About vintage engagement rings
Sometimes you want the look of an antique engagement ring without the history that comes with it… because you’re about to make your own history. And creating a ring to match the love you’ve created is a natural impulse.
Crafting your own vintage engagement ring is a brilliant way to ensure you get all the design elements from the most influential eras of jewelry design—Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco, Retro Hollywood… and more!
Sentimentality aside, there is a greater peace of mind in crafting a vintage engagement ring, made using modern manufacturing techniques. Older rings—though beautiful—simply weren’t crafted to endure the rigours of everyday wear; moreover durability wasn’t such a huge concern before the Industrial Revolution. Older generations could only do so much with the resources available at the time, and therefore manufacturing standards weren’t what they are today.
You can have both.
Engagement rings inspired by vintage designs are now crafted with modern manufacturing standards and techniques, ensuring a lifetime of wear.
Vintage engagement rings
Be inspired by an array of engagement rings inspired by vintage designs and trends
Vintage wedding bands
Choose a vintage inspired wedding ring to signify a love that transcends time.
What is a vintage engagement ring?
An authentic vintage engagement ring means the piece is at least 20 years old and can be defined as belonging to a specific style or design aesthetic. However, vintage is also a colloquialism used to refer to or describe pieces with a style belonging to a past era or trend. A vintage engagement ring can refer to a ring created in the past, or to the style of a ring today.
What is the difference between vintage and antique rings?
There is a difference.
While a vintage ring should be at least 20 years old, Antique means the piece is at least 150 years old and carries extra value simply for its historical significance.
Creating an engagement ring with a vintage style means your ring features elements of the intricate jewellery design from eras gone by—from the late 1800s to the 1960s—but remains trendy with the unmatched sparkle of today. Examples of these vintage design elements are: milgrain detailing, filigree cut outs, diamond or gemstone halos, floral engraving, or pavé diamond ring settings. From organic engraving and geometric patterns to opulent embellishments and bright colours, vintage-inspired engagement rings make that striking statement—but unlike truly vintage rings, they’re also crafted from the highest quality material so that they may be worn and treasured for a lifetime .
Our design consultant, Emily's personal collection of vintage and antique engagement rings.
What is a vintage diamond?
A vintage, or antique diamond typically refers to all diamonds cut before the 1900s– when the modern brilliant cut was invented. The history of diamond cutting dates back to the middle ages and people developed different ways of cutting gemstones all over the world.
When talking about gemstones, the cut does not necessarily refer to the shape, but of the symmetry and proportion of the finished gemstone. The difference between vintage or antique diamond cuts and modern cuts is that in the turn of the 20th century, due to a development of diamond saws and jewelry lathes– an advancement in the theory of gemstone cutting occurred. The Belgian diamond cutter Marcel Tolkowsky invented the modern brilliant cut, known for its incredible refraction of light and intense fire.
Old diamond cuts
The single cut diamond
The single cut diamond is considered the simplest form of the round brilliant cut, with eight facets on the pavilion and the table. The single cut was developed around the 15th century, following the simple point cut. As this cut has so few facets (a modern round brilliant cut has 58 facets) the effect this has on its appearance is distinctive. The facets display large, luminous flashes of colour.
The rose cut diamond
The rose cut diamond dates back to the 16th century and is often seen in antique jewelry. It features 3-24 triangular facets, peaking into a rose shape, resembling the soft curve of a rose. Rose cut diamonds are hand-carved by jewelers and are therefore quite rare– a rose cut diamond would make a wonderfully unique vintage diamond engagement ring.
The old mine cut diamond
The old cut diamond was one of the first brilliant cuts, developed by the Venetian polisher Vincent Peruzzi, increasing the amount of facets from 17 in a rose cut to 33. The old mine cut is usually a rounded square or rectangular shape, this early brilliant cut was the predecessor of the cushion cut. This advancement revealed the diamond’s potential for unsurpassable brilliance– the old mine cut has a particularly beautiful inner fire.
The old European cut diamond
The old European cut is the predecessor of the round brilliant cut diamond, featuring 58 facets. But what makes this cut unique is the intention with which it was created—to be worn in low candlelight where they produce a stunning glow, unmatched by any other cut.
Are vintage engagement rings popular?
And as fate would have it, look to the gods of trending: celebrities. One glimpse of Kate Middleton’s ring finger, Olivia Wilde’s, or Jennifer Aniston’s declares the law of the land: vintage engagement rings are in when it comes to finding the perfect modern day token of commitment.
Olivia Wilde & Jennifer Aniston
Olivia Wilde’s old European cut diamond engagement ring is said to have originated in Paris around 1921. The vintage diamond is set within an emerald halo, mounted on a delicate yellow gold thin band. Wilde’s partner, Jason Sudeikis, chose the ring because he felt that the emeralds reminded him of Olivia’s green eyes!
Jennifer Aniston’s vintage rose cut diamond engagement ring was given to her by her partner, Justin Theroux in 2012. The ring features a cushion shaped 8 carat rose cut diamond, set in yellow gold.
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Mary Kate Olsen & Kate Middleton
Mary Kate Olsen’s 1953 Cartier vintage engagement ring was bought by her partner Olivier Sarkozy, a French banker at a Sotheby’s jewelry auction. The ring features a 4 carat old European cut diamond as the centerpiece, set with a 16 calibre cut sapphire halo. The basket of the ring features a floral pattern with 1.5 carats of single cut white diamonds set in golden petals. The engagement ring exudes old Hollywood glamour, much like Mary Kate herself!
The Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring is the ultimate vintage piece. The iconic oval Ceylon blue sapphire ring once belonged to Princess Diana, given to her by Prince Charles. The ring was crafted by the then crown jeweler, Garrard. Prince William proposed to Kate with the sapphire ring and said he did so as a “way to make sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement”.
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Vintage jewelery never goes out of trend–it’s charm lies in the fact that the style represents a bygone time. A ring that references a different time period and style is reflective of the wearer, of their personality and sophistication. Ultimately, a vintage piece exudes romance, and is a perfect choice for an engagement ring.
But just like navigating the future, navigating the past requires a road map. Consider this yours.
Engagement rings from the Georgian period (1714 – 1830) were handcrafted using labour-intensive manufacturing techniques to achieve ornate metal work, reflective of the era’s elegance. This design era is known as the Georgian period because it occurred throughout the reigns of King George I through to IV and King William IV.
Clues it’s Georgian:
- Typical Georgian engagement ring settings include clusters and mounted bezels crafted in 22ct or 18ct gold
- Natural and organic themes with intricate shapes usually achieved through milgrain or filigree. These design elements are a moulded metal work detail, typically seen in vintage engagement ring design. Motifs often seen included love knots, hearts, leaves, wheatsheaf patterns and flowers
- Experimental diamond cutting—this was common in order to maximise the diamond’s light performance. In years previous, most jewelry was set with an enclosed back and a piece of foil was positioned behind the diamond to increase its brilliance
An Georgian inspired old European cut diamond cluster ring
During Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901, everything in society, including engagement rings, seemed to reflect and revolve around the life and times of the Queen. She harboured a very public love of diamond jewelry herself that sparked a revolution in rings and other pieces of fine jewelry around the globe.
With a reign spanning 64 years, the Victorian jewelry era is separated into three periods, however the distinctive design elements of the era remained throughout, featuring intricate, decorative styles centred around Her Majesty. This symbolised the beginning of the Romantic jewelry period.
It’s also worth noting that the Victorian era witnessed an enormous and progressive shift in industry, society and fashion that made jewelry far more suitable to mass manufacture; and more accessible for purchase and wear. First, lower metal carat alloys (15ct, 12ct and 9ct gold) were introduced into the market and secondly, mines in South Africa were opened in 1870 which meant larger diamonds than ever before became readily available for an emerging middle class market.
Clues It’s Early Victorian (1837–1860):
This period reflected the early years of the young monarch’s reign and the excitement it brought with it. Typical early Victorian jewelry featured:
- Large, bright gemstones; typically amethyst, amber, bloodstone, pearl, garnet, chalcedony agate, ruby, smoky quartz, and topaz. Any of these gemstones could make a wonderful cocktail ring, but we recommend a gemstone that is more durable for an engagement ring since they’re worn everyday. Ring designs were crafted with delicate edges and open settings to show off the center stone’s glory or often featured cameos.
- Mixed media rings increased in popularity, featuring materials that weren’t typically paired in jewelry, such as ivory, coral and tortoise shell with precious gemstones. Much like Georgian jewelry, designs were inspired fauna and flora alike, featuring details like doves, snakes, leaves, floral garlands, vines, hearts and even eyes
- Designs were inspired by ostentatious creatures, such as serpents. Representative of eternal love, snakes became popular motifs in early Victorian jewelry. Queen Victoria herself received an engagement ring featuring a snake with an emerald set in its head from Prince Albert, and just like royals of today, whatever she wore became all the rage
- Rose cut and old European cut diamonds were used as feature centre stones throughout all three stages of the Victorian Era and remain popular in today’s market
- Bold designs such as elaborate Celtic-inspired knots and twists, perhaps inspired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s presence in Scotland, having bought an estate in Balmoral
Clues It’s Mid-Victorian (1860–1885):
- The mid-Victorian jewelry period coincided with the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Victoria was devastated by his death and began to wear memorial rings, also known as mourning rings. Having once seen popularity in the Georgian period, the sentimentality of the romantic period saw the jewelry aesthetic develop to reflect the mourning and loss experienced by the nation’s beloved Queen.
- Victorian engagement rings became less ornate and far more sleek and sophisticated – though still mostly hand crafted
Clues It’s Late Victorian (1890–1901):
- The late Victorian jewelry period saw jewelry return to more feminine and soft motifs
- Designs were once again set with bright, decadent gemstones such as pearl, ruby, sapphire, topaz, zircon and diamonds
- Many late Victorian jewelry designs feature diamond clusters and play on a light and delicate finishes which inspired the following Edwardian period
- While gold carat alloys remained popular, platinum was widely used and innovations in machinery resulted in higher levels of mass jewelry production
- More elaborate motifs emerged, such as stars, crowns, bows, ribbons and even Egyptian designs, inspired by movements and inspirations around the world
Art Nouveau Rings
The Art Nouveau era began in the 1890s and lasted to around 1910, overlapping with the late Victorian era. It was an incredibly creative time with society expressing a desire to break the rigidity of Victorian design, lifestyle and aesthetics. Free-flowing lines were the defining motif of the Art Nouveau era, perhaps reflective of the prosperity and increased social freedoms of the time.
Clues It’s Art Nouveau:
- Designs initially focused on creative portrayals of nature which later develop into experimentations of geometric shapes, which ultimately served as inspiration for the Art Deco movement
- Symmetry, feminine swirls and lacy filigree flows are all typical design elements in Art Nouveau jewelry
Took inspiration from Japanese art and design
- White gold and platinum took centre stage throughout this period
- Halos and accent stones were often used in designs to emphasise a soft, feminine and floral aesthetic
Like the Georgian era, the Edwardian era is named after its monarch – in this case King Edward VII who reigned from 1901 – 1910. The overall style of Edwardian jewelry, and product design in general, captured the increasingly carefree attitudes of the nation.
Clues It’s Edwardian:
- This era of design is synonymous with details—decorative, elaborate and intricately carved metal work, also known as filigree, made its debut in this era and was executed to a never seen before level. An Edwardian engagement ring typically features incredibly ornate detail.
- Colourful gemstones made another comeback as well as lustrous gemstones like opal, moonstone and mother-of-pearl
- Advancements in diamond cutting meant that new fancy diamond cuts emerged such as the baguette, tapered baguette, trapeze, shield and triangular cuts
- Edwardian jewelry design was aimed to showcase a single design element, such as a centre stone or an intricate basket
Art Deco rings
Between 1915 and 1935, society saw an evolution in social freedoms, technological advancements and fashion trends. The Art Deco era embraced the wave of social change spreading across not only the nation, but the globe. These changes inspired a drastic change in not only jewelry design, but also clothing, furniture and architecture, to be eclectic.
Art Deco also nods to the Art Nouveau period by often featuring ribbons, swirls and floral designs, but combining them with bold, geometric shapes.
Clues It’s Art Deco:
- The Asscher cut—although originally developed in 1902, this cut didn’t surge in popularity until the Art Deco period. Beautiful in a trilogy setting, these cuts are known for their large, open tables and are the right choice for lovers who seek a simple nod to vintage elegance in a diamond engagement ring.
- It’s white gold or platinum—yellow gold saw a serious slump in this period.
- Colourful gemstones and large diamonds were all the rage. Gemstones typically featured were: emeralds, sapphires, jade, black onyx, rubies, crystal, and mother-of-pearl
- Milgrain—a raised beading detail that is often seen in antique-style jewelry—rose to fame again in the Art Deco period. Typically featured along the edges of ring designs, milgrain serves as a textured frame, emphasising the beauty of the gemstone or diamond at the centre.
The retro era spanned from 1935 – 50 and rings in this period emerged under historically turbulent conditions. Primary influences on jewelry design were the Great Depression, the aftermath of two world wars and the emergence of original Hollywood glamour icons.
Clues It’s Retro:
- Takes the static and geometric shapes of Art Deco design and softens them with the free flowing styles of Edwardian and Art Nouveau periods. The key difference from preceding design periods is that retro jewelry was flashy and glamorous
- The vivid designs lead to a prevalence of costume and cocktail jewelry. Actresses dazzled audiences from the big screen and from red carpet events alike showcasing exceptionally large diamonds and colored gemstones
- Unsurprisingly, retro engagement rings also tended to be more fun, sculptural, and adventurous than styles of the past
- Gold became the primary metal used in jewelry as platinum had been reserved for the wartime effort
Vintage engagement rings inspired by past eras
Write your own history with your own vintage engagement ring
As you can tell, the possibilities in designing a vintage style engagement ring are, ironically, not finite like the years gone by themselves. Whether you’re in love with all things antique or in a love that feels as old as time, a vintage-inspired engagement ring can combine your own unique tastes with design eras of the past. The beauty of designing your own is that you’re not confined to only one era. You can cherry-pick the elements you love most from one or from them all to create a beautiful custom engagement ring. The result will always be something that feels both rich in history and forward-looking into your happily-ever-after.