When it comes to sparkly things, I am a bit of a magpie. I love jewellery, whether it be the costume and paste variety, or the real thing. But one thing unites all my favourite pieces of jewellery – it is vintage and antique pieces that I love the most. I love the idea that something so beautiful may also have a provenance, a story behind it, that it may have been super special to the person who first owned it. I wear my nan’s gold and diamond engagement ring every single day, knowing that it replaced a ration era thin band of gold and so was much loved and cherished, a symbol of times that were changing and improving. Only vintage and antique jewellery can hold stories like this.
The Real Thing
Finding really unusual and beautiful antique gemstone and precious metal pieces in perfect condition can be quite difficult, so it is best to consult an expert. Where else to head except Hatton Garden, the jewellery capital in the capital. Berganza is a good port of call, specialising in antique and vintage jewellery, including engagement rings that have now become super popular for those who want something that is a little different to modern designs. Berganza is the place to go if you have a reasonable budget and you want to get that unforgettable, show-stopping piece.
Art Nouveau Era ring – amazing.
The colour of this stone.
Costume and paste jewellery
If your budget does not stretch to the real thing, you can find some really interesting pieces of costume and paste vintage jewellery without breaking the bank. Vintage stores and Antique fairs can have rich pickings, but you can also find great pieces at jumble sales, charity shops and car boot sales. I wore a set of Austrian crystals on my wedding day that were from the 1960s and just sparkled so brightly with my dress. Names to look out for include Trifari, early Butler and Wilson, Monet (some really brilliant 1980s classics out there) and Lisner. But if you love it, and the price is right, you can pick up something that will become really special to you.
1960s perspex necklace
That brooch in that last picture cost a grand total of 95p. It is definitely worth looking around – you may just find a lovely bargain.
I am a magpie when it comes to jewellery. This has been true since I was a child when I would play dress up with my moms beads and bangles and it has not abated in my adult life. I think it is true to say that I follow in a long line of magpies – my mom has an extensive and beautiful collection of jewels, and my nan’s bedroom was always a treasuret trove filled with heavy charm bracelets, Sovereign rings and other pieces that could only make my eyes goggle when I was young.
Where I differ from my mother and grandmother is that, in general, my jewellery is of the paste and costume variety. I own only a few pieces that could be considered truly valuable, but one of these pieces is actually one I wear every single day. On my right hand I wear an antique engagement ring. It is a beautiful yellow gold and diamond piece that belonged to my grandmother, which makes its value and provenance so important to me. I know that this was not her original engagement ring – she got engaged just after World War 2 and had a plain band, but that this ring was an antique piece that my grandfather presented her with a few years later. My nan died in 1998 and I have now been wearing this ring for almost 20 years – it is irreplaceable and beautiful and I wouldn’t part with it for all the money in the world.
If you are getting engaged this year, an antique ring is a beautiful alternative to a High Street jeweller. Berganza is a reputable dealer in antique jewellery, including engagement rings. The company, based in London’s famous Hatton Garden, is also a wealth of information about vintage and antique pieces, including the key pieces from different styles and era’s, birth stones for each month of the year, and different cuts of stone.
I think there can be nothing more romantic than sealing your love with an antique ring, one that may have a story of past love behind it. You can find the perfect gift for the one you love by choosing something from their favourite era (for me this would be anything Art Deco), or maybe looking at something that they may have seen on TV (in a series like Downton Abbey or a film like ‘The Great Gatsby’). You can still set your own budget, and could maybe even contact Berganza to see if they could find a specific style for you.
For romance with a touch of history, an antique engagement ring is hard to beat.
Shopping for an antique engagement ring can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Knowing how to spot damaged or fake antiques could save you from purchasing a ring that’s not authentic.
Look for Bad Repairs
Over the years the ring has probably been repaired, but you want to make sure that faulty repairs have not damaged the wearability of the ring. When looking at the ring, check the front and back to make sure that nothing has been done to the ring that would make it difficult to wear, or that would allow for the stones to easily fall out.
Antique engagement ring
Know the Era
Knowing the different styles and hallmarks from each era will help you to decipher whether or not a ring is authentic. For example, if you know a certain diamond cut was not made during the Georgian period, but the person selling it claims it’s from that period, then it may not be authentic.
Antique engagement rings are from the following eras:
- Rings from the Georgian (1700-1830) period have intricate metal work with flowers, butterflies, ribbons, and scrolls. The gems used were diamonds, garnet, emerald, topaz, and amber and they were usually a rose or table cut. The settings were usually closed with a foil backing. It’s very rare to find a ring from this period.
- Rings from the Victorian era (1837-1901) had diamonds, amethyst, pink and gold topaz, coral, turquoise, ruby, garnets, emeralds, black onyx, and pearls, among others. The cutting styles were rose cut, old mine cut, and step cut. The motifs included snakes, angels, crosses, Greek and Roman designs, clovers, flowers, and Celtic, crescents, horseshoes, and moons, among others.
- The Art Nouveau era (1895-1915) had rings that depicted nature with old mine and old European cutting styles. The gemstones used were small diamonds, pearls, emerald, opal, amber, lapis lazuli, tourmaline, and synthetic gems, among others.
- Edwardian (1901-1914) rings have a hallmark or a maker’s mark stamped on the inside of the shank. The motifs included bows, ribbons, stars, moons, shamrocks, and leaves. The gemstones were pearl, diamond, emerald, peridot, sapphire, ruby, and opal, among others. They were usually seen with a rose, old mine, or Old European cut.
- Rings from the Art Deco era (1920-1930) featured designs with a lot of diamonds in them. Others gemstones used were emerald, sapphire, black onyx, crystal, ivory, and jade, among others. The stones were cut with old mine cut, Old European cut, and step cuts.
Art Deco engagement ring
Where to Look
Authentic antique engagement rings can be found in a variety of places including local jewellery stores, online jewellery shops that specialize in antique jewellery, and estate sales. For those in Florida, Tampa Bay jewelry stores offer a great selection of antique jewellery.
When searching for that perfect unique and charming antique ring for your loved one, make sure to keep the above in mind, and remember you can always ask your jeweler if you have any questions or concerns.
Mia Middleton has earned herself the nickname of magpie; she gravitates towards shiny things, most notably jewelry, and has recently landed a dream job at her local jewelry store. In her spare time Mia enjoys shopping for antiques and collectibles and adding to her ever-expanding jewelry collection!