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If you are reading this, you are wanting to learn more about vintage Art Deco engagement rings. This handy guide will help you in your search. The table of contents below shows the contents of this guide, simply click to be taken to that section, or read from the top.
What is a Vintage Ring?
Vintage is defined as anything that is 20- 100 years old. Anything older than that is considered antique.
What is The Art Deco Period?
Art Deco is a design period that occurred from 1915 - 1935, replacing the French-originated movement Art Nouveau. The term ‘Art Deco’ is derived from an art and design event held in Paris in 1925 - the Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. The event celebrated the union of art and modern industry.
Art Deco Design
Due to it's origins in the machine age, Art Deco jewelry is characterized by bold, geometric, and symmetrical designs. Diamond cuts were straight and linear and took a central place in jewelry. Calibre cut sapphires, rubies, and emeralds were used to accentuate the central diamond.
Increased travel and exposure to other cultures also influenced the Art Deco design period. Striking symbols, colors, and patterns borrowed from Egyptian, African, Oriental, and American Indians were utilized. Colors were bright and primary, emeralds, rubies, and enamel finishes were common. Metal is minimal, with the focal point being the intricate shapes of the diamonds and accenting gemstones.
Filigree work (small, intricate cut-outs) was perfected in the late 1920's through the use of die-cast machines. Filigree in jewelry was never done so well as it was during the Art Deco era, with crisp and refined details being readily available in the early 1930's. Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to replicate the filigree work from this time because most rings are now made through the use of wax molds.
The most popular colors during the Art Deco period were: black (onyx), red (coral), blue (sapphire), green (emerald), and white (diamond).
Art Deco Engagement Rings
During the Art Deco Era, jewelers paid very close attention to detail. Jewelry was finely crafted and utilized milgrain embellishments and intricate filigree work. The underside of pieces received as much detail as the top side. Engravings were common along the shanks of rings.
Flashy diamonds and colored accent stones were a favorite of the Art Deco period.
Art Deco Engagement Ring Settings
Gives a square look to the diamond is houses. Four prongs are shaped like triangles with points, forming a square around the diamond.
The central stone is surrounded by a ring, or halo of gemstones. This setting gives tons of sparkle and can make a central gemstone appear larger.
Gemstones sit in a hidden metal framework, allowing them to sit side by side and create a path of gemstones.
The pavé setting, pronounced “pa-vay,” comes from the French word “to pave,” as in paved with diamonds. A Pavé setting has tiny prongs that hold small diamonds very close together, creating continuous sparkle. This setting is still very popular today.
Diamond or gemstones are aligned in a metal groove without prongs. The walls of the metal are then hammered to keep the stones in place. Wedding bands use this setting a lot.
Art Deco Engagement Ring Metals
Platinum, 18k and 14k white gold, and sterling silver were the metals of choice. Yellow gold was out of style during this period.
Platinum was very popular because its strength and durability allowed it to be worked into intricate filigree designs. Platinum is an extremely durable, pure white metal that is naturally hypoallergenic. Platinum is much rarer, and therefore, more expensive than gold.
White gold was used to mimic the look of platinum. White gold is alloyed with nickel or silver, to give it its white color. Rings made of white gold are usually electroplated with a rhodium coating, to intensify the white color and add strength. Over time this rhodium plating will wear off and have to be redone.
Art Deco Diamond Cuts
You will not find modern brilliant cut diamonds in Art Deco rings. Instead, you will see old European cut, antique cushion cut (old mine cut), emerald cut, and Asscher cut. [Learn about diamond cuts here.]
Old Mine Cut
The old mine cut is a predecessor to the old European cut and the modern round brilliant cut, but it is most commonly compared to today’s cushion cut diamond because it is a rounded square.
Old mine cut diamonds were popular during the Edwardian era because they allowed diamond cutters to salvage as much weight as possible from the rough diamond.
The old mine cut is a deep cut with a high crown, small table (top facet), and large culet (facet at the point).
Old European Cut
Another predecessor of the modern round brilliant, the old European cut came about as the result of diamond cutters adapting new technology to their trade and cutting rounder diamonds.
The old European cut is rounder and deeper than the old mine cut, but they still have a small table and large culet. It has the same number of facets as a modern round brilliant but lacks the proportions to maximize light return.
A type of step cut; their facets are long and angular. The emerald cut is typically rectangular and as its name suggests, is commonly used on emeralds. This cut provides for deep clarity and a large surface table. Emerald cuts give the illusion of a larger stone and make your finger look more slender.
Another type of step cut, the Asscher cut is typically square. This cut features large step facets and a high crown that produces a stunning brilliance often referred to as an endless hallway with reflective mirrors.
Other Gemstones Used in Art Deco Rings
- Rubies, Sapphires, and Emeralds were favorites of the Art Deco era.
- Colored gems were used as accent stones next to glittering diamonds.
- Colored stones were used as central stones as well, with diamonds surrounding them as accents.
- White diamonds framed bold gemstones, sometimes obscure stones were used such as lapis, coral, and onyx.
- Sapphire cocktail rings were very popular, as were three stone rings featuring sapphire flanked by diamonds.
What you Need to Know Before Buying an Art Deco Engagement Ring
- They can be difficult to resize due to engravings on the band.
- Due to basic cutting techniques, diamonds from this era will have less sparkle than modern-cut diamonds.
- You may see some wear. These rings have seen some use, prongs may be thin and need to be re-tipped. Gemstones may have abrasions or chipping. (There are many excellent condition Art Deco rings available, so you don't have to settle for bad condition).
- Diamonds are warmer. Warm colored diamonds were perfectly acceptable during this time, as most jewelry was worn in the evening under low light.
- Diamonds from this era often do not have grading reports. The GIA will not grade a mounted diamond and removing a diamond from its setting could damage the piece.
- Rings from the Art Deco period were handcrafted with the highest standards in mind. High grade diamonds with excellent clarity were used, and rings often display an outstanding finish quality on the inside as well as the outside.
How to Make Sure you are Getting a True Vintage Art Deco Ring
- The easiest way to make sure you are getting a true vintage ring is to shop at a reputable seller that offers lots of information, pictures, and a generous return policy.
- Look for maker's marks. Maker’s marks may include logos, trademarks, company names, and designer signatures to specify who made the jewelry.
- If you are purchasing jewelry online, always ask for clear pictures.
- Silver purity marks - Silver jewelry is normally marked with the % sterling. Common sterling marks include: 925S, 813H, 800, or 935. To see the many different silver markings, go here.
- Gold purity marks - Gold jewelry is often marked as a karat level (10k) or a gold percent (375). See a list of gold markings here. Antique & vintage rings are stamped with an old fashioned 9ct, 14ct, 15ct, 18ct or 22ct punch.
- Platinum marks - “950” denotes a composition of 95 percent platinum with a mix of other metal alloys, while “900” is made up of 90 percent platinum, and “850” has 85 percent platinum.
- Look for the characteristic style of the Art Deco era, such as bold, geometric designs.
- Age appropriate diamond cuts - modern diamond cuts such as brilliant, trillion, and princess will not be in a vintage ring.
- Appropriate accent stones - The most popular accent gemstones were sapphires, rubies, emeralds, onyx, moonstone, carnelian and coral.
- Correct precious metals - Platinum and white gold were predominant. Yellow or colored gold was not in fashion.
- Art Deco was known for its grain, bezel or rub settings, finished with fine millegraine edges. Sharp, unworn claw or rub settings & millegraine edges are a good sign that a ring may be new.
- The ring should always come with an estimated, or exact date, the ring was created.
- Rings containing gemstones and diamonds should come with info about the stones, including the authenticity of the stones and an estimation of the grades of the diamonds performed by certified gemologists.
- An estimated appraisal, on paper, should come with the ring and/or a certificate of authentication.
- Beware of terms such as "vintage reproduction", "vintage style", "vintage design". These are most likely new rings that are made to look vintage.
- There was a revival of the Art Deco style in the 1980's, and sometimes these pieces are sold as true Art Deco. Make sure you buy from a genuine antique seller.
Where to Buy Vintage Art Deco Engagement Rings
Shopping online is the most convenient way to find a vintage engagement ring. The key to a great online shopping experience is to find a reputable seller.
My favorite online marketplace for finding vintage jewelry is Etsy. There are hundreds of items available, giving you a huge section to choose from. However, to minimize your risk of buying a counterfeit, you must be diligent in researching a seller before you decide to buy.
Here are some things you need to look for to find a good vintage jewelry seller:
- A high reputation, lots of good customer feedback, and high ratings.
- A generous return policy shows that the seller stands by the quality of the jewelry.
- Detailed descriptions and pictures.
- Contact information for asking questions.
To make your life easier, I have done the research for you and found reputable shops on Etsy.
You can find the perfect Art Deco engagement ring by making sure you understand the appropriate metals, stones, and look of Art Deco. Research your seller or use the sellers we recommend to assure yourself that you are getting a true vintage piece, one that you can be proud to propose marriage with.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. I always answer 🙂