So, what is a vintage style engagement ring? Vintage rings can be sweet and delicate, bold and eye-catching, colorful and unique, or any mix of these. They exude charm and elegance and bring an air of history with them wherever they go.
If you’re considering an antique or a vintage style for your engagement ring, it’s important to know what you’re looking for before you begin your search for the perfect ring. There are a variety of vintage ring settings, styles, and stones to choose from. There are sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds, not to mention unique cuts and shapes, as well as interesting design elements that hail from specific time periods.
Before you visit the jewelry store, educate yourself below on the vast array of options available to you. This way you’re prepared before you start shopping for engagement rings –so you can more easily find the vintage engagement ring setting, stone, and style that speak to you.
When most people talk about vintage engagement rings, they are referring to styles anywhere from 20-100 years old. However, modern vintage engagement rings are influenced by jewelry that dates much farther back than that. Here are the time periods you should be familiar with:
Retro (1945-1965): Retro rings are known for their unique, asymmetric designs, feminine details, use of yellow and rose gold metals, and overall glamorous look.
Art Deco (1915-1935): Art deco rings are known for their clean lines, geometric shapes, and use of bold colored gemstones such as sapphires and emeralds.
Edwardian (1901-1915): This short time period had a major influence on jewelry; rings from the Edwardian era build on the ornate styles of the Victorian era with the use of platinum and usher in the bold art deco era with big, sparkling designs.
Victorian (1837-1901): Victorian rings are known for their romantic essence, use of yellow and rose gold metals, and their low-profile yet ornate settings.
These eras all influenced the evolution of engagement rings to the beautiful ones you see today, so their names will surface over and over again in your search for vintage engagement rings and the best vintage engagement ring styles.
Vintage Ring Settings
While modern style is minimalistic in nature and all about the diamond, vintage styles are much more intricate and all about the setting. These are the most popular vintage ring settings and design elements:
The Tiffany Setting
Created in 1886 by Tiffany’s, this setting consisted of six platinum prongs encasing a solitaire diamond. The setting was one of the first to showcase a diamond in a high profile, making it stand out. While vintage in nature, this setting is still incredibly popular today and perfect for the minimalist bride.
Illusion Head Setting
An illusion head setting became popular during the glamorous retro era. It was used to make the center diamond appear larger by enhancing the crown of the setting with the surrounding metal and prongs. A modern version of an illusion head is a metal halo, such as the swirling knot that surrounds this Vienna Round Cut Engagement Ring.
The cluster setting is when a large center stone is completely surrounded by smaller stones. This setting was first used during the Victorian era but continued to be popular during the Edwardian era as well. Today, many brides love the look of a cluster setting because it resembles a flower. While older versions used sapphires or rubies as the center stone, today’s versions favor diamonds.
The pavé setting first became popular during the Edwardian era, when bold sparkly designs took center stage, and remains popular to this day, especially in the design of a wedding ring band. It features small round diamonds connected by metal prongs or beads. A pavé setting is often used around the band of an engagement ring or to surround the center stone in a halo, or both.
Filigree is a design element in which fine threads of metal are twisted and curled to create an ornate appearance. During the art deco era, technology allowed filigree designs to be stamped, which made the process much easier and quicker, and thus, more popular.
Statement Center Stone
During the art deco era, when diamond cutting became much more advanced, the setting became all about the center stone. Large sleek stones such as emerald and marquise cut diamonds were the focal point of the setting with smaller stones, typically baguette diamonds, on the sides.
Floral motifs were popular during the Victorian era
, because, of course, they’re romantic. Sometimes floral motifs were engraved into the band or setting, and other times, the metal itself was shaped to look like petals surrounding the center stone. When used in this fashion, the setting is called a buttercup setting or a belcher setting.
Milgrain is the name for a metal-working technique that appears as a line of tiny dots or beads. It first became popular during the Edwardian era and stayed popular throughout the art deco era. The dainty style of milgrain lends itself to romantic, intricate designs both then and now. For instance, you can find this technique on this Valencia Princess Cut Engagement Ring, which also features beautiful engraving, enhancing its vintage appearance.
Milgrain isn’t the only use of metalwork common in vintage ring settings. Scrolls, as well as floral-shaped and star-shaped designs, were also commonly used during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as were metal stamps. This metalwork can often be seen on the side or top of the band or on the crown of the setting.
In a gypsy setting, the stone sits in the metal, so its surface is flush with the band, which makes the setting quite durable. In vintage styles, the gypsy setting typically consisted of three stones, sometimes varying in color, and was worn by both men and women. The setting is sometimes domed to account for larger-sized diamonds and is common in both silver and gold.
5 Stone Setting
Why have just one diamond when you can have five? A five-stone setting is a popular vintage setting where diamonds or other gemstones of similar sizes, typically round in shape, are set next to one another along the band. Although no single stone is more pronounced than the others, this style setting stands out in its own right.
Vintage Ring Stones
The actual setting is only part of what can make an engagement ring vintage. The stone is another component that can accentuate a vintage essence or marry a more modern cut with a vintage setting.
Old Mine-Cut Diamonds
Old mine-cut diamonds are the earliest diamond cuts that mostly resemble the modern cushion-cut or round-cut diamonds. Because they were cut by hand, old-mine cut diamonds are one-of-a-kind and full of character. Any vintage ring featuring an old mine-cut diamond will date back to at least the Edwardian era.
Old European Cut Diamonds
The old European cut diamond entered the scene in the late 1800s – early 1900s. This cut is slightly more round and more sparkly than the old mine-cut thanks to more advanced diamond cutting techniques. It is this cut that inspired the modern round brilliant cut diamond.
Rubies were a popular gemstone of choice in the Victorian and retro eras. Their deep red color goes beautifully with yellow gold, which was also popular during these times, and their durability makes them an excellent choice for an engagement ring.
The rich green hue of an emerald makes it one of the most noticeable colored gemstones. This beautiful stone was popular during the art deco era, making any modern engagement rings that boasts the green beauty reminiscent of the roaring decade, including this Muse Emerald Cut Engagement Ring.
Sapphires were also popular during the art deco period, mainly as accent stones surrounding diamonds. However, when Princess Diana wore a stunning sapphire engagement ring, it once again became popular, and today is a gem that is distinctly vintage, and yet, timeless.
Asscher-cut diamonds and emerald-cut diamonds became symbols of the art deco era as well thanks to the clean lines of their step cuts and their geometric square-rectangle shapes. Compare how these fancy-shaped diamonds stack up against other diamond cuts using our diamond carat size chart.
Another step-cut diamond, the baguette, also grew in popularity during this time, not as a center stone, but as a side stone. Baguette-cut and tapered baguette-cut diamonds were, and still are, perfect complements to their step-cut sisters, the asscher and the emerald, when set alongside them in a sleek engagement ring.
Explore Vintage Ring Settings
The more you browse, the more familiar you will become with the fancy words and phrases used to describe their special settings and stones. You don’t have to peruse antique stores and estate sales to find a vintage-style engagement ring, though. We offer a collection of modern vintage engagement rings that includes so many stunning options in these vintage styles. Whether you are looking for the romantic essence of a Victorian ring or the sophisticated, streamlined look of an art deco style, you can find the perfect vintage jewelry here at Diamond Nexus.
The beauty of vintage engagement rings in their uniqueness, but what makes any engagement ring special is its uniqueness to the person wearing it. We carry the sweet and delicate, bold and eye-catching, colorful and unique, and everything in-between so you can discover the style that really suits you. When you shop these modern versions, you can create a history of your own with your new engagement ring.