What Are Vintage Engagement Rings?

September 23, 2017 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog

For the past 30 years, vintage jewelry has been a growing trend. As of 2010, vintage engagement rings have been one of the hottest types of engagement rings on the market. Discover what vintage rings are and why the market can’t get enough of them.

Fortunately though, in professional jewelry circles, everyone pretty much agrees on what is vintage and what isn’t.

Vintage Engagement Ring Definition

Vintage Engagement Ring on Table

A vintage engagement ring is a marriage proposal ring that is older than 20 years in age. A vintage ring is usually second-hand, although, technically it can be old and unused.

With jewelry, anything from 20 years until 99 years is vintage. Anything older than 99 years, is both vintage and antique. There is no specific quality or monetary value in place when labeling something vintage. It is simply the age of a piece which will determine its categorization as vintage. This includes engagement rings. For a full rundown of the technical differences between vintage jewelry and antique jewelry, click here.

Because age is the defining factor, vintage can – and does – cut across many eras of design, and an engagement ring being of a particular style doesn’t in itself classify it as vintage or anything else.

Understanding the Vintage Ring Eras

Art Nouveau Era Rings

Technically, art nouveau engagement rings will mostly qualify as antique, as the period was coming to an end by 1910, but some designers were still producing engagement and other rings for several years afterward.

Art nouveau uses motifs of flowers, leaves, insects, and other natural objects. These motifs are usually emphasized by soft, flowing curves and highly decorative finishes.

Precious stones, enamel, and different metals were all used to create art nouveau jewelry, and engagement rings of the time often involved unusually artistic settings.

Edwardian Era Rings

The Edwardian era of design ran very much alongside art nouveau, spanning the first 20 years of the 20th century. At this point, all Edwardian Engagement Rings have since become officially antique in addition to vintage.

Edwardian ring design had its roots very much in the rich upper classes of London. Where Art Nouveau used curves and flowers, Edwardian style went straight for the ‘bling’ approach. Subtle colors are commonplace. It wasn’t unusual for engagement rings to be very large and to have 3 or 4 different colored stones in the setting.

When describing Edwardian, jewelry experts will say that it’s “not art nouveau, but not art deco”.

To view our collection of Edwardian Rings, click here.

Art Deco Era Rings

Art Deco is probably the most popular jewelry design period in history. It is still very much in demand until today. Art Deco Engagement Rings brought all the power and success of the industrial revolution to life in diamond form. Deco placed edges where there were curves and squares where previously there were rounds. There is a focus on noisy aggression in the design where previously there was the equivalent of subdued lighting and soft music.

The art deco period officially ran from about 1920 to 1935. This is quite a short time for a style period, even by today’s standards. Despite this, the advancement in manufacturing methods meant that many more vintage engagement rings were available.

Click here to view our collection of Art Deco Rings.

Retro Era Rings

Technically, retro isn’t a design period in itself, and usually describes modern items that mimic a previous style period. The term “retro” refers to the jewelry from the mid-1940s. The Retro Era coincided with the rise of Hollywood celebrities and the desire for big and bold engagement rings. These jewelry pieces could be shown off to a media with a voracious appetite for anything that would sell papers or look good in a newsreel.

The Great Depression of the 1930s had reduced spending on diamond rings to an all-time low. Less expensive semi-precious stones such as aquamarine or amethyst suddenly found themselves center stage with small diamonds being relegated to a supporting role.

Designers often produced sets of jewelry that complemented each other. If a movie star wanted a particular ring design, it was common that a necklace, bracelet, and brooch would go with it. This helped jewelers to recoup some of the losses they experienced in what was an undervalued marketplace.

Shop Retro Engagement Rings.

Learn More About Vintage Jewelry

Vintage Ring Art Deco Style

Vintage jewelry is a massive topic. There are so much to learn and each subject is immense. After learning what a vintage engagement ring is, our recommendation is to start learning how vintage diamonds were made.

Here are a few more topics for the beginner vintage jewelry addict:

Click here to browse through our collection of vintage and estate jewelry.

Final Thoughts

Vintage Halo Diamond Ring With Foliage

As you see, vintage jewelry and engagement rings cover a wide variety of styles and ages. As more and more vintage rings become antique, so more not-yet-vintage rings take that next step. The sad news is many rings will never become vintage. So many rings will become damaged and lost. The rest of the rings will become family heirlooms and will be given from one generation to the next.

Very few genuine vintage rings will end up making it to an estate collector. And that’s what makes vintage engagement rings so desirable and elusive.