of metal, makers worked against previous traditions.’
Where to shop for a vintage engagement ring
A specialist in antique jewellery (with loads of antique engagement rings in particular) you can find pieces from the Roman times all the way up to the 1970s.
If you want a new ring in an old style try The London Victorian Ring Company, where brand new rings are made using the original antique molds – a vintage engagement ring with a modern twist.
3) Gray’s Antique Market
The website could seriously do with an upgrade, but Gray’s Antique Market (or Centre) in Mayfair is one of the best places to find a vintage engagement ring, with over 200 dealers and a really wide selection of styles and prices.
We could spend hours trawling through their selection of gorgeous vintage engagement rings. It’s also good if you don’t have an enormous budget.