As you begin engagement ring shopping, you may become overwhelmed especially if you start looking at antique and vintage rings. Many of the terminology may seem confusing to you if you aren’t well-versed in antiquing.
I would like to define the main terms and definitions used to make your shopping experience less chaotic and more pleasurable. These are the most important terms you should know before shopping for the finest antique diamond engagement rings:
- Antique jewellery – Antique jewellery is traditionally defined as jewellery that is at least 100 years old. However, many places have loosened that definition to include pieces from 1930 and before so that it covers the Art Deco period.
- Vintage jewellery – Vintage jewellery has to be at least 20 years old so now it includes anything before the 1990s. If your grandmother left you her ring from the 1950s, that would be considered vintage.
- Estate jewellery – Estate jewellery is any jewellery that is second hand, no matter the time period, though often dealers keep it to about the last 30 years.
- Georgian Period – Lasting from 1700 to 1830, this period featured intricate detailing on the band, using designs such as flowers or butterflies. These rings used a combination of diamonds and other stones like garnet, emerald, or topaz. However, rings during this era were often backed with foil, and the ring could be become damaged if the foil becomes wet.
- Victorian Period – Lasting from 1837 to 1901, this period was named after Queen Victoria’s reign when diamonds became even more popular. Since this era lasted so long, it covered a plethora of styles beginning with a Romantic style, featuring floral scrolling, multi-coloured gold, and using your fiancé’s birthstone in the ring. After Prince Albert died in 1861, jewellery was darker and heavier, and there was an abundance of gold and diamonds, as they were discovered in South Africa. In the late Victorian period, rings started moving from cluster of diamonds to the infamous solitaire style.
- Edwardian Period – Lasting from 1901-1914, this era is remembered for their elegant styles and their open wire designs. Platinum became popular as it was easier to use to make their intricate detailing and filigrees. Rings from this period will have a metal purity and a production mark stamped inside.
- Art Deco Period – Lasting from 1920 to 1930, this period is the last one to be considered as antique jewellery. It’s also often the most popular as it features bold design and colours, geometric shapes, and an abundance of diamonds. You’ll find a mixture of geometric patterns, African and Egyptian styles, and colourful gemstones, such as emerald, black onyx, and ruby used with diamonds.
- Old Miner’s Cut – Usually a round or cushion cut. It pre-dates the Old European cut and features more facets than the earlier Table or Rose cuts.
- Old European cut – These cuts are generally round with heavier crowns, wider facets, and a small table. They were especially popular from the 1890s to the 1940s, until the more precise Round Brilliant cut was created.
- Marks or Hallmarks – These marks were most famous in the Edwardian era, and stated when the piece was made. The hallmark is stamped by the manufacture and if it’s not dated, can often help to date a piece and decipher its worth.
The terms discussed above are some of the most important terms you should remember when purchasing antique or vintage jewellery. Take note of these terms and shop like an expert!