When it comes to fashion and interior-design trends, vintage and retro are the latest buzzwords in the consumer market. Likewise in the jewelry industry, there had also been an increasing demand for vintage style engagement rings.
Stunning vintage inspired diamond rings with beautiful workmanship from Brilliant Earth.
First of all, I will admit to a certain degree of bias because of my soft spot for vintage styled jewelry.
I believe the resurgence of vintage engagement rings is attributed to their classic and timeless appearances. Somehow, vintage rings seem to have a magical ability to captivate people with feelings of romance and love.
Don’t you think so too?
Many styles of vintage engagement rings feature beautiful and highly intricate details that make them stand out from mass produced, characterless designs in the market.
The fact is, many modern jewelry manufacturers no longer make rings like they used to. This is because the intricate details are often too expensive to create on a large scale basis and many craftsmen no longer have the expertise to create these rings.
In today’s blog post, you are going to find out how the vintage diamond rings from different eras look like and how they differ in their design.
I’m also going to review a recently purchased vintage diamond ring with phenomenal craftsmanship and hand-engraved motifs. Lastly, I will show you how and where you can buy original, one-of-a-kind vintage jewelry pieces that will take your breath away.
Here is a list of topics we will be covering:
Broadly speaking, antique diamond engagement rings can be classified into 6 distinct eras: Georgian (1714-1837), Victorian (1837-1901), Art Nouveau (1891-1914), Edwardian (1894-1915), Art Deco (1920-1930) and Retro (1930-1945).
Throughout history, jewelry styles have been shaped and molded by cultural movements and fashion trends. Let’s take a quick look at how jewelry evolved during these periods.
The Georgian era was named after Kings George I, II, and III of England where fine jewelry was only worn by royalty and the rich. Georgian era antique engagement rings were typically made of gold or silver and were mounted with precious gemstones such as sapphires, garnets and amethysts. Diamonds were also used and the most prevalent cuts include the rose cut and old mine cut.
During that period of time, the cutting technology available was at its infancy and the gemstones were often crudely finished with no consistent shape or sizes. As a result, the craftsmen had to custom make each engagement ring setting to accommodate the shape of the gemstone.
Another distinctive feature of Georgian jewelry is the use of closed-back settings where the ring envelopes the entire bottom of the gemstone. Metal foils were also frequently added to help reflect light and manipulate the gemstone’s color.
The Victorian era is named after Queen Victoria of England who had a love for jewelry. Her exquisite taste and style heavily influenced the jewelry that was made during this period of time. There was also a surge in the middle class population and jewelry was broadly more accessible.
Victorian rings can range from simple solitaire settings to intricately designed rings. These rings often feature engraving and ornate design motifs like acrostics, serpents, flowers and hearts. Due to the discovery of gold and diamond mines, the use of yellow gold and diamonds were also prevalent in Victorian jewelry.
The Art Nouveau period is one of the most creative times for jewelry and many designers were heavily inspired by elements of nature. Antique diamond engagement rings of this period can be identified with the use of motifs with flowers, leaves and even insects.
Enamel and unusual colored gemstones were also frequently found in Art Nouveau jewelry and asymmetry designs were also very popular. Breaking from tradition, Art Nouveau jewelers also placed more emphasis on settings and viewed jewelry as pieces of art creations.
Named after King Edward, Edwardian antique diamond ring styles kept much of the influence from the late Victorian era styles. With advances in metal fabrication technology, jewelers began using metals like platinum and white gold.
Unlike yellow gold which was prevalent in the Victorian era, platinum and white gold were much stronger and allowed jewelers to incorporate graceful filigree work, lace-like patterns and milgrain features in their designs.
Many of the designs that are featured in this era are “white on white” which basically meant the use of white diamonds or pearls that are set in white colored metals.
Art Deco diamond engagement rings are arguably the most popular styles of vintage diamond rings as they were heavily focused on visual design. Unlike Edwardian jewelry pieces that are decorative and feminine in appearance, the Art Deco designs are all about aggressive geometric shapes and strong symmetry.
During this period of time, the French cut (square) and trilliant cut (triangle) were extremely popular styles for polishing gemstones. The use of abstract elements and contrasting colored gemstones also brought a lot of vibrancy into jewelry designs.
Technically speaking, retro isn’t a design period in itself. Retro jewelry is also called “cocktail jewelry” as they tend to be very large and bold looking. This was the result of Hollywood’s golden age where women sought jewelry that were eye-catching and extravagant looking.
Retro era engagement rings often feature geometric elements that were found during the Art Deco era but were softened with curves and sleek setting finishing. Due to World War II, there was a scarcity of platinum and as a result, retro era rings were often made with gold alloys instead.
Rose gold was particularly popular with jewelers and the vintage diamond rings of this era were often set with a combination of colored gemstones and diamonds. Ring designs were largely inspired by the industrial revolution and mechanical objects like chains and padlocks.
Brilliant Earth is one of the largest online jewelers and specializes in ethically sourced fine jewelry. They also offer a vast collection of sophisticated settings that are made to order.
Check out some of their beautiful vintage ring designs below…
The Rosabel ring features 3 round accent diamonds on each side of its shanks and showcases a delicate hand-sculpted milgrain design. Although it is available in different colors (white gold, yellow gold), I personally find the rose gold version to be most appealing.
The 3-stone Heirloom ring features shoulders with sublime milgrain details. The entire ring is also lined with a stunning array of pavé diamonds and creates a stunning presentation of the center stone.
The Paloma ring is a charming design that features 12 accent diamonds nested within marquise shaped frames. From the side profile, you can also see a uniquely sculpted shank design that runs through the entire ring.
Now, I know you are probably wondering: “How good is the quality of jewelry offered by Brilliant Earth?” or “Is it really safe to buy an engagement ring online?”
Well, that’s what I set out to discover when I placed an order for an 18k white gold ring at BrilliantEarth.com. After spending time to browse through Brilliant Earth’s vintage engagement ring settings, I settled on the Hudson ring.
The Hudson ring is part of Brilliant Earth’s Antique Collection and the Customer Favorites Collection. It features hand-carved motifs along its shanks and is available in a variety of metals.
Using Brilliant Earth’s “Build Your Own Engagement Ring” feature, I handpicked a GIA certified 0.55 carat, F color, SI1 clarity, super ideal round brilliant cut diamond to complete the ring.
Upon request, here are some additional diamond information which was provided to me:
Photograph of GIA graded diamond at 20X
Corresponding GIA grading report #2161964975
Note: besides ethically mined diamonds, Brilliant Earth is also the largest online retailer of lab-created diamonds in the United States. For people who want to minimize the environmental impact of your jewelry purchase, lab grown diamonds are definitely something you want to consider.
Upon placing the order, the ring took roughly 3 weeks for fabrication and was delivered securely by Fedex. I made a quick video of the unboxing process to show what you can expect to receive.
Using my newly purchased light box, I managed to capture detailed images of the ring. What I really love about the ring is the amazing craftsmanship and care that was taken to create it.
Don’t believe me? Check out the incredible workmanship of the ring for yourself below… Bear in mind that these images are taken at high magnification and will reveal discerning details of the ring.
Top view: the shanks gradually broaden to create an accent effect on the center diamond.
The intricate patterns on the ring’s shanks are meticulously hand-engraved.
Side profile view of the ring with floral-inspired details.
Milgrain borders of the ring adds a touch of class to the overall appearance.
Having scrutinized the ring in person, I can tell you that the standards of Brilliant Earth’s ring fabrication process are among the best I had seen in the industry.
And this really speaks volumes about their product quality; considering that I had reviewed hundreds of jewelers which include big international brands like Tiffany and Cartier.
Frequent readers of Beyond4Cs.com will know that I’m very particular about a diamond’s cut. When buying diamonds, I expect nothing less than stones with the best sparkle and beauty.
Idealscope image of the diamond indicates optimal light return and contrast.
ASET image reveals details of a bright and sparkly diamond.
Besides the ability to customize and build your own engagement ring, Brilliant Earth also has a big collection of pre-set vintage wedding rings and one-of-a-kind antique pieces.
What really sets them apart is the availability of ring designs in specific eras such as Victorian, Edwardian, Retro and Art Deco. This is ideal for people who are looking for a unique jewelry piece with a history behind it.
And it gets better…
Brilliant Earth has more than 800 unique designs available for you to cherry pick your dream engagement ring from. This means that no matter what your personal tastes are, you will definitely find something of your liking!
Here are some of my favorite designs:
The Sara Ring takes on a floral design and is one of my favorite pieces in the Art Deco engagement rings collection. It makes clever use of milgrained borders and accent diamonds to create a flamboyant appearance.
The Sileny ring is a blast from the past. It features a circular mount with French cut diamonds and utilizes 3 red rubies in the center of the ring. With careful placements of pearls set at the edges of the ring, this amazing ring exudes class and an air of romance.
This nostalgic looking antique ring from the Victorian era showcases 3 opals that are mounted in a straight row. To create a color contrast, 2 rubies are set adjacent to the center opal which adds to the allure of the piece.
Many of Brilliant Earth’s antique diamond rings are one-of-a-kind and there’s only a single piece available for each design. Once it’s bought by someone else, it’s gone and the best you can do is to request for a reproduction to be made.
Click here to browse and select an engagement ring that’s uniquely yours! If there’s a particular ring design you like, my advice is to move fast and take immediate action in order to avoid disappointment.
Good luck with your search!
If you found this post to be helpful, feel free to share it around via Facebook or Twitter. Lastly, if you have any questions, simply leave a comment below and I’ll get straight back to you.
Hi Paul, excellent videos. Thanks for taking the time to post them :) Brilliant Earth has some of the best vintage engagement rings that are beautifully designed. However, I am looking for something specific.
Do you know of any jewelers or retailers in the New York district where I can buy old miner cut diamonds that are graded by GIA?
Unfortunately, I don’t. The New York diamond district is a shoppers trap unless you know exactly what you are doing. Anyway, if you are looking for Old miner cut diamonds, this link should be able to provide more info:
Is there a reliable way to find out a diamond’s country of origin?
It depends on the vendor as well as the type of diamond you are referring to. Certain diamonds have certain composition that only exists in certain parts of the world. These are largely gemological tests. For the general consumer buying a diamond, a vendor like Brilliant Earth or James Allen (for their Canadian diamonds) do offer some supporting documents that tells you the country of origin.
Do antique style engagement rings require additional restoration works or maintenance steps? I’m afraid of buying a 2nd hand antique diamond ring only for the metal setting to break or fall apart. What about scratches or milgrain details that may get worn down over time?
Yes, they do require a proper check up especially on the integrity of the prongs that hold the diamond in place. Make sure you check that they are not loose and jewelry pieces from an older era typically have metal settings that may not be properly made.
As for scratches and milgrain details, I think it should be fine to leave them as it is for the rustic appeal. If that is a concern to you, you can always get it buffed by a jeweler to polish up the surfaces and even send them for repairs to “restore” the milgrain. I personally won’t do this with an antique piece as it defeats the purpose of buying one in the first place if I wanted something shiny and new looking.