Whether you’re trying to propose with a vintage or antique engagement ring, or you’ve just dug out your grandmother’s engagement ring in the basement or attic, you must be wondering where did the ring originate from, how old it is, and whether it has a higher value now that so much time has passed while the materials look relatively shiny and stunning. A lot can be said about an antique ring by just looking at it, but not everyone knows how to. Still, dating an antique ring is more often than not, an exciting endeavor.
But, how does one date the antique ring exactly? Was it an engagement ring or just a gift, or a trademark that the gentry has been known for hundreds of years? There are so many questions you need answered but you don’t know where to start and what to expect from the answers you get.
Vintage and antique rings look more extravagant and have stronger accents and more intricate details compared to the minimalistic ring designs that you have an opportunity to see these days. More importantly, antique rings were designed with different styles in mind which can make dating and identification more difficult if you don’t know anything about them.
Don’t worry, we crafted a guide that will teach you everything you need to know about dating vintage and antique rings, as well as how to identify them properly. Whether you want to buy an antique ring for your significant other or sell a ring to an appraiser or a collector, you’ve come to the right place.
Collectors are roaming and collecting the best quality antique rings, and you’d be surprised to know just how valuable they can be. Continue reading this article, and you’ll be able to date your antique ring without a hassle once you finish reading.
How to Know That a Ring is Antique?
Unfortunately, determining whether some ring is antique or not is quite hard. There’s simply not a trait that all of these rings share in common that could tell that it’s about an antique ring. Generally, all rings that were made 30 and more years ago are considered antique.
Similarly, all rings that are 100 years or more old are called antiques. It’s only possible to estimate whether a ring was manufactured professionally or it was handmade. Most jewelry companies started manufacturing the rings professionally after 1890.
Still, it’s possible to tell if a certain ring is antique or newer simply by evaluating some traits that are visible on it. Most people who discover an old ring in an old jewelry box or the attic should be able to tell that the ring is quite old. However, dating is another story.
If the ring has a gemstone such as a diamond, it’s possible to date the ring based on the diamond cut or culet, mounting, ring setting, or some other way. Some people who are unable to accurately identify when the ring was made can always ask for professional help.
Dating the Diamond (Gemstone) on the Ring
If you have an engagement or some other ring with a diamond in it, then identifying and dating your ring should be considered relatively easy. Here’s how to date antique diamond rings.
Back in the day, it was incredibly difficult to shape diamonds in a way that is possible now. Most antique rings were handmade, with limited cutting and manufacturing resources. That being said, antique diamond rings were only limited to 8 to 10 different cut shapes.
In the last four decades, more ways to shape a diamond cut were developed so now, women who like wearing diamond rings can flaunt different gem shapes. If the ring you’re trying to date has a brilliant round cut, heart cut or princess cut, perhaps it may be vintage, but there’s no chance it’s an antique diamond ring.
If you want to be sure that you’re trying to date an antique ring, the gem should be cut in one of the following shapes:
- Antique Marquise
- Oval Cut
- Old European Cut
- Antique Emerald Cut
- Mine Cut
- Cushion Cut
A diamond (or any gem for that matter) culet is located at the bottom of the gemstone and represents a facet placed at the tip of the pavilion to prevent damage to loose diamonds. Culets are usually not visible now because jewelers and other jewelry manufacturers managed to find ways to cut the bottom culet of the gem off, which wasn’t possible at the time antique rings were still made.
Most antique rings have a special shape that represents the culet. Most of them should be located at the center and feature different shapes like oval, octagon, circular, or rectangle.
The mounting of the gemstone can tell you a lot both about the gemstone and the ring itself. Whether you’re checking the mounting or the setting of the ring, you’ll have to check all the details to ensure you’re not missing anything.
For that, you’ll either need a loupe (magnifier) or consult a professional appraiser that can help you check these details.
You should be attentive about the shank because it may hold details about birthday dates or even anniversaries related to the owner of the ring.
There could also be country stamps or even company signatures as well as hallmarks. Finally, there could also be a tiny amount of patina that could tell you that the ring is really old. Rings that have copper in the metal could have developed a patina over time.
Another thing you should be attentive to is the ring girdle, which is a part of the diamond that gives the outline to the ring, separating the pavilion of the ring from the crown. Newer rings, particularly those made after the 1940s and 1950s have refined girdles, so those could only be vintage rings.
Girdles with an appearance like a frosted sheen over their surface could shed light on the identification as well as when it was made, as most of the antique rings look like that.
Identifying the Jewelry Style of the Antique Ring
Based on the period or era (Victorian, Edwardian) you could easily date your antique ring. Below, we looked into different eras to be able to see how old your ring could exactly be.
Georgian Style (1700-1830)
Even though Georgian-style rings and jewelry, in particular, may be among the oldest, in some places it’s still commercially available. This era reigned during the reign of four kings that were the kings of England during this year.
Sometimes jewelry that was made in this era could fluctuate in design. After all, this was a long period, and some styles and fashion senses changed throughout those 130 years. Nevertheless, there are no major fluctuations and even though some jewelry may not look the same, it still shares similarities.
During this period all rings had quite vibrant and colorful gemstones, often precious. The ring designs were elaborate and pointed out, while the materials used for them mostly involved yellow gold. Usually, a ring wouldn’t be standalone, but a part of a jewelry set that consisted of necklaces, earrings, brooches, bracelets, and crowns.
The Victorian jewelry style is a bit shorter than the Georgian style but still quite long and named after Queen Victoria, who was known to be a style icon who greatly influenced this jewelry style. It likely started during the first years of her marriage when she received a snake ring from her husband Prince Albert as a gift.
After her husband died, she started wearing black jewelry which highly influenced the style so everyone wore, not only rings with black gemstones, but also other jewelry such as necklaces and earrings. Queen Victoria also wore jewelry with enamels which also encouraged many artists and jewelers to experiment with different types of enamel on jewelry.
The second half of the Victorian era marked Ancient Greek and Egyptian designs. Many believed that it had to do with archeological finds in Egypt and Greece at that time. That’s when cameo became quite popular.
Edwardian Style (1900-1910)
This jewelry style was inspired by King Edward VII. Although he died before, the style continued living for a few more years. It is highly influenced by the jewelry designed during the Victorian era. There were many jewelry pieces with lace finish and floral designs, and rings weren’t excused from that practice.
Nevertheless, the designs were a tad simpler and more minimalistic. Yellow gold was still used, but the appearance of white gold and platinum influenced more rings to have that frame.
Art Nouveau (1890-1910)
Parallelly with the Edwardian style, art nouveau was created. What made it different compared to other mentioned styles is that rings had a more nature-inspired design. The curves were smooth and the colors were not as vibrant and resembled more of nature.
Stones on the rings include opal, amber, and moonstone. Some rings had gems with sculpted pieces of feminine statues and other artistic creations.
Art Deco (1915-1935)
Among the last antique designs are from the Art Deco era, and if you’ve ever watched a movie called The Great Gatsby, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Art Deco features a modern and daring touch. Women who wore rings had confidence and boldness. The rings glowed and featured sharp shapes complemented with emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. This style in a ring is not that hard to recognize.
Retro Style (1930-1940)
Most retro-style rings are considered vintage, but some of them can have great value, depending on the condition. These rings were made during World War II, and at that time, the materials weren’t so easily found.
That being said, rings were made of plastic, glass rhinestones, and other type of cheaper materials. Even though they can be found inexpensively now, some of them could have greater value.
Using Manufacturer’s Info to Date Antique Rings
Manufacturers’ information and markings are also important things to consider when dating antique rings and other antique collectibles in the process.
Maker marks can give a lot of information about the ring. They may include the initials of the ring’s maker, as well as the full name or brand of the manufacturing facility. Usually, this mark is stamped onto the golden, silver, or platinum ring, usually from the inner parts.
Sometimes, they are also known as Trademarks and provide full evidence that the ring was indeed manufactured or made by a certified jeweler. Sometimes, these marks can indicate the manufacturing time or even the region where the ring was made so it can support identifying and dating the ring.
Keep in mind that most rings before 1890 were made by hand by certified jewelers and enthusiasts who explored making jewelry. After the 1890s and the appearance of cutting machines in the early 1900s, the ring manufacturing process has been commercialized and sped up.
Depending on where the ring was made or manufactured can tell a lot about what time the ring is from. Some manufacturing companies had their own culture and manufacturing methods that are distinct only to them, and that unique approach is often visible on the rings.
If the ring has a hand carving, it was likely made before the 1890s or 1900 when rings and other jewelry were still made by hand. In the 1900s, machines came, introducing new ring shapes such as round brilliant cut, but also other methods that are more popular among vintage rings than those that are antique.
Get Your Ring Professionally Appraised
Rings are a piece of jewelry that existed for thousands of years, and as such, it may be extremely difficult to source and identify some really old rings. There are just so many things to consider, and oftentimes, redundant and repetitive patterns and information can confuse those who are trying to date the rings even more.
That’s why seeking a professional appraiser, an antique dealer or a jeweler can help you date the ring much easier, especially because they’re equipped with tools that allow them to do it easier. Search for one online or visit a nearby jewelry store.
Another important thing to consider is the forums, such as Reddit. Subreddits such as r/EngagementRings and r/Vintage_Jewelry have a lot of people looking for help when dating antique jewelry. Some people may even help you identify yours.
Lastly, different auctions of jewelry can shed more light on the origin and date of manufacturing of your ring. But, tracing all the important auction dates can be tasking for people who don’t have much time, which is why you can compare your ring with similar rings on eBay and similar sites.