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The Complete Guide to Buying Vintage Engagement Rings

Has buying vintage engagement rings ever crossed your mind? Do you think your partner would love for you to pop the question with something else rather than a classic diamond ring?

According to an article featured in Vogue, consumer behavior towards buying engagement rings has changed. More buyers are seeking alternatives to the classic engagement ring just because they want something ‘different’.

Now, shopping for an engagement ring has evolved from just diamond rings to looking for something more unique. Thus, the growing popularity of vintage engagement rings in the market. And this is a complete guide to help you maneuver through this different and unique engagement ring market.

The Complete Guide to Buying Vintage Engagement Rings

The perception towards engagement rings now varies depending on what generation a consumer is a part of. Most parents and grandparents would prefer a good ol’ large and clear diamonds for they were highly thought of when they were younger.

On the other hand, young couples today tend to steer away from their family’s preferences to find their own ‘taste’. Hence, the search for alternatives—which include vintage engagement rings.

To help you understand the vintage jewelry market, here’s the ultimate guide to buying vintage engagement rings.

Why Your Partner would Love Vintage Engagement Rings

First things first. If you think you are on the brink of choosing vintage engagement rings over others, let us provide additional possible reasons why your fiancée will love them:

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  1. Women love a good story behind their wedding essentials. It may just be the perfect candidate for the bride’s traditional hunt for ‘something old’ during the wedding preparation. Big plus if the ring carries a lot of stories from the past. Imagine sporting a ring from the 1980s or even before from the first world war. It would be a great topic during the engagement party and every dinner meeting you and your beau will be attending before the wedding. Who wouldn’t want to know an interesting back story about a large Emerald stone wrapped around your finger? Prepare to re-tell the story tirelessly.
  2. Women want jewelry with greater value. Sure, a diamond ring will always be seen as ‘priceless’ thanks to that legendary De Beers Group Ad. However, most vintage rings have one thing to boast about: resale value. Vintage rings appreciate their value yearly, depending of course, on the metal they’re made of and stones on them—especially rare ones. It is advisable to fetch advice from a trusted jeweler, curator or dealer before you announce to the whole world that you have a gold mine in your hands.
  3. Women want charm and romance. What could exude more charm than a romantic vintage engagement ring? The thing about vintage rings is that they can give women a sense of royalty since the trend of wearing vintage rings all started when sons from royal families gave priceless heirlooms as engagement rings to their future wives. Soon enough, more women wished they receive rings like those of Princess Diana’s or Queen Elizabeth’s. Still, it is best to think of your fiancée’s preferences. Your girlfriend will surely make a big statement donning a vintage ring.
  4. Women want their own family heirloom. The beauty of having a piece of vintage engagement rings is that it is a beautiful investment for future generations. People always want to leave something behind; oftentimes these are jewelry, paintings, sculptures, and even pieces of furniture. Hence, buying a vintage engagement ring to pass on to future kids and grandkids is a great idea. It’s nicer to tell interesting and romantic stories from the history of another woman from another family, but it would be way sweeter to have your own engagement/marriage love story told over and over again with gusto.

What does a Vintage Engagement Ring look like

The real meaning of the word ‘vintage’ is easily confused with the meanings of the words ‘antique’, ‘historic’ or ‘passé’. To clarify, jewelry experts and appraisers define vintage rings like those that have been pre-worn, pre-owned and have aged from between 20 to 100 years. Rings from the past a hundred years are already considered antique. Simply put, it would mean that rings made and preserved from the year 1920 to the year 1980 fall into the vintage criteria of our present time.

Vintage rings are quite easy to spot. They would often radiate the style of the era when they were created. They are adorned with exquisitely intricate designs that make them unique and unlike any other ring available in the market. The stones embedded in them aren’t just limited to diamonds. Most probably, you will find vintage engagement rings adorned with jewels of different colors, shapes, and sizes.

Also, don’t be surprised to find some age marks or some wearing on them since they have been handed down for years. As much as it is tempting to restore them to be ‘as good as new’, their beauty and character are derived from their imperfections. These ‘imperfections’ are what make these pieces vintage. Although, despite their wear and tear, they are still bestowed with high-quality value.

Understanding Center Stones on Vintage Engagement Rings

The size of the center stones highly depends on which period the rings are from. Each period has definite design aesthetics to describe its style. Not all vintage engagement rings sport a big diamond as a center stone. You would find that a variety of stones would also fit the bill.

Aside from the diamond, other popular vintage ring stones are emerald, garnet, ruby, topaz, sapphire, aquamarine, and cubic zirconia. Their bold colors give character and life to vintage rings. However, white diamonds (ranked D) still rule as the highest valued stone of all. Just choose from diamond ring collections from the year 1931 up to the most recent to determine diamond grading. Read our article about the easy ways to understand the 4Cs of shopping diamonds

Other stones like pearl, onyx, and opal may also be used as center stones, but experts do not give a nod to this idea. These stones are not exactly durable enough to stand daily wear and may end up suffering damages such as scratch marks. A final tip is to always choose quality oversize. A center stone of just the right size is always better than a large stone of lower value.

Most vintage engagement ring bands are made of gold, silver, and platinum. These metals were popular then as much as they are popular now. These three have their own advantages and disadvantages.

For example, gold and silver may be less susceptible to scratches but platinum holds its shape better over time; the main reason why most consumers prefer diamond ring bands to be made out of platinum. Typically, an 18-karat gold band is the best choice for hand-me-down rings.

How does one style differ from the others? Which vintage engagement ring will well-represent your love and adoration for your girlfriend? Which style should chart the beginning of your marriage? You might just see the perfect type of vintage ring for your girl’s dream proposal in our list below.

Victorian Engagement Rings (1837-1901)

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            Inspiration from this time has Queen Elizabeth’s name all over it. It wasn’t only her taste that made a great impact on the rings’ designs, but also the rich history that transpired during those years. Until now, many jewelry designers look unto this age for inspiration as they create their own jewelry brand. Given that the supply of gold in this period was abundant, a studded, shiny yellow or rose gold band was what every bride and bride’s mother wanted (or demanded) for their dream engagement.

Diamonds were obviously the first choice as the centerpiece of the ring. After the discovery of diamonds, these precious raw cut jewels from South Africa skyrocketed straight to fame and the expectations of women towards engagement rings given by men were never the same. If your bride is interested in rows of brilliantly cut diamonds and some bits and pieces of stunning pearls as a surprising addition, go for the gold—Victorian style.

Edwardian Engagement Rings (1901-1915)

            Also known as the Belle Epoque period, the Edwardian style paved the way for Platinum to rise as the main metal used for wedding and engagement bands. During this time, gold still catered to a big market but remained in the sidelines. The Edwardian’s cluster and foliate design introduced Lacey and Mille grain patterns, filigree and pops of color from different gemstones.

This type of vintage style aims to exude overwhelming luxury to its consumers. It was born exactly during the ‘Beautiful era’. Edwardian engagements rings have since given women the feeling of royalty; considering that art and wealth were thriving so much at this time. Diamond was still the focal point of Edwardian rings, brushed with a bit of Japanese art design–which meant softer lines and patterns to re-create nature’s movement.

Art-Deco Engagement Rings (1915-1935)

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Next on the list is the phenomenal Art-Deco design. This style became so popular because of its contrasting features. Art-deco jewelry did not have soft cuts and lines. Instead, its features included bold and sharp cuts at its angles depicting attractive geometric patterns. Some patterns appear as grids, octagons or fans—which are already considered ‘modern’ during that era. From the big gemstones and diamond cuts, you can feel the distinct inspiration coming from a glamorous life in Paris.

Art-deco rings also sport other beautiful stones such as emeralds or sapphires, which are cut to a chunk. Its sides are filled with smaller stones to minimize signs of metals.

Retro Engagement Rings (1935-mid 1950)

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Dubbed as the period of innovation, the Retro era commenced as great minds thought of more ways to reposition gold as the primary medium for ring bands in the market. Jewelers were left with no choice since platinum was mostly used for weaponry and machinery. It became their pleasure to ‘try out new things’ especially as they were getting inspired by what they see in other countries and cultures.

Retro was somehow also a fusion between the styles from war and modern periods; balancing both romantic and geometric motifs. Diamonds were cut down to a smaller size as the ring’s centerpiece, particularly in a baguette-cut.

Are Vintage Engagement Rings Affordable?

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Now, everything just boils down to price. Essentially, buying a vintage engagement ring promotes sustainability. As a consumer, you are deciding to avoid using up resources in creating a new ring.

You’ll be able to find vintage rings with prices ranging from $1000 to $2000, but rare and authentic vintage rings are more likely to cost more. Diamond rings with greater value are usually more expensive than vintage rings. Of course, if you want a D-grade, flawless diamond, be prepared to pay beyond five thousand dollars. Take the usual advice most experts insist on: to buy the best ring based on your set budget.

Additional Tips for Buying Vintage Engagement Rings

Before you shop onlinehere are some final reminders:

  • DO make sure to check the ring’s over-all condition thoroughly. Be wary of damages and wear marks.
  • DO consult jewelry experts and professionals (you’re free to ask for secondary opinion) to avoid buying synthetic diamonds, replicas or vintage-inspired rings instead of a genuine vintage ring.
  • DO check how strong the settings of the stones are. The tighter the claws, the more secure the stones.
  • DON’T forget to seek an official certification to authenticate diamonds.
  • DON’T base a vintage ring’s beauty on how large the center stone is. Always consider your girlfriend’s personal style. You’ll be able to get a hint of the style she likes from her favorite daily jewelry.
  • DO your homework and browse through possible vintage ring styles she’ll like and narrow down your choices to two rings with different designs; then, take your pick. This will eliminate the headache you’ll get from always looking at plenty of options.
  • DO decide after you’ve taken some time to think about it.
  • DO ask for a money-back guarantee aside from certification, you might just luckily come across a dealer that offers one.
  • DO learn about what your girlfriend’s skin is allergic to. Your surprise proposal may go wrong if her skin is easily irritated to some metals like white gold.
  • DO ask if the jewelry dealer can resize the ring to fit your beau’s finger. It may not be a good idea to resize some vintage rings.
  • DO trust your gut. You’ll know when you’ve found the one.


Vintage Engagement Rings are a great alternative to your common diamond ring for your engagement. You can find unique, one of a kind, and significantly valuable rings that would be perfect for your future fiance. And this is a great guide to help you get just the right ring to make your partner’s engagement dreams come true

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