Antique Engagement Ring
by Jessica Cuccioli
A guide to understanding and buying an antique engagement ring
“Little Miss Expert”
But it won’t be “Miss” for long. Just this fall, I got engaged, so I know how exciting it is when that engagement ring is slipped on your finger! And though my ring is not an antique engagement ring, I do happen to know a little about diamonds and jewelry in general; my mom is a jeweler, studying to be a gemologist. Her favorite stone? Why, a diamond, of course!
What is an “antique engagement ring”?
When we think antique, sometimes we think…grandma. Well, if your grandmother is over 50 years old, then she, technically, could be called an antique. Nina Callaway, a freelance wedding planner, says, “An 'antique' engagement ring specifically refers to one over 50 years old,”
As opposed to an “estate” ring, which refers to anything less than 50 years old.
Callaway points out the three types of antique engagement rings: the
- Victorian antique engagement ring (1835-1900), the
- Edwardian antique engagement ring (1900-1920), and the
- Art Deco antique engagement ring (1920-1935).
What makes each of these decades’ rings different is revolution; new inventions, machines, explorations and discoveries. The advanced devices used today by gemologists allow them to see the imperfections of stones that, back then, was not possible.
But that didn’t make the rings less beautiful. Some of the most beautiful, exceptional craftsmanship I’ve ever seen in jewelry is in antique engagement rings.
To the four “C’s” and beyond
When it comes to the stone in an antique engagement ring, there are four important things to look at when choosing. (And believe me, my mother has nailed this in my mind for all eternity.)
Those four “C’s” are: Clarity, Color, Carat, and Cut.
Clarity deals with the presence or non-presence of internal flaws, such as cracks, fissures, and so on. The better the clarity, the better the stone. The better the stone, the more valuable. Some stones are known to have less clarity, like emeralds.
The color is just that. Many stones, especially diamonds, come in so many different colors you’d be amazed. Antique engagement rings may have rose or yellow diamonds because it was popular at the time.
The carat of a stone is its weight. The more carats, the bigger the stone, depending on the style of the ring. For example, you could find an antique engagement ring with three small stones that equal 2 carats. A typical engagement ring’s weight is anywhere from ½ carat or less to 2 carats.
The cut of the stone is how it was faceted to allow light to reflect from it. It could also refer to the shape. A princess cut is square shaped. There is also the round cut, and the square cut (like princess but longer). Stones can be cut to look and be shaped like anything. But the more facets, the more light is reflected from it.
And of course there is the actual ring and mounting (what holds the stone), too. Pay attention to this when buying; sometimes the craftsman ship that goes into the mounting alone is worth a lot! Surprisingly, you will probably spend less on an original antique engagement ring than have a craftsman replicate one from that era.
Some more good advise from Callaway: “If you are on a budget, but want the look of a larger diamond, consider an antique engagement ring from the 1930s or 40s. The diamonds in these bands were often set in an elaborately carved setting which made the diamond appear larger.” Pretty smart, huh?
Buying an antique engagement ring
I think I live by this maxim: “Always ask questions!” Especially when buying something like an antique engagement ring. Get it in writing. Get a receipt, and ask about the return policy. And, if your antique engagement ring was pricey, you might also want to check into insuring it.
There are lots of places you can buy an antique engagement ring, like estate sales, antique shops, jewelers, and even online.
Remember, it’s forever…
When it comes down to it, what’s really important when buying an antique engagement ring is that you and your fiance love it. An engagement ring (besides the wedding band) is the only ring not so much bought for the value, but for the meaning. It’s about memories. It’s about a lifetime together.
It’s about love.
Want to learn more about antique engagement rings?
is a Southwest Florida journalism student. She
was raised a Messianic Jew, and studied at a Christian
Bible college for a year. Ms.
Cuccioli has also been published in the Charlotte
Sun. Best of all, she was engaged to be married
in Fall 2004.