Vintage Engagement Rings
Sometimes you want the look of a vintage 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 the only way to ensure you get all the design elements from the most influential eras of jewellery design—Georgian, Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian, Art Deco, Retro Hollywood… and more!
Vintage engagement rings gallery
Be inspired by an array of engagement rings inspired by vintage designs and trends
Creating your own vintage engagement ring
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 a 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.
What is the difference between vintage and antique rings?
There is a difference.
Vintage means the piece is at least 20 years old and can be defined as belonging to a specific style or design aesthetic.
Antique means the piece is at least 150 years old and carries extra value simply for its historical significance.
Creating an engagement ring that is vintage inspired 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 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.
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 Scarlett Johansson’s declares the law of the land: vintage engagement rings are in when it comes to finding the perfect modern day token of commitment.
But just like navigating the future, navigating the past requires a road map. Consider this yours.
An authentic Georgian engagement ring is one produced during the reigns of King Georges I through IV and King William IV. Rings during this period are souvenirs of that mystical brand of Medieval beauty. Jewellery from the Middle Ages and Renaissance is reflective of the defining characteristics of the time: royalty, rank, and a nearly sacred kind of elegance.
Clues It’s Georgian:
- Crafted in 22ct or 18ct gold
- Natural and organic themes with intricate shapes…
- Experimental diamond cutting—this was common in order to maximise flash, fire, and brilliance since diamond resources were limited so throughout these years…
- Colourful gemstones including emeralds, rubies, sapphires, garnet, topaz, and black onyx—all used to reflect the romanticism movement of the times…
- Features intricate metal work, typically milgrain or filigree engagement ring designs, including acorns, doves, flowers, scrolls, wheat stalks, and Grecian-inspired designs…
The Dead Giveaway It’s Georgian?
It fulfils the human need to preserve memories, which was a fundamental characteristic of the Georgian era. This resulted in the creation of the memorial ring, the locket ring, and the poesy ring.
The memorial ring (a.k.a. mourning ring): designed to preserve the memory of a loved one and included rings with a small portrait, or initials engraved into the ring.
The locket ring was designed with spaces to hold a miniature portrait or a lock of hair.
The poesy ring was a betrothal or wedding ring typically crafted out of a plain gold band and engraved with a love quote or saying.
The prominence of hand engraving engagement rings by hand allowed the merge of personal style plus trendiness of the time. Today, merging personal style with a vintage one creates an element of history that is captained by you—rather than by a stranger who came before you. You can achieve that sought-after vintage look with a simultaneous guarantee of being completely unique. True vintage engagement rings are less common, but not even they can promise complete uniqueness.
During Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901, everything including engagement rings seemed to reflect and revolve around the life and times of Queen Victoria. The queen harboured a very public love of diamond jewellery herself, and so this sparked a revolution in rings and in jewellery generally.
The Victorian era can be separated into three distinct periods, all of which have their own unique styles and history: the Early Victorian period, the Mid-Victorian period, and the Late Victorian period. The common theme throughout these periods was that engagement ring design remained intricate, decorative, and centred around her majesty.
A Shift in Resources—New Direction in Victorian Era
Two major changes took place, leading to…
- The introduction of lower carat alloys. Pre-1854, precious rings tended to be created with 22ct or 18ct gold (75% pure gold alloyed with copper, silver, nickel, or a mixture of these metals) and silver. Post-1854, gold standards changed and rings created with 14ct, 12ct, and 9ct gold became legal and began to circulate through the jewellery market.
- The opening of South African diamond mines in 1870. This meant larger diamonds became available as opposed to the smaller diamonds that were being sourced beforehand. This resulted in ring designs that featured large, statement centre diamonds as opposed to clusters of smaller accent diamonds famous in preceding decades.
Clues It’s Early Victorian (1837–1860):
- Gemstones bright in colour and large in size; typically amethyst, bloodstone, chalcedony garnet, moss agate, ruby, smoky quartz, and topaz.
- Gemstones combined with other types of materials such as coral, ivory, tortoise shell, and seeds. Popular motifs for these designs were often inspired by organic items, such as butterflies, clover, garlands, daisies, doves, snakes, or Gothic symbols.
- Rose cut or old European cut diamonds were used as feature centre stones throughout all three stages of the Victorian Era.
- The rose cut dates back to the 1500s and is considered one of the original diamond cuts, often seen in antique jewellery. It features 3-24 triangular facets, peaking into a rose shape, resembling the soft curve of a rose. Rose cut diamonds are hand-carved and therefore quite rare.
- The old European cut is the predecessor of the round brilliant 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.
- Bold designs such as elaborate Celtic-inspired knots and twists.
- Designs inspired by ostentatious creatures, such as snakes. Queen Victoria herself received a Victorian engagement ring featuring a snake and emerald design from Prince Albert, and just like the celebrities of today, whatever she wore became all the rage.
Clues It’s Mid-Victorian (1860–1885):
- The start of this period marked a slightly different tone. Prince Albert passed away in 1861 and memorial rings (also known as mourning rings) returned to the popularity they’d first seen back in the Georgian era.
- The different gold carat alloys became more widely used. Rose gold emerged—created from gold alloyed with copper.
- Popular gemstones included opal, crystal, emerald, diamond, pearl, black glass, jet, and ruby.
- The dominating design style became less ornate and far more sleek and sophisticated—though still mostly individually handcrafted.
- Popular motifs included acorns, hearts, bees, birds, stars, insects, shells, floral designs, and geometric shapes.
Clues It’s Late Victorian (1890–1901):
- Rings from this period are defined by their use of diamonds in clusters and marquise shapes, use of pearls and light, and their delicate style which inspired the following Edwardian period.
- Handcrafted rings became more of a novelty as machinery lead to mass production of rings.
- While gold carat alloys remained popular, the introduction of platinum as a metal became widely used.
- Popular motifs and themes took a drastically different turn: bows and ribbons, lace-inspired filigree, stars, feathers, double hearts, crowns, doves, oak leaves, grape clusters, and Egyptian designs.
Art Nouveau Rings
Art Nouveau engagement rings were crafted during the highly creative push from 1890 to 1915, overlapping with the late Victorian era. What sets Art Nouveau apart was its intention: an artistic movement applauding designs inspired by nature as a creative protest against the Industrial Revolution.
Perhaps because these rings were produced during years of prosperity, peace, and growing social freedoms—they illustrate a superior workmanship, keeping them in high demand.
Clues It’s Art Nouveau:
- Platinum and white gold were most prominently used.
- Rose cut or old European cuts were used as feature centre stones.
- Popular coloured gemstones included tourmaline, garnet, emerald, carnelian, synthetic and natural ruby, opal, moonstone, and lapis lazuli.
- Small diamonds were often used as accent stones, sometimes structured into a halo style to give a floral-inspired look.
- Enamel often framed and finished designs.
- Design styles were typically symmetrical, circular swirls, loops and flows, making rings appear exceptionally feminine.
- The designs elementally focused on creative portrayals of nature—though later on, they dabbled in geometric shapes (serving as inspiration for the Art Deco movement).
Edwardian jewellery came onto the scene during King Edward VII’s brief reign from 1901 to 1910. Edwardian jewellery reflected delicate elegance and a levity which seemed to capture the carefree, airy attitudes of the time.
Clues It’s Edwardian:
- This era of design is synonymous with filigree—intricately carved jewellery resulting in an unparalleled depth and texture—because it was heavily influenced by Late-Victorian styles. The result? Jewellery appeared more sophisticated and refined and filigree engagement rings were indicative of the Edwardian era.
- Colourful gemstones and diamonds took centre stage, and advancements in setting and cutting trades continued to maximise their beauty.
- Craftsmanship of the metal rose in quality to meet the craftsmanship of the stonework—resulting in an almost lace-like effect through delicate metalwork.
- New diamond cuts emerged such as the baguette, trapeze, and triangular cuts—in addition to the rose cut and old European cut.
- Gemstones and diamonds were frequently set with claw settings and deep bezel settings.
Art Deco Rings
Reflective of the growing optimism of the times from 1915 to 1935, Art Deco jewellery rode the high of expanded social freedoms, modern technological developments, and innovative artistic movements. The economic boom and broadening of cultural horizons inspired design in not only jewellery—but also clothing, furniture, and architecture—to be heavily eclectic. It combined geometric patterns and lines with natural shapes and themes—marrying the way of the past with the promise of the future. Art Deco also nods to the Art Nouveau period by often featuring ribbons, swirls, and floral designs, but melding them seamlessly 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.
- 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 prominently featured were: emeralds, sapphires, jade, black onyx, rubies, crystal, and mother-of-pearl.
- Newer diamond cuts like baguettes, triangle cuts, and emerald cuts were featured heavily.
- Milgrain—a raised beading detail that is often seen in antique-style jewellery—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 its centre.
Rings in this period emerged under historically chaotic conditions. Primary influences on jewellery design were the War effort, Hollywood, post-Depression recovery, and women’s entry into the workforce.
Clues It’s Retro:
- Combination of static Art Deco designs and the free flowing styles of Edwardian and Art Nouveau periods. This stylistically results in geometry with flowing movement like Art Deco (e.g. circles paired with squares, rectangles with ovals, ribbons with blocks)—but even flashier and more glamorous.
- It brings symmetry and asymmetry together in one piece; perhaps reflecting the uncertainty of the times.
- Flashy, bold cocktail and costume jewellery became prevalent thanks to Hollywood. Actresses dazzled audiences from the big screen and from red carpet events alike, with rings, brooches, and pins that showcased exceptionally large diamonds and coloured gemstones. Unsurprisingly, retro engagement rings also tended to be more fun, whimsical, and adventurous than styles of the past.
Write your own history with your own vintage engagement ring
As you can tell, the possibilities in designing a vintage-inspired 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 all, and the result will always be something that feels both rich in history and forward-looking into your happily-ever-after.