Explaining Vintage Engagement Rings Terms November 18, 2014 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

When you begin your search for a vintage engagement ring, most of the terms and phrases are likely to be incredibly unfamiliar and possibly even a little intimidating. This article should hopefully demystify the bulk of them. Some of the terms mentioned will also cross-over with modern jewelry as well. In order to help make the vintage engagement ring shopping process a little less daunting, we have provided our definitive vintage jewelry glossary.

Below, with short explanations, are most of the important terms that you should know before shopping for a vintage engagement ring.

Vintage Jewelry Terminology

Many of the topics listed below also have entire articles explaining them. Feel free to click the links to discover more about the topic.

Topics A – F

Antique Jewelry: A piece of jewelry from over 100 years ago. Jewelers may also refer to 80-year-old jewelry as antique.

Art Deco: An important jewelry era that was prevalent during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Art Deco is recognizable by its bold symmetry and harsh edges.

Bezel Set: A stone surrounded by a metal rim that encircles the perimeter of the stone (in contrast to prong-set).

Brilliance: The brightness or fire that comes from the diamond when the light hits it. Intenseness of brilliance is usually due to the quality of the diamond cut.

Estate: Estate refers to jewelry previously worn or sold by an estate. Estate jewelry can be vintage or antique.

Filigree: Ornamental jewelry work comprised of fine wires to form a delicate tracery. The fine wire filigree connects to each other with solder or laser.

Fire (or dispersion) in a Diamond: The flashes of colorful light that return from a diamond when the light hits it.

Four C’s (4 C’s): The four characteristics used by jewelers to describe the quality of your diamond: clarity, color, carat weight, and cut.

Topics H – P

Halo: A frame of smaller stones (usually diamonds, sapphires, rubies or emeralds) that surrounds the primary stone.

Inclusion: An impurity within the diamond, usually formed naturally. It is graded along a scale from IF – I3.

Matte Polish: A metal that is non-reflective, unpolished.

Milgrain (or Miligrain): Beading detail that embellishes the edges of jewelry metal.

Old Mine Cut (or Old Miners Cut): The diamond cut that preceded the Old European Cut, typically cushion and roundish shaped.

Old European Cut (Old Euro Cut): Old European cuts are round, have a small table, heavy crowns, and overall “deep” or “steep” proportions. These diamonds were popular from the 1890’s until the late 1940’s. The predecessor to the brilliant diamond.

Pavé: Tiny accent diamonds set closely together.

Prongs set: A stone that is held in place by curved metal claws. The most commonly used diamond setting technique.

Topics Q – Z

Retro Era: The jewelry fashion of the 1940’s, bearing bold and military-styled motifs.

Scintillation (or sparkle): Reflections of light that sparkle as the diamond moves.

Semi-mount: A ring that is already decorated with diamonds and has space for a central, featured diamond.

Setting (or mountings): This is the part of the ring on which the diamonds sit and holds the diamond in place.

Solitaire: A diamond engagement ring with one featured (center) diamond.

Vintage: A piece of jewelry that is over than 20 years in age.

Final Thoughts

While this list doesn’t include all the vintage jewelry terminology out there, it should be enough to get you started. (It is also an evolving article.)

If you want a complete, in-depth, understanding of vintage jewelry, take a look at our blog or our education page.

Did we miss something? Feel free to add some Engagement Ring Terms in the comments below!