Time to get the skinny on vintage engagement rings. Vintage is hot – you don’t need to look further than the acid wash, high waisted jorts, crop tops, Doc Martens and chokers on trendy undergrads to find evidence. And just try not to think too hard about the next decade of fashion that will resurge after this one (we can’t go back to early 2000’s fashion! We won’t! But it’s already too late.)
It does seem like fashion is on a 20 year cycle sometimes, with vintage inspiration popping up every few decades with a new twist. And when it comes to jewelry, that’s the commonly accepted age of a vintage piece: about 20 years. Because the word “vintage” only applies to wine in a strict sense, it’s open for interpretation (and unfortunately abuse) when it comes to describing anything else. Most jewelry industry insiders consider something vintage if it’s younger than 100 years (the common marker for “antique” distinction) and older than 20-30 (though some would say 50 years is more acceptable.)
20 years doesn’t seem quite vintage to me, at least when it comes to jewelry, and especially vintage engagement rings. If I see one of the Hadid girls wearing a Tommy Hilfiger logo shirt or Calvins I’m like “yeah, that’s vintage, I’ll accept that.” But because jewelry is designed to span decades, if not lifetimes, of enjoyment and adoration, I think it has a longer shelf-life and demands more time to be considered truly vintage. A super-chunky 90’s style platinum setting with invisibly set princess cuts doesn’t say “vintage” to me – or most brides. It just looks outdated.
Bump that back to an early 80’s marquise in funky setting, though, and you have a unique, almost edgy solitaire that many an Instagram influencer would proudly rock. So when a bride says she wants a vintage engagement ring, she’s probably thinking this (and TBH most of these are actually antique style):
Both examples are vintage engagement rings, but because the term isn’t regulated or officially defined, it’s open to interpretation by jewelers and brides alike. So, what do you need to know if you want a truly vintage engagement ring?
- Look for a ring that’s at least 30 years old, but probably closer to 50, to get a truly vintage piece.
- The best place to do this is at an estate jeweler like Raymond Lee Jewelers, though there are some other amazing engagement-ring-only boutiques that specialize in just vintage and antique rings. I can’t name them because they don’t pay my bills, so let’s just say I admire them enough to follow them on Twitter. But start at RLJ – we have gorgeous rings and hilarious, talented and good looking employees.
- If you’re not loving what you see, ask your jeweler about vintage style modern settings. These combine styles of ages past with modern technology and setting techniques for an updated take on a classic. Heidi Gibson (who designed the ring in the Pin above) does this AMAZINGLY well and I want everything she makes.
- “Vintage” doesn’t really apply to the center stone. All diamonds are technically 1-3.3 billion years old anyway. If you love a setting, or (as is very common) find an empty setting you love, you can have it set with the diamond or gemstone of your choice. I’m particularly partial to aquamarines and morganites in vintage settings.
- Are you sure you aren’t thinking of an antique engagement ring? Because I’ve got a lot to say about those too – check back on Thursday!