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How to Shop for a Vintage Engagement Ring

May. 13, 2024

How to Shop for a Vintage Engagement Ring

A lot of the time, vintage engagement rings can be overlooked or deemed intimidating. And while a burgeoning engagement is an exciting time in anyone’s life. the actual shopping for the ring can be quite a daunting task. There are the big-name jewelers, the trendy settings, the industry-adored up-and-coming jewelers, and everything in between. But if your eyes are set on a selection of vintage engagement rings, or even an heirloom piece, it’s important to keep a few thoughts in mind in addition to the usual ring-buying experience. Trust us, it’s not all tedious and anxiety-inducing work. 

The company is the world’s best vintage gem engagement rings supplier. We are your one-stop shop for all needs. Our staff are highly-specialized and will help you find the product you need.

In actual fact, a vintage ring is a cost-effective way to get a spectacular stone, often—if from pre-1930—hand-cut. And if you know where to look, a trusted seller can have what you may have been looking for all along. Below are five tips for the shopping process, with some suggestions for fabulous vintage rings—and the retailers that sell them well.

Look for quality

Jill Heller, a New York-based jewelry curator and purveyor of contemporary and vintage jewelry, has some base guidelines for approaching the vintage engagement ring market. “Once you’ve begun shopping,” says Heller, “look for weighty pieces made of high-quality and durable materials–you want to choose a piece that can continue to be worn and enjoyed for years to come. I only recommend rings that are 18-karat gold or platinum.” This will help determine whether the vintage ring you’re looking at can withstand years of wear compared to costume jewelry. Costume jewelry can be considered vintage too, but they tend to be gold-plated silver or brass with crystal instead of precious gems. Sometimes, it can be a little tricky to spot the initial difference, but over time, the distinction becomes clear. 

Know if you want vintage vs. antique vs. vintage-inspired

Picture a vintage engagement ring in your mind. Now, imagine an antique engagement ring. Was there anything particularly different about the two images? While we know terms like vintage and antique get thrown as if they’re synonymous, in fact, there are specific definitions attached to each. Vintage rings are usually 50 or more years older, while antique rings are 100 years or older. 

When going engagement ring shopping, determine how far back you’re looking to travel. The 18th-century Georgian style offers high-karat gold or silver with foil and stunning stones that have a kaleidoscope-esque quality to the setting, like a halo engagement ring with a marquise cut. Victorian-era styles followed after Georgian until the early 1900s, usually including amethysts, garnets, pearls, and diamonds with elaborate gold settings. Edwardian styles hit their popularity peak from 1895 to 1915, drawing traditional inspiration from its previous era with intricate designs, and diamonds and pearls as the go-to stones. 

You’ve probably heard of the Art Nouveau era, which had soft and flowery designs on yellow gold for its engagement rings. But for the next 20 years, until the mid-century, Art Deco takes center stage. With baguette-cut diamonds, extravagant emeralds and rubies, and angular shapes, Art Deco engagement rings are arguably the most well-known among vintage and antique designs. Heavily influenced by the world wars, the following decades brought on the Retro era, a futuristic design with bold looks created by yellow and rose gold and a variety of stones, like a solitaire engagement ring.

13 Must-Ask Questions When You're Buying an ...

Your engagement ring is one of the most important purchases you will ever make. Your spouse will wear it on her left hand every day for the rest of their life. It's a beautiful and deeply meaningful symbol of the love you share. Every engagement ring is unique. While some may wear the same kind of ring, each one has its own meaning, significance, and importance to the wearer. As every marriage is special and beautiful, so too is the ring worn to symbolize it.

Designers make a nearly infinite variety of engagement rings, each exhibiting its own distinctive style and characteristics. With so many to choose from, expressing one’s individuality and personality is easy. Yet, it also can make it challenging to find one that suits you and your soon-to-be spouse’s lifestyle, budget, and tastes.

That’s why it’s so important to let a jeweler help. They have the knowledge and expertise to ensure you find a ring that speaks to you. With training and experience, only a professional can guide you through everything a jewelry store offers. To make the best use of your and their time, think carefully about what questions to ask. It will help you think about your wishes when searching for a ring and the extent to which they can help.

These 13 questions are vital to understanding what you are looking for and how to find it. When you go to the Wedding Ring Shop, be prepared to ask these questions.

1) What Can I Afford?

No matter what rubric you're using, this is the most fundamental question you will need to ask yourself when it comes to ring shopping. Before you consider designers, center stone carat size, or any other aspects of an engagement ring, you'll need to have a serious discussion either with yourself or with your significant other about how much you're willing to spend.

Keep in mind that an engagement ring is an investment your spouse will wear for decades to come. Many people pass on their engagement ring to their children and grandchildren. It's a powerful representation of the love that endures through the generations, connecting families and helping welcome new family members — and it's worth the extra money to invest in something that will stand the test of time.

However, everyone has their own financial situation. Maybe your budget is a little tight, or maybe you would prefer to put that money towards buying your first house or going on a romantic honeymoon in some exotic location. At the end of the day, this is a very personal decision that only you — or you and your beloved together — can make. Everyone has a different lifestyle with their own priorities.

Regardless of what you decide, this is a decision you should make before you begin shopping. Once you know your budget, this will help you immediately rule certain rings out of the running as you narrow your search down to only the ones in your price range. By keeping the jeweler aware of your budget, they will better be able to help you find an engagement ring you can buy without regret.

2) Do You Have Rings in Their Favorite Style?

Once you've settled a budget, this is the next most important question on your list. Engagement rings come in an enormous variety of styles. Some are large, some are small, some are gold, some are platinum, and most have diamonds, although there are some that use other stones. The list goes on. Knowing what styles you are looking for ensures that your jeweler knows what rings you and your future fiance will love.

If the two of you are going ring shopping together, you will have a much easier time with this question. While this was once an unheard-of practice, it's now becoming more common. Today, it's perfectly acceptable for couples to ring shop together.

However, if you're determined to have the element of surprise in your proposal, your job will be a bit harder. Here are some quick tips for surprise proposals:

  • Pay attention: Keep your ears open for anything she may mention in passing about rings and jewelry.
  • Ask her friends: Many women frequently discuss what styles of rings they like. If you feel comfortable asking, her close friends may very well have some insight.
  • Browse her social media: Plenty of women use websites like Pinterest as a place to compile ideas for their future weddings. While you may not be able to find the exact ring she likes, you might be able to get a feel for the styles she prefers. Note that not all ideas are as direct as you would like them to be. They could just be “floral patterns” or “vintage looks.”
  • Look at what she wears now: Does she love to dress up and wear delicate, fine jewelry? Does she frequently wear things that evoke a more vintage, old-fashioned vibe? Does she only ever wear very minimalist jewelry? Or does she have a bold, expressive sense of style? By taking her everyday style into account, you might be able to get some clues about her ring preferences.
  • Consider her occupation: If she has an outdoor, active job where fancy jewelry would be impractical, you might want to opt for a simple design. On the other hand, if she works in an office, you probably have the license to go for something a little flashier.
  • Ask the expert stylists at The Wedding Ring Shop: Our staff members train with experts straight from Hearts On Fire, TACORI, A.JAFFE, Michael M, and many other designers that we carry. Tell us more about your beloved, and we will be sure to help you find something she will love! If you still cannot decide, a temporary mounting is a great solution; you can pick out the perfect loose diamond from our Diamond Bar and purchase a temporary mounting (a plain gold or platinum engagement ring). We will temporarily set the diamond into the mounting for your surprise proposal, and when the two of you are ready, you can come to The Wedding Ring Shop together and pick out a ring in her desired style. Plus, when you return your temporary mounting, you'll get full credit toward your engagement ring purchase!

3) Is It Available in Their Ring Size?

This isn't a top priority for planning purposes, but it's still crucial to know when you get down to the fine details of ring buying. Again, this won't be a problem if your significant other is coming with you to go shopping. Jewelers are experts at ring sizes. However, if you're trying to surprise her, you'll have to do some detective work.

You could try asking her friends or family, although not many friends will know this about one another. Many women don't even know their ring size. One tried-and-true method we recommend is secretly borrowing one of her rings, one you've seen her wear on her ring finger. It helps if it's one she doesn't often wear, so she might not notice it's missing. Our trained staff can measure the size of the ring with our special tools. Remember to put her ring back where you found it when you're done!

Of course, even if you buy the ring and it turns out to be the wrong size, it isn't the end of the world. Our in-house jeweler and our designer partners can resize rings; however, note that resizing can be tricky when dealing with diamonds along the band, so be sure to speak to a Wedding Ring Shop consultant when making your purchase.

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4) When Can I Propose?

This might seem unrelated, but it's an important thing to decide. The reason for this is that some rings are available to be bought right on the spot. Some need to be ordered and will take time to arrive. Others might need to be custom-made, especially if the ring size is exceptionally small or large. Engraving will also take some time; should you wish to engrave a personalized message. Our team is dedicated to keeping you up to date with the status of your ring, and is here to give you proposal ideas!

If you know you're going to propose in two weeks, it might be best to avoid selecting a custom ring that will take six to eight weeks to make. Always keep your jeweler in the know.

5) What Are the Four C's?

This basic engagement ring terminology will help you be more knowledgeable before you begin shopping. The 4 C's stand for color, clarity, cut, and carat. They are four different scales on which all diamonds are ranked and classified.

By brushing up on these basic terms, you can be better prepared to understand what the jeweler is talking about when they begin to use these terms.

6) Will the Ring Need to be Special Ordered?

Generally speaking, every ring is different. Even at the same jeweler, some rings might be available for immediate purchase. Meanwhile, custom engagement rings and special orders will take some time. If you've done your homework and made your plans ahead of time, you will have a pretty good idea of when you want to propose.

When you find a ring you like, ask how soon you'll be able to take the ring home with you. If the ring you love won't be ready for another two months, you might have to either rearrange your plans or choose a different ring. Either way, this is an important question to ask.

Remember, at The Wedding Ring Shop, you can purchase a temporary mounting to house your chosen diamond for the proposal and then come back together to pick out her dream ring!

7) What Sizes Do You Carry?

This is on a related note. Many jewelers only carry a standard range of sizes. If the ring size you're shopping for is smaller or larger than any of these standard sizes, the ring will likely have to be custom-made or custom-ordered.

Because of this, it's a good idea to ask about the sizing options for any ring you like right up front, just to be sure.

8) Can the Ring Be Modified?

An engagement ring is a commitment, so preparing for the future is imperative. No matter how happy you are with the ring today, it's impossible to speak for the future. It's possible that someday, you and your spouse may decide you want to upgrade to something a little bigger and brighter. Maybe you'll want to add more stones, or maybe you want to add more sparkle to your band.

Even if you think this is something you won't be interested in, it's worth noting. That way, when and if that day ever comes, you'll at least be aware of your options available for a possible upgrade down the road.

9) Is Engraving an Option?

Engraving is a great way to add a personalized, romantic touch. If you're interested in getting something engraved on the inside or outside of your ring band, you will want to ask how it will affect the design. Some jewelers do it, while others do not. If engraving is a must-have for you, it might be best to include this in your research about jewelers before you go shopping.

10) What are the Payment Options?

Since engagement rings are often such a large purchase, many jewelers offer payment plans so that you do not have to pay the entire sum upfront. However, every jeweler will have a different policy and different rules about this.

If a plan of this nature is something you would be interested in looking into, be sure to include this question on your list.

When visiting the Wedding Ring Shop, be sure to ask your diamond consultant about our special interest and no-interest financing options!

11) What is the Exchange Policy?

This is a question that you might rather not think about, but it's still an important one. Sometimes a ring will get damaged, or they want something different. Whatever your reason for needing to return or exchange the ring, it's important to know upfront the jeweler's policy on this. There's nothing worse than realizing you will need to return the ring and then discovering your jeweler has a no-return policy.

Even if you think you will never need it, it is important to be informed about it. Better to know and never need it than vice versa.

12) Will They Do an Appraisal for Insurance?

Whether you choose to be conservative or extravagant with your diamond ring, it still represents a significant investment. Aside from the money invested, it also represents a crucial emotional value.

Because of this, it's important to insure your engagement ring right away. To do this, an appraisal will be required to estimate how much the ring is worth. Some jewelers may do this, others may not. It's best to ask to be sure.

13) How Do I Clean It?

Engagement rings are built to withstand a lot of wear and tear, but they're not invincible. Especially on the island... humidity, saltwater, sunscreen, and sweat will tarnish any ring if left to its own devices for too long. All jewelry needs to be cleaned regularly to stay as beautiful and pristine as they are on the day you buy them.

Most rings can safely be cleaned at home with a soft baby toothbrush, warm water, and a little soap. Still, it’s worth asking your jeweler if there are any specific instructions for the ring you have chosen. It's also a good idea to ask them if they provide any ring cleaning services since most rings should be cleaned professionally once or twice a year.

When you purchase an engagement ring from The Wedding Ring Shop, you can take advantage of a free professional ring cleaning! The Wedding Ring Shop has recently updated its policy, so now you can visit once a year to get your free inspection and cleaning. Or if you have a special event and need those rings cleaned before, make sure you schedule your appointment!

Time to Start Shopping at The Wedding Ring Shop

By asking these questions, you can be sure to get the most out of your engagement ring shopping process at a fine jewelry store like the Wedding Ring Shop. Don't be afraid to write these questions down and use them as a checklist while shopping. Ring shopping has a lasting impact, so it's worth a little extra time and effort to get it right.

As you take these steps forward, we hope you will consider us. Our selection of designer brand settings is unmatched. We offer a large variety of cuts and styles as well as plenty of custom options. Not only that, but we're committed to treating you like a member of our family. Ask our experts at any time for the answers to all of your engagement ring questions, or give us a call at (808) 945-7766.

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