10 Things To Know Before Buying An Antique Engagement Ring

February 8, 2017 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog – Tags:

There is rarely anything as beautiful as a well cared for, well-presented antique engagement ring, but what should you know about before committing to buy what may well be the third most expensive purchase you ever make, after your home and car?

1. SET YOUR BUDGET
2. GET ALL THE DETAILS
3. KNOW YOUR DATES
4. STRIKE UP THE BAND
5. CONSIDERING COLORS
6. MAKE IT ABOUT YOU
7. PERIODIC PERFECTION
8. ONE SIZE MAY NOT FIT ALL
9. REPUTATION MAY BE EVERYTHING
10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE YOUR TIME

1. SET YOUR BUDGET

Antique Engagement RingThe road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. We’re not saying buying an antique engagement ring will set you on a path that will be quite so devastating, but it’s easy to be seduced by a beautiful ring, and you may end up spending far more than you bargained for. So, before you even start to look for a ring, make sure you know how much not only you want to spend, but how much you are actually able to spend.

Before you know it, when looking at antique diamond rings, your budget has unintentionally crept up a few dollars here and there, so stand firm. If something is just out of your budget range, by all means tell the dealer that, and they will work with you or find you a more practical ring.

Despite all we’ve just said, do consider bending ever so slightly if the ring you want is a little more than you budgeted for. Hopefully, this will be the only antique engagement ring you’ll ever buy, so stay flexible and sensible in equal measure.

2. GET ALL THE DETAILS

Art Deco Engagement RingDiamonds (and other stones) come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with many antique engagement rings having old mine or a similar style of cut. It’s not so easy for the untrained eye, however, to be able to assess not just the cut, but the carat weight, color and clarity. These 4 Cs are the cornerstone of cut diamond trading, and the cost/value can vary considerably with differences that may be difficult – or even impossible – to see with the naked eye.

The cut itself, especially in an antique engagement ring, may not affect the price significantly, but the other 3 Cs most certainly will. Any reputable dealer will be able to produce a grading report or appraisal for the diamond(s) in any engagement ring, which will contain all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Click here for the complete guide to understanding antique diamonds.

3. KNOW YOUR DATES

An engagement ring has to be a minimum age in order to be described as “antique”. If a ring is less than 80 – 100 years old, then it isn’t antique, plain and simple. Over 20 years but less than 100 years old would normally cause a ring (or any object, actually) to be classed as “vintage”. Confusingly, though, objects that are second hand are called estate, regardless of whether they are vintage or not, although most estate jewelry is usually also vintage. Click here to read more about these terms.

And why does this matter so much? Well, if you have two very similar rings, in similar condition but one is antique and the other vintage, it’s likely that the antique version will command a premium over the vintage price. This might lead some less scrupulous dealers to label some pieces as antique when they are not at least 80 years old, so always ask and, if the year of manufacture cannot be accurately determined, be wary.

4. STRIKE UP THE BAND

Engagement RingAlthough both gold and silver are common metals used in the manufacture of engagement rings, diamonds work particularly well with platinum as the choice of metal for the band. This is for practical reasons as well as aesthetic. Although a little more prone to scratching than gold, platinum is also much less prone to bending and shaping, and so tends to survive in better condition into old age. Platinum rings also produce a patina over time and for that reason many antique engagement rings ring enthusiasts will always prefer platinum.

Because ring makers know the power of the diamond/platinum combination, the practice of producing “white gold” has been common for well over a century. The issue with antique rings that have white gold bands is that the metal will be an alloy of gold, silver and nickel. Nickel can cause significant adverse reactions with prolonged skin contact for some people, so try and establish whether this will be a problem. If the proposal is to be a surprise, stick to platinum, as it is far less likely to cause skin irritation.

5. CONSIDERING COLORS

Sardinia Aquamarine RingIt’s easy, when thinking of engagement rings, to think “diamond” and nothing else, but the fashion for just using diamonds in engagement rings came during the 1930s. Before that, and so is the case with many antique engagement rings, various precious stones were used. Although the inclusion of diamonds will still be common, they will often be matched with rubies, emeralds, sapphires or other stones. The vivid colors of such stones make a bold and beautiful contrast to the purity and clarity of the diamond. Indeed, many antique engagement rings will have colored gems as the centerpiece and use smaller diamonds as a compliment to the main stone.

Keep an open mind, and you will find lots of stunning antique rings in which diamonds aren’t necessarily the star of the show. After all, if it’s good enough for William and Kate!

6. MAKE IT ABOUT YOU

All too often, jewelry is designed to be worn as a symbol of status and wealth, but an engagement ring is far too personal for monetary value to dictate your choice. We’ve seen many antique engagement rings which cost a fraction of the “bling rings” that have become an unfortunate side effect of the cult of celebrity we are currently bombarded with, and yet carry far more class and style than those 25 carat diamond affairs that fill the gossip pages.

For surprise proposals, know your partner’s tastes. For more planned decisions, think about the rings that are currently worn and, if the desire is to continue wearing, what might complement those. Ring stacking is very popular today, and there’s no reason why your antique engagement ring can’t be a part of that, if it’s your thing.

7. PERIODIC PERFECTION

The Art Deco period has proven to be a very popular period for engagement rings and, although the period itself dates from around 1920-1935 and therefore not yet considered antique, rings were starting to appear from 1910 onward that can comfortably be defined as Art Deco.

Art Nouveau rings are truly antique, and the floral, delicate designs are very different to their more industrial-revolution inspired counterparts. Another option are rings from the Edwardian period, when parting diamonds and platinum started to grow in popularity. The point is to do a bit of research, see what you like and know what you wish to look for. It brings us back to buying a ring for you. After all, experts can advise, but only you can know for sure what you want.

8. ONE SIZE MAY NOT FIT ALL

11136 on FingerIt’s true to say that, 100 years ago, people were generally smaller in stature and this includes a tendency towards smaller hands and slimmer fingers. Depending on the setting used for the stones in a diamond engagement ring, it may not be practical – or even possible – to resize a ring more than one or two sizes up or down. Assuming resizing is possible, ask if the jeweler will resize it for free. Most will, but some will make a charge, so be sure to check.

Generally speaking, if the jeweler recommends not resizing a ring, or at least limiting its scope, take their advice. Pushing a resizing past a certain point could result in loose, or even lost, stones, so be prepared to sacrifice your choice on the basis of your engagement ring lasting a lifetime, and doing so fully intact.

9. REPUTATION MAY BE EVERYTHING

Wherever you buy your antique engagement ring, make sure the dealer is reputable. Membership of recognized trade associations is often a good sign, and means details information about the dealer may be available.

Does the dealer offer any kind of guarantee against loosening of the stones or other defects that may not be obvious at the time of purchase? Does the dealer have a good local reputation? Do you get a good feeling when talking to the dealer? If not, trust your instinct. Good dealers are not in short supply, but neither are bad ones, so take a little care and choose wisely.

10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE YOUR TIME

Unless you stumble across that absolute, must-have antique engagement ring early on in the process, take the time to shop around. Not because of trying to find a better price for your purchase, necessarily, but to garner an appreciation of the range of rings that will be available.

Unless you have gained the knowledge to be able to compare rings at least from an aesthetic point of view, you may be faced with seeing something you like more within days of buying your engagement ring. Not that you should, or even would, be disappointed with your choice of engagement ring, but why even take that chance.

Set a full day aside, or even two, and have a ton of fun browsing. Pick both a dealer and design that you like, and take it from there.


Click here to view the Estate Diamond Jewelry collection of Antique Engagement Rings.


 

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