The Invaluable Guide to Antique Engagement Rings

Lot 120, Tiffany andamp; Co. antique gold and amethyst ring, c. 1900, Doyle New York (April 18)

In recent years, antique and vintage engagement rings have become an increasingly appealing option next to everyday modern styles. And as diamond engagement rings have been around since ancient Egyptian times, coveting old-fashioned styles can offer a fascinating window into the evolution of engagement. If diamonds aren’t your thing, gemstones like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires switch up that ancient tradition to add originality and interest to your most important finger.

We spoke with jewelry insiders and trendsetters to find out what’s on their wish list and get inspired by antique, vintage, and stunningly atypical engagement rings.

Stand-Out Shapes & Colored Gems

Lot 4, Victorian diamond ring, late 19th – early 20th century, Neal and Sons (April 16)

Emily of Jean Jean Vintage

“I see a growing interest in alternative gemstones in engagement rings, particularly colored stones. Sapphires and rubies are moving from their accent places on the shoulders of rings and taking center stage. I also have a gut feeling (and a great inside source) telling me that yellow gold is coming back. This means that we could see a renewed interest in Victorian engagement rings and bands, as well as showier Retro/Mid-Century vintage pieces.

Lot 315, Gold, platinum, and cabochon emerald gem-set diamond ring,
Doyle New York (April 18)

Katherine of Katherine Ainsworth

“I like more ‘funky,’ fun designs such as multi-gem rings that resemble fruit baskets. These pieces remind me of the ‘tutti-frutti’ look that became so popular in fine, and later, costume jewelry in the U.S. and Europe in the 1920s.”

Lou of Whimsical Wonderland Weddings

“Halo style vintage rings are super popular right now and I, for one, love them. But what I love even more is when a couple opt for a colored stone, it makes for a really unique look which is also great value.”

Lainey of The Attic Birds

“I recently enjoyed an anniversary upgrade that exemplifies my trend preference: fancy-shaped diamonds on delicate bands. These stones came into vogue during the diamond rush of the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras, as both center an accent stones, and larger ones were particularly en vogue thanks to DeBeers’ successful post-war campaign. My pear-shaped diamond is reflection of my personal style. Fancy-shaped (and even colored) diamonds can stand on their own, needing little embellishment from the band. In truth, my stone has some ‘salt and pepper’ to it, making it extra glittery and interesting. Things don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

Art Deco Is In

Julie of Juler’s Row

“I am in love with the Art Deco engagement rings that feature diamonds and black onyx. The combination is breathtaking and it isn’t something you see everyday. I think these pieces have such a strong point of view and the black onyx is the perfect compliment to a white or even yellow diamond.”

Katherine of Katherine Ainsworth

“I love all things Art Deco: the architecture, furniture, and jewelry. And if you’re going to go with a ring from the Art Deco era, I think it should look like it’s from the era! I like rings with punches of color: a few sapphires or emeralds to accent white diamonds.”

Lot 215, Art Deco platinum and diamond ring, Charlton Hall (April 7)

Kristina of A Broad at Home

“Art Deco designs are trending at the moment. These rings make a striking statement and often feature big, fabulous jewels. They were created during an early feminist movement and are meant to complement a confident, engaging woman.”

Lot 203, Vintage ruby and diamond Art Deco ring, Alex Cooper (April 7)

Sandra of Debutante Clothing

“For the woman who loves antiques and vintage, a typical solitaire won’t do. It’s not unique enough! Special engagement rings can include Art Deco rings with diamonds and sapphires or emeralds. Geometry is key here. Art Deco styles are perfect for woman with a strong sense of style; they’re elegant but minimal.

For a feminine sensibility, round stones or floral shaped settings are very mid-century and classic.”

A Connection to the Past

Becky of Diamonds in the Library

“I love antique and vintage engagement rings that are a bit out of the ordinary. My own ring is a 1930s hand-engraved platinum ring with a chubby old mine-cut center stone. Its openwork details are actually slightly asymmetrical: an imperfection that make the piece all the more beautiful to me, as it reminds me that the most wonderful things are never flawless, and makes my ring one-of-a-kind.

I’ve been noticing a growing interest among my readers in rings that are a little outside-the-box, and a little special. I’ve been asked several times recently for help finding East-West marquise settings and rings with colored gemstone accents. I’m so excited by the idea people are looking for more individuality and flair in their engagement rings.”

Claire of Bridal Musings

“I love the idea of using acrostic rings as engagement rings. As they’ve started to become really stylish again, modern designers are recreating them, but there’s nothing quite like the antique versions.

First designed by French jewelers “Chaumet” in the Napoleonic era, and hugely popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras too, acrostic rings spell out secret words of love with your chosen gemstones. A is for Amethyst, B is for Beryl, C is for Citrine, and so on. The most common phrases in acrostic rings are ‘love,’ ‘adore’ and ‘dearest.’ There’s something really intimate and thoughtful about choosing a vintage acrostic ring to propose with.”

Lot 230, Estate ruby & diamond set in half-bezel ring, Peachtree & Bennett (April 9)

Emily of The Attic Birds

“I’m recently married and I have the most perfect example of what I love in a vintage engagement ring: bezel set diamonds in yellow gold. My ring was my Nana’s, which makes it even more special. Heritage jewelry is always in style! Three diamonds in an engagement ring symbolizes past, present, and future – and when a piece is heirloom, it has deep roots. The love that carried Nana through marriage now carries me.”

Lot 90, Antique diamond ring, c. 1920, Neale and Sons (April 16)

Emily of Jean Jean Vintage

“For me, the real draw of antique engagement rings are the original, old cut gemstones – especially the diamonds. Just like love and marriage, old cut diamonds aren’t perfect. I think that is precisely why couples are drawn to them. They have personality, they have flaws, and they have a history. Choosing to wear an old cut diamond is a powerful, sentimental statement of love and more and more people are saying “yes” to that.

The most interesting thing to me right now is the market for vintage and antique wedding bands. Patterns and symbolic motifs are exploding in popularity. Couples are exchanging elaborately engraved cigar band rings and sentimental Victorian pieces. Motifs like buckles, skulls, and clasped hands – symbols of loyalty, mortality, and binding love – are especially in favor.”