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You may not be aware, but choosing a vintage engagement ring is an eco-friendly choice. This is because wearing an old ring replaces the need to make new rings. You are reducing and reusing at the same time! Vintage engagement rings are insanely popular right now, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know on how to buy vintage engagement rings and how to get the best deal.

Nothing says, "I love you" like a beautiful ring.

What is a Vintage Ring?

This term gets thrown around a lot, with no precise definition. Most people in the jewelry world would agree that a vintage ring is any ring that is 20 - 100 years old and has been previously owned. Rings over 100 years old are considered antique.

Vintage rings are those that were made between 1920 and 1980.

Why Buy a Vintage Engagement Ring?

There are a few reasons vintage rings are becoming more popular. Vintage rings have an inherent uniqueness and charm, with a level of craftsmanship that is expensive to replicate today.

  • Typically less costly than a new ring
  • Unique and unlike the engagement rings everyone else has
  • They have a story behind them
  • Minor imperfections from years of wear add character to the ring
  • Often handmade by a skilled craftsman rather than cut by a machine
  • High level of quality
  • They are an eco-friendly choice
  • You are giving life to a ring that would otherwise just be sitting in a safety deposit box or showcase somewhere.

Vintage engagement rings are one of a kind. No one else will have your ring. They symbolize timelessness and quality. They have a story to tell, the year they were made, the stones that they feature, all add to the history of the ring. A vintage ring is so much better than a mass produced engagement ring that will look the same as everyone else's, with no story behind it.

Vintage Ring Terminology

There are a few terms that you will come across as you are searching for a vintage engagement ring. It is good to be familiar with these terms before you start shopping.

  • 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.

Time Periods of Vintage Rings

Art Deco 1915 - 1935

  • Emphasis on bold, geometric designs
  • Lines were straight and linear
  • Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds were used to add splashes of color to otherwise diamond-centric jewelry
  • Black onyx and red coral were also used often as accent colors
  • Platinum was the metal of choice, but white gold was also popular
  • Art Deco is currently the most popular vintage engagement rings for newly engaged couples

Retro 1935 - 1950

  • big, bold, and three-dimensional designs
  • Use of bright, highly polished yellow, rose, and green gold
  • Solid, high polished look
  • Large emerald cut semi-precious gemstones such as amethyst, aquamarine, and citrine were the stars of this era
  • Large stones were often accented by small diamonds and calibre cut rubies and sapphires
  • Featured curving designs and feminine motifs such as ribbons, bows, and flowers
  • Gold was the metal of choice, as platinum became scarce due to World War II

Modern 1950+

  • An abundance of gemstones set in flashy, dramatic designs, with a focus on diamonds, diamonds, and more diamonds.
  • Designs are light and textural
  • Engraved finishes and braided rope accents were popular
  • Platinum once again became the metal of choice used for diamond jewelry

Things to Keep in Mind as You Shop for a Vintage Engagement Ring

Center Stones

In modern times, diamonds are the most popular gem for engagement rings, but this has not always been the case. A vintage ring may have a different gemstone in its center.

When considering what ring to buy, consider the durability of the gemstone. Stones such as pearl, opal, emerald, turquoise, amber, coral, and onyx are soft and porous. They scratch and get damaged easily. A vintage ring made of these stones may have internal cracks or be easily damaged.

Harder and longer lasting gemstones include diamond, sapphire, ruby, topaz, garnet, cubic zirconia, and aquamarine.

If you really want a ring with one of the softer gemstones, avoid an exposed setting (such as prong or "Tiffany" setting). Instead, opt for a protective setting that surrounds the gem with a lot of metal.

Size of the Stone

The size of the stone is not hugely important. The most important thing to consider in your hunt for an engagement ring is finding something to symbolize your love.

If you are on a budget, but still want a large stone, 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.

Central Diamond Color

Nowadays, colorless white diamonds are the most prized. In older rings, you are likely to find diamonds with a yellow, green, or rose tint, as these were fashionable at the time.

Wear

Engagement rings are seldom taken off, this means that a vintage engagement ring has seen a lot of wear and tear. Check the edges of a ring to see that they have not been worn down. Check the claws holding the stone, to make sure they are still intact.

A Little About Diamond Quality

A reputable jeweler will be willing to talk with you about the quality of the diamond you are buying. Diamonds are graded based on the 4 C's - Carat, Clarity, Cut, and Color. These factors significantly alter the value of a diamond. Here is a basic rundown of 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.

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. [Learn more about diamond cuts]

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.

Searching for a "cert diamond" will give you results of diamonds that come with certification to prove their authenticity. The most well-known certificate comes from the Gemological Institute of America.

Tips on Buying a Vintage Engagement Ring

Make her heart sing with a vintage engagement ring.

Set A 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.

Learn her Style

You want to find a ring your partner will love to wear. To get an idea of what your partner likes, look at the jewelry she already wears and try to match that style. Forget about buying the most expensive ring, forget about getting the biggest diamond. Buy something that looks beautiful and suits your partner's taste. Ask her friends to help you in your search.

Learn Your Future Wife's 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.

BROWSE GOOGLE IMAGES

Get an idea of styles of rings you find pleasing. Bookmark ones you like, so you can go back to them. Browse eBay for vintage engagement rings to get an idea of price.

Consider Stones Other than Diamonds

We automatically think of a diamond when we think of engagement rings, but the sole use of diamonds in engagement rings only came into fashion during the 1930's. Before that, various other precious stones were used, including sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. This variety gives vintage engagement rings their uniqueness and charm.

Get the Details

Learn about the ring you are thinking of buying. What stones does it have? What is the quality of the diamond? Is it technically vintage?

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.

Check the Band

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.

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 18 karat gold. It will stand up to everyday wear better than the lower karats.

Ask Questions

Some questions to ask about a ring you are considering buying:

  • How much wear is on the band?
  • Are the stones loose at all?
  • Are the claws holding the stones in good shape?
  • What are the 4 C's of the stone?
  • What year is the ring from?
  • Does the seller offer any guarantees?

Resizing

You may need to get a ring resized. Ask your jeweler if they do resizing and if there is a fee. If the jeweler recommends not resizing a ring, take their advice, some rings will loose their structural integrity if resized. [Learn more about ring resizing]

Take Your Time

Don't rush your purchase. Take a day or two to browse and find rings you like, bookmark the ones that interest you, and ask the dealer any questions you may have.

Where to Buy Vintage Engagement Rings

Surprise her with a timeless vintage ring.

Vintage rings can be found through private sellers, thrift or pawn shops, estate sales, specialized antique retailers, and some brick and mortar jewelry stores.

I find shopping online to be the easiest way to find vintage rings. The selection is huge, and you can shop from the comfort of your own home. Many online vintage jewelry sellers offer free resizing and money-back guarantees.

I use eBay or Etsy to find great deals on vintage and antique items. Below I will go over how to get the best shopping experience from these online marketplaces.

How to Buy a Vintage Engagement Ring on eBay

  • Find a dedicated seller of vintage or antique rings, instead of buying from an individual selling one ring.
  • Look for a seller with lots of positive feedback and customer satisfaction.
  • Make sure to thoroughly read the description, look to see if the seller states the age, condition, and whether there is certification.
  • Be sure you understand the sellers return policy and if they offer resizing.
  • Make sure you get any papers or certifications sent to you with the ring. You will need these for appraisals and insurance purposes.
  • Message the seller and ask them any questions you may have. Get a feeling for how helpful they are.
  • Look for photos that depict both sides as well as close-up details. You want to make sure the ring is in good condition.
  • Use a credit card to purchase your ring. The buying protection your credit card offers you will give you peace of mind and will come in handy should you run into any problems.
  • Look for Buy Now options. Get the ring you love before someone else does.
  • Have a look for Best Offer options. If you find a ring you like, consider making an offer on it.

Here is a list of some eBay shops that have tons of positive feedback and have been selling vintage rings for years:

How to Buy a Vintage Engagement Ring on Etsy

The tips for buying on Etsy are very similar to the ones for buying on eBay, with some differences.

    • There are lots of "vintage style" rings on Etsy. You have to be specific in your search to find a truly authentic engagement ring. Use the menu at the top of Etsy's website and go to the Vintage category.
  • Find a dedicated seller of vintage or antique rings, instead of buying from an individual selling one ring.
  • Look for a seller with lots of positive feedback and customer satisfaction.
  • Make sure to thoroughly read the description, look to see if the seller states the age, condition, and whether there is certification.
  • Be sure you understand the sellers return policy and if they offer resizing.
  • Make sure you get any papers or certifications sent to you with the ring. You will need these for appraisals and insurance purposes.
  • Message the seller and ask them any questions you may have. Get a feeling for how helpful they are.
  • Look for photos that depict both sides as well as close-up details. You want to make sure the ring is in good condition.
  • Use a credit card to purchase your ring. The buying protection your credit card offers you will give you peace of mind and will come in handy should you run into any problems.

Here is a list of some Etsy shops that have tons of positive feedback and have been selling vintage rings for years:


Conclusion

I hope that this buying guide helps you in your search for a ring that you can cherish for years to come. When you are armed with the right knowledge, buying a vintage engagement ring can be a pleasurable experience. Now go buy her the ring she deserves!

Please let me know in the comments below if you need any help or have any questions, I always answer.

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. Hey there! My mom’s 50th birthday is coming soon and she likes vintage rings. I read your article and it talks about buying vintage “engagement” rings. Do you think that this guide will apply to buying just a vintage ring for my mom? By the way, I like your guide it’s very informative and helpful. Thank you for sharing this and I really appreciate your response.

    1. Hi John, yes, this advice can apply to buying a ring that is not for an engagement 🙂 Thanks for stopping in! I hope you find a beautiful ring for your Mom!

  2. Hi! Andrea,

    I enjoyed reading your articles. There’s a lot of information and facts that I had learned about Vintage Jewelry. Thanks for the researches and efforts you’ve made that benefits your readers. Seriously, I think its time for me to dig the treasure box of my Mom and see if I can find surprises like vintage jewelry…

  3. I have to say this is the best guide I have read to date, on line, about buying vintage rings.

    I have read a lot about this favorite topic of mine!

    All your sections explaining the terms used to describe rings, the age labeling, and things to look out for are very informative.

    It is important that you included the ‘how-to-buy-it’ on Ebay and Etsy too. For new buyers on line, saving them the aggravation of filtering out deceptive pr poor products is very helpful.

  4. Wow… there are some seriously GORGEOUS vintage engagement rings on those Google pics! So fun even just looking at them! My favorites are the modern ones – and I think adding some sapphires somehow!
    As I was reading your guide, I was wondering if perhaps it’d be wise for the guy to ask the girl if she would be ok with a vintage ring for her engagement ring… not all girls would, actually! Some girls aren’t interested in sharing their ring with anyone else’s story – they want the only story that goes with that ring to be THIER OWN story.
    That being said, there’s something seriously romantic about a generational engagement ring that all girls would love – one worn by one’s grandmother now worn by you, or something like that. Sweet!
    Thanks for the informative read!

    1. Hi Marlaine,

      Vintage rings are becoming more popular with young couples, but yes it is a good idea to make sure that your love will want a vintage engagement ring before buying one.

  5. I am actually helping my dad to search for a ring as a gift for my parent’s anniversary. Since the are both born in the 1940’s, vintage seems like a good fit.

    Etsy sounds like a good platform to start with and I’ve seen many crafty sellers there. One question – what the price range should I be looking at for vintage collection so I know that I am not being duped for an overpriced item?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Cathy, it is hard to say what price range you should be looking for, as vintage jewelry has a large range of cost. The price of a piece of vintage jewelry will depend on the metals used, stones used, quality of the craftsmanship, and the condition on the piece. Vintage jewelry can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

      The best way to know that you aren’t being duped is to research your seller. Only buy from sellers who stand behind the quality of their products and have a good return policy. Make sure to check out our Favorite Etsy Sellers to see our hand-picked favs.

  6. Hi Andrea

    I did not know about a ring like this,
    so thank you very much for this info,
    I have always been into antic, and I would probably buy one ring for my wife, do you know if it is a cheap ring like this for sale? 🙂

    best regards
    Salomon A.

  7. I just love the size of your photos, they look great. What a clean and professional looking website, the white background is very bright. Your video on Boersheims is great, the one on 1975 Sarah Coventry Jewelry had no sound. Diamond Cutting Techniques – A History video was great. I don’t see anything to ameliorate. Congratulations and keep up what you’ve been doing, you deserve to be successful.

  8. Oh god, what a wonderful post!

    I am getting engaged recently and this post just come in time! I am going to show my fiancee this! I love the idea of wearing a story on your finger, not to mention they are more affordable and eco-friendly!

    Thanks for your info! Looking forward to your upcoming post!

  9. getting engage and later married is the most important moment for all ladies, and also for men too 🙂

    Choosing the ring is the must, there are so many choices when buying a ring. The ring has the eternal meaning to ladies and the vintage engagement rings I think meets the need for ladies.

    Thank you so much to share with me about 4 C of the center stone. I have the idea of center stone for a while, but I’m still not looking for more detail since right now no lady willing to wear the ring yet…

    Therefore I have a question about the center stone. Which is the quality of the center stone 4 C that I need if I would like to have the effect like this? When I use a small light pointing to the center stone within a dark room, how it can make the center stone providing all light colors?

    1. Hi Gnekoda, I am assuming you are talking about a stone with lots of fire? The CUT of a diamond will effect the amount of fire it has. If properly cut, a diamond will sparkle every time that it moves (called scintillation),return a white shaft of light from its top (called brilliance), and send rainbows out of its many facets (called fire or dispersion). Diamonds that are properly cut will have symmetrical facets, good proportions, and careful polishing.

  10. Awesome! Happy to reach this site. Due to many personal reasons, I and my better half are separated.
    I am doing my business now. After I reached a huge success within a few months, I will go back to her. I will make the get-together meet a surprising one and an unforgettable moment. I love these rings. And really this article helps me. Please, I am expecting a precious chains review like this. I would like to present a precious chain and ring to my partner.

  11. Hi Andrea,  I never had an engagement ring, and I didn’t know until

    Now that you can buy vintage engagement rings online. Im not sure if I can do that because i love to fit everything that Im buying from shoes to clothes.    I can refer your website to 

    My friends who are planning to buy their

    Engagement ring. You

    Have tons of valuable information here. Thanks a

    Lot!       Marita

  12. Thanks Andrea,

    Your website is a feast for the eyes to anyone who loves jewellery and the information, superb,for the fella looking to buy  the ring for the love of his life.

    I hesitate to buy on line  something as special as a ring, for me no need for an  engagement ring,  but a lovely dress ring.

     I am always looking and I especially love vintage.

    Thankyou for all the information and I shall bookmark your post as a reference of what to look for and where to buy and to buy with confidence,  from  your listed websites

    Michele

    1. Thanks for stopping in Michele. I understand the hesitancy to buy a ring online, it is a new way to shop! Luckily there are plenty of great online shops with awesome return policies in case you get something you don’t like. And if you buy a custom ring, the sellers work with you along the way, to make sure it is a ring that will fit and you will love. 

  13. I absolutely love this insightful article because it is full of great information. This is fascinating and intriguing to meYou did an excellent job of providing education and resources; The article was well written and easy to understand. There is no doubt vintage engagement rings are now popular, Thanks for expantiating much more on its quality and grades. This is an eye opener for me and I so much appreciate this lovely post

  14. I love this post!

    I would’ve never thought that they are typically cheaper compared to new rings. I would think that their history and quality would put a higher price tag on them. Hmm, very interesting. 

    I really love that you mentioned that they are eco friendly. Many people don’t realize that it really is. And clearly you’ve made it a better buy stating they’re cheaper.

    Great post altogether. But this really stood out for me.

    1. Hi Angella, vintage jewelry can be cheaper than new jewelry when you compare it to something made with the same materials today. This is because there is no manufacturing cost for a vintage ring and they are VAT-exempt. Another reason is that old cut stones are less in demand than the modern brilliant cut stones, and therefore, they have a lower price. 

      And yes, vintage jewelry is eco-friendly! That is one of my favorite aspects of vintage jewelry 😀

      Thanks for stopping in!

  15. I might consider getting a vintage ring for my brother’s girlfriend because they are about 20 years old and she likes old stuff. Since they typically cost less than a new ring, I might be able to find a good one online as well. Because she like rings that are one of a kind, it might be a good idea to buy one for her.

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