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Your Definitive Guide to Vintage Engagement Rings

Step back in time with the Ernest Jones guide to vintage engagement rings. From the history to the styles, discover vintage engagement rings...

26 February 2021 EDITOR - ERNEST JONES

With so many modern brides seeking unusual rings that better reflect their individuality, it's hardly surprising that vintage style engagement rings are such a top trend today. By taking inspiration from the most famous eras in jewellery design, from the intricate detailing of Victorian times to the striking symmetrical and geometric shapes adored during the Art Deco movement, top designers have combined old-world romantic charm and modern-day manufacturing to create stunning collections of vintage style engagement rings.

In this feature, we’ll explore antique vintage style engagement rings, look at some of the terminology surrounding the subject of vintage jewellery, and discuss some of our favourite contemporary takes on these classic designs.

What is a vintage engagement ring?

The consensus is that, in the context of jewellery, the term vintage applies to any ring that is between 30 and 100 years old. Jewellery is recognised as antique when it is more than 100 years old so, for example, early Art Deco rings are just beginning to fall into this category. You may also come across the term 'estate' jewellery, which simply means it has been pre-owned.

However, the term ‘vintage’ has also become the name for a much-loved design style. At Ernest Jones, you’ll find a wide range of vintage style engagement rings that are the perfect combination of timeless, classic design and contemporary craftsmanship.

Where to find vintage engagement rings

If you’re wondering where you can buy vintage rings, the truth is they can be found in all sorts of places, from jewellers to antique dealers. However, it’s worth deciding whether you are shopping for an original antique or vintage ring, or a modern-day adaptation of the style.

If you are looking for a true vintage piece, then antique dealers tend to be the first port of call for many. However, whilst antique rings are steeped in history and are undeniably stunning, there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind. Firstly, you should seek assurances about the metal and the quality of the diamond or gemstone, but bear in mind that the four C’s have only been used since the 1940’s. Another consideration is re-sizing, which can be problematic in older rings, so you’ll need to take advice to see if this is safe, or even advisable. You should also make sure the setting is in good order, and the stone is secure.

You should also be aware that some ‘vintage’ rings may actually be costume jewellery. Sometimes called fashion jewellery, these were usually produced in cheaper materials, such as coloured or plated metals, often silver and brass, and using inexpensive gemstones. Asking whether a diamond or precious stone has a gemological report will, at least, give you some peace of mind.

What are vintage style engagement rings?

Vintage style engagement rings are modern designs that pull on vintage influences to recreate the much-loved vintage-look. At Ernest Jones, you’ll find expertly crafted vintage style engagement rings in a wide range of designs, stones, cuts and colours. From romantic vintage style ruby engagement rings to dazzling vintage style diamond engagement rings, you really are spoilt for choice. Many contemporary takes on classic designs get their inspiration from times gone by, but how do you know which period their design inspiration is drawn from?

Vintage engagement rings through history

Let's take a brief look at some of the key styles of the most influential eras:

1837-1901

The Victorian-style dates back to 1837-1901. Although diamonds were used in Victorian designs, they were still rare, so colourful gemstones, such as sapphire, emerald, and ruby, were widely favoured. Such stones tended to be used in a halo or cluster style, which gave the rings an elegant and feminine feel. As gold was readily available, engagement rings were often set in romantic yellow or rose gold.

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1901-1914

The Edwardian design era was relatively brief, 1901-1914, as it was cut short by World War I. On the whole, it shared similar design philosophies with the late Victorian era, but there was a sense of elegant intricacy in Edwardian design. Diamonds and, more commonly, gemstones were still widely used, but a significant difference in this era was the choice of precious metal. So, if you're attracted to vintage style platinum engagement rings, Edwardian style designs could be just the ticket.

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1920-1935

The transformation of design in the Art Deco period, 1920-1935, was dramatic. Bold and strong geometric lines created statement engagement rings that were guaranteed to attract attention. Emerald and baguette cut diamonds and gemstones were especially popular, and the designs perfectly encapsulate the sassiness and exuberance of the roaring 20’s. During this time, platinum was rare and expensive, so white gold became the precious metal of choice.

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1940s

From the late 1940s, the most significant single change was the rise of the diamond. This period saw diamonds become the de facto choice of stone, primarily due to their increased availability and the hugely successful De Beers advertising campaign that declared 'A Diamond is Forever'. However, there wasn’t a set style of the time and designers took their influence from a variety of sources. Therefore, you would often see delicate romantic solitaire rings from one designer, sitting alongside bold statement cluster styles from another.

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Present Day

Royalty and A-list celebrities have had a significant impact on the designs and demand in more recent times. For example, the popularity of vintage style sapphire engagement rings soared due to Kate Middleton’s stunningly romantic ring, once worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. Kate Middleton’s ring also inspired an increase in people looking for halo designs with other coloured gemstones, such as vintage style emerald engagement rings. Other celebrities who’ve opted for vintage inspired rings include Halle Berry, Blake Lively, Natalie Portman and Penelope Cruz.

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Which vintage style engagement ring should I buy?

Many trends come and go, but with their old-world romantic charm and unique look, it’s little wonder that vintage styles have stayed popular for decades. With rings available in a range of colours and vintage-inspired shapes, such as halo engagement rings and cluster engagement rings, as well as emerald or baguette cuts that are synonymous with the Art Deco period, it means you’ll be sure to find an eye-catching design that will perfectly suit your individual taste. To further add to the vintage flair, look out for designs with intricate settings, such as those with patterned metalwork or milgrain detailing.

If you have your heart set on a vintage style ring, at Ernest Jones, we have a range of beautiful and timeless designs from which to choose. From the romantic elegance of the Vera Wang LOVE Collection with its exquisite detailing, to the warm and vibrant colours of the Le Vian collection and our own Gemstone Collection. So, whatever your taste or budget, you'll be sure to find the engagement ring of your dreams.

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Choosing the perfect engagement ring is a deeply personal decision, and there are no hard and fast rules. At Ernest Jones, we understand the importance of finding that perfect ring, and we want to help make sure you have all the information you need to make that big decision.

If you need a helping hand when it comes to vintage engagement rings, or have some questions, why not book a complimentary virtual or in-store appointment with one of our dedicated jewellery experts. Or, brush up on your engagement ring knowledge with the help of our Engagement Ring Buyer’s Guide. You’ll also find lots of inspirational ideas and information in our Luxe Journal, from our Ultimate Proposal Guide to tips on how to shop for an engagement ring as a couple.

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