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Vintage engagement rings have become extremely popular these days, especially with the Millenials. These rings are unique and recyclable, both becoming important features for engagement rings. Follow our tips below in order to best find an affordable vintage engagement ring that you love!

What is a Vintage Engagement Ring?

A vintage engagement ring is one that is at least 20 years old. Generally, the jewelry trade considers anything 20-100 years old that has been previously owned as vintage. Sometimes you will hear the term antique, which generally refers to items over 100 years old. Estate is another word thrown around, which means something previously owned. All of these words refer to basically the same thing, something older that has lasted the test of time!

To learn more in depth characteristics of vintage engagement rings, check out our Ultimate Guide to Buying Vintage Engagement Rings  

Why Purchase a Vintage Engagement Ring?

Trying to pick the perfect engagement ring can be very difficult. Likely, you’ll want to find something that not everyone has. This can be hard in the current saturated engagement ring market, but going for a vintage ring can help out. These older rings were often never replicated, as they were handmade instead of cast or cut by a machine.

Not only will you get the uniqueness to the design of the ring, but also with the background. You might have clues as to who wore the ring or when, with engravings in the shank or stories past down. Even if you aren’t able to find out the exact story, it is fun to imagine the life the ring had prior to yours.

There are many concerns in the jewelry world these days regarding ethically sourced diamonds and jewelry. This concept is so hard to trace, but with vintage rings, you know that nothing new has been created. This lack of waste or resources in using something old, allows for a recyclability aspect that you just can’t get with modern engagement rings.

  • Older diamonds can be 30% less expensive than a similar new diamond.
  • Pre-owned settings cost one-third to one-half the price of the same new setting.
  • Vintage rings are more likely to have been made by a jeweler, rather than mass produced. The workmanship is better and the styles are unique.
  • Pre-owned or vintage jewelry is less likely to carry the 300% mark-up common with new jewelry.
  • Vintage rings are an eco-friendly choice.
  • Unique and unlike the engagement rings everyone else has.
how to buy an affordable vintage engagement ring

How to Find an Affordable Vintage Engagement Ring

In addition to all the wonderful features from above, generally vintage engagement rings will cost less than contemporary engagement rings. It is hard to compare each vintage ring to each other, allowing for stores to price them as they see fit. Generally they will be cheaper than finding a new diamond and creating a new ring. On occasion, if the ring is extremely special and rare, usually Georgian items, it can be more expensive than a new one.

When looking for an affordable vintage engagement ring a good place to start is to perhaps think of other stones besides diamonds. One of the great things about vintage engagement rings is that back then, jewelers were more open to other stones. You’ll find precious stones such as sapphires, rubies and emeralds and semi precious such as turquoise, onyx, pearl and opal. These options are often cheaper than diamonds.

If you were to go the diamond route though, keep in mind that many vintage diamonds will be warmer in color and not certified. This warmth is nothing to be scared of as sometimes the yellower diamonds can really bring a setting to life!

The warmth also helps to keep the cost down as it seems more contemporary rings than rings that are in the white D-E-F color ranges. Additionally, most vintage engagement rings will not be certified, which also helps decrease costs. Be sure that the person you are purchasing your item from is reputable, as their color and clarity calls will be all you have to go off of.

Another tip to finding an affordable vintage engagement ring would be to not be so center-stone focused. These rings were handcrafted and some of them have such incredible detail. The setting can be just as, if not more important than the center-stone. Not worrying about how large your center-stone is can allow you to find something affordable.

saving money on vintage engagement ring

Tips on Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck

What Style Does Your Future Wife Like? And What is her Ring Size?

  • Talk to her friends, look at the jewelry she wears. You want to make sure the ring you buy is one she will like. 
  • Think about her lifestyle. If she is a doctor or nurse, or someone who wears gloves a lot, a high setting will tear the gloves. She may want a low setting that she can wear everyday. 
  • Figure out her ring size.
    • Ask her friends and family if they know, or use a ring she wears to figure out size. 
    • Take one of her rings and place it on a piece of paper. Draw a circle on the inside and outside of the ring. Take this to a jeweler. 
    • When you are holding her hand, see if one of her fingers is similar in size to a finger of yours. 
    • Ask one of her friends to help, maybe they can go "engagement ring shopping" just for fun. She can get sized and her friend can share the info with you. 

Know the 4 C's

*Note that diamonds made before 1931 will not have grading.

Carat

A carat is the unit of weight by which a diamond is measured. 200 milligrams or 0.2 grams equals 1 carat. The more carats a diamond is, the more expensive it is.

Diamond prices rise dramatically at 1 carat. Buying a diamond that is 0.9 c will save you a considerable amount of money.

Clarity

Clarity is a sliding scale that measures a diamond's inner and outer flaws. Fewer flaws give a diamond more value. The clarity of a diamond ranges from F (no inclusions), IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2, and I3 (included).

Be aware that up to a certain point, flaws are not visible to the human eye. There is not much point spending a fortune on a diamond whose flaws can only be seen under a microscope. Eye clean diamonds are within the SI1 and SI2 clarity range.

Miners and jewelers in the past had very high standards about inclusions, and this benefits you today because you can buy pieces with high-quality diamonds at a fraction of the price.

For budget shoppers, stick to diamonds in the slightly included clarity range (SI1 - SI2)

Cut

Contrary to what you may think, the cut does not refer to the shape a diamond has been cut into, but rather, refers to the quality of depth and dimensions of the cut which impact the diamond's luster and sparkle. The better the cut, the more sparkle a diamond has, and the more expensive it is. Some examples of cuts you will find in vintage rings are Old European or Old Miners.

Color

Color is a sliding scale that refers to the presence of yellow color in white diamonds. The color grading does not refer to the exact color of the diamond (pink and other colored diamonds are known as fancy colored). The more white a diamond is, the greater its value. The whitest diamonds are ranked as a D. The diamonds get more yellow as the letters move closer to Z.

Stick to diamonds that are within the G - M color range for the most affordable options.

Know Your Design Time Periods

  • Art Deco, Retro, Edwardian, these are all design periods you may come across in your hunt for a vintage engagement ring. It is good to know what design period(s) you like so you can narrow down your choices.

Read: Vintage Jewelry Design Periods 

Learn Some Vintage Ring Terminology 

  • Halo - A row of smaller stones (usually diamonds, sapphires or emeralds) that surround the main stone.
  • Milgrain - beading detail that embellishes the edges of jewelry metal.
  • Filigree - Ornamental work of fine wire formed into delicate tracery. Usually the fine wire filigree are connected through soldering or laser.
  • Solitaire - A diamond engagement ring with one featured (center) diamond.
  • Pavé - Tiny accent diamonds set closely together.
  • Old European Cut Diamond - an old, round diamond cut that is similar to but less bright than the newer brilliant cut. The European cut has a very small table and high crown. "
  • Old Mine Cut Diamond - a brilliant cut, common in the 19th century, retaining a relatively high proportion of the original stone and having a large culet and small table compared to modern brilliants.
  • Brilliant - A diamond or other gemstone cut in a particular form with numerous facets so as to have exceptional brilliance. The shape resembles that of a cone and provides maximized light return through the top of the diamond.
  • Estate - Refers to jewelry that was previously owned or sold by estate. Can be vintage or antique.

Stone Choices

  • Research stone choices. Are you going to buy a diamond ring? Or are you opting for an alternative stone?
  • Consider the durability of the gemstone. Diamond, sapphire, ruby, topaz, garnet, cubic zirconia, and aquamarine are the toughest stones. 
  • The size of the center stone will affect the price. If you want a large diamond, look for a ring from the 1930's or 40's. The diamonds used in these rings were made to appear larger by placing them in an elaborately carved setting.

Setting Options 

  • Setting options include: Solitaire, bezel, prong, three-stone, cluster, halo, and box setting. 
  • Choosing a ring setting with diamond accents is a smart way to create a dazzling ring without spending too much on a large center diamond, these are known as a halo design. 
  • A prong setting will cost less than a Bezel setting

Metal Choices

  • Consider the metal you are looking for. Gold and silver are typical metals used to make engagement rings. However, platinum works especially well with diamonds.
  • Platinum is a bit more prone to scratching than gold, but it is less prone to bending and holds its shape better with age. Platinum produces a patina over time that is highly desirable. Platinum is the most expensive metal. 
  • Be wary of white gold bands, as white gold from the past is made of an alloy of gold, silver, and nickel. Nickel can cause skin irritation in some people, so if the engagement is going to be a surprise, stick to a platinum band.
  • If you want a gold band, look for 14 karat gold. It is affordable, while still being strong enough to withstand everyday wear.

Return Policies and Resizing

  • Make sure you are aware of the return policy for any store you are considering purchasing from. 
  • Find out if the shop you are looking at offers ring resizing and if there is a charge for the service. 

Set Your Budget

Before you even start to look for a ring, have an idea of how much you want to spend and how much you can spend. Write down your budget, and stick to it. With diligence, you will find a beautiful ring in your price range.

Pick a Cut that Maximizes How large the Stone Looks

Typically, stones with shapes such as round, pear, and oval will look larger than cushion or emerald shaped stones given the same carat weight.

Go Under the Carat Mark

If you stick to just under 1 carat, even 0.9 carats, you will save a significant amount of money.

Choose a Stone other Than a Diamond

There is a wide variety of gemstones that make beautiful engagement rings, in fact diamonds have not always been the choice gemstone for an engagement ring, and only came into favor in the 1930's. Many vintage rings feature a colored gemstone. Some examples include amethyst, garnet, and sapphire.

Read: Alternative Engagement Ring Ideas – Unique Vintage Stones

BE WARY OF VINTAGE INSPIRED RINGS

Searching for vintage rings can bring up results of rings that are new, but are made in a vintage style. If you want an authentic vintage ring, you must be diligent in reading the description. If the ring is new, it is not vintage.

Research Your Seller

Read reviews, ask questions. Make sure you are buying from someone you can trust. Do they offer any guarantees against loosening of the stones or defects not obvious a the time of purchase? We have a list of reputable sellers here.

how to buy an affordable vintage engagement ring

Where to Buy An Affordable Vintage Engagement Ring

Various retailers may have small estate or vintage sections and this can be a good place to start. It is a good idea to try on different styles as they are all so unique. Once you feel you’ve found a style that works for you, we’d suggest going online.

Etsy and Ebay have many different users who are selling vintage items. These sellers don’t necessarily have a high overhead, so they are able to sell their items at more affordable costs than a retailer.

But, be sure it is a reputable seller! Check out our article on on some of the Best Vintage Jewelry Shops on Etsy.

Conclusion

Finding a vintage engagement ring you love at an affordable cost may seem daunting. We hope this article provides you some tips to ease this worry. With so many unique vintage engagement rings out there, you are sure to find your perfect ring!

Make sure to have a browse on Etsy and eBay for your ring purchase.

Happy Shopping, 
Andrea

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About the Author

Andrea

I am here to help you find the best vintage jewelry!

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  1. I truly love the introductory photo for this site. It is so fitting for the content. It flowed well and was informative. I think, however, a bit more information or details in helping people find these pieces. I also really like the emphasis on how unique a vintage engagement ring would be. That is a very good incentive to a possible buyer. I would like to have been given more information on this particular topic.

    1. Hi Linda, thanks for your comment. I agree, there could be more helpful information on this article. I have added to it to make it better 🙂

  2. Honestly this is one of the most educational posts I have ever seen when it comes to diamonds and engagement rings. I sort of knew that you could get other gemstones besides diamonds but thankfully you elaborated on how it is actually cheaper than diamonds. I was wondering as to how you break down the price differences between grades and whether there are resources that will help me distinguish between one grade to the next? That would be helpful.

    1. Hi Elan, thanks for your kind words 🙂

      Grading stones is a complex subject but basically stones are graded based on the 4 C’s:

      – Carot – the weight of a stone
      – Color – the more true to one color, the better he grading
      – Cut – how the stone is cut and faceted
      – Clarity – grading based on how many inclusions or imperfections that are visible in the stone

      Distinguishing the 4 C’s of a stone takes a trained eye and in some cases, specialized equipment, that is why the average person will rely on GIA certification to prove their stone is valuable.

      I have written more extensive posts on a few of the colored stones:

      Buyers Guide to Vintage Ruby Engagement Rings
      Buyers Guide to Vintage Sapphire Engagement Rings
      Aquamarine Vintage Engagement Rings – A Buying Guide

  3. This article was very helpful because my mom’s birthday is soon and she loves jewlery and I want to give her jewlery that is pretty, but affordable. I want to give my mom a present she will never forget. Based on what I read, I can buy pretty jewlery that is affordable and I like that because I don’t want to spend that much money. This was really helpful for me so thank you keep it up.

  4. I am already married, but this information can still be useful when my daughter grows up and gets married in the future. I like the idea that you can recycle rings which sounds a bit more environmentally friendly.

    It is very interesting to learn the difference between vintage and antique. Anything older than 20 years is vintage and anything older than 100 years is antique. I guess if a ring is 99 years old, it will be considered vintage. It is just my opinion.

    Vintage rings are 1/3 of new ring produces which is very awesome. The yellowish might indicate that the diamond was made from natural diamonds instead of manufactured ones. That’s my guess though. What do you think?

    1. Hi Win, a yellow tint in a diamond is caused by the presence of nitrogen. Colorless diamonds are the most valuable, but there is a certain charm to a slightly colored diamond and many people can’t even see the slight differences in color with their bare eyes.

      In the past, there wasn’t as many large diamond deposits known about yet, so jewelers had less quality selection. Old cuts such as the Old European Cut where developed to work with the stone and increase color and clarity.

      A colorless diamond may have been lab produced (and if it is perfectly colorless, with no inclusions, it is most likely lab-created), but there isn’t any sure way to tell if a diamond is natural or man-made without having the diamond analyzed by special machines (though a yellow tint probably means the diamond is natural because diamond manufacturers will want their diamonds to be as close to colorless as possible for the highest value).

      Most sellers of manufactured diamonds will disclose that their diamonds are lab-created, and a vintage diamond will certainly be natural, as the technology to create diamonds did not exist yet.

  5. It really helped when you talked about different styles of vintage engagement rings. In a few weeks, I’m proposing to my girlfriend, and I want to find the perfect ring. I have looked everywhere, but I haven’t found the one yet. That’s why I loved the idea of a vintage ring! Thanks for the information on how vintage rings are a unique option for you.

  6. My cousin has been dating a girl that loves antique jewlery, so he really wants to propose using a really old ring that she will love. He would really like to buy one from a professional to make sure that it is authentic, and fits into his budget for an engagement ring. I’ll be sure to tell him how he should think about what kind of metal he wants like platinum that can be really expensive, works really well with diamonds, and is less prone to bending.

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