Marion Fasel is the founder and editorial director of The Adventurine, an online magazine which covers every facet of fine jewelry. From emerging designers to historical treasures and the latest red carpet trends to the best bridal baubles and engagement rings, it can all be found on her glamorous and dynamic site. An author of several acclaimed books on twentieth century jewelry and a savvy accessories trend forecaster, Fasel is sharing her unique expertise in all things jewelry with BAZAAR.com.
By now, in the midst of summer, otherwise known as wedding season, you have surely seen lots of gorgeous engagement rings. You might have even started making decisions about your own, but you may not be certain about all the details. You do know you want something special; what bride doesn’t?! One way to guarantee your ring will be unique is by choosing a vintage jewel.
To get some tips on shopping vintage, we spoke with the antique jewelry expert at Barney’s, Stephanie Windsor. She curates a collection of old treasures for the department store and has worked with countless couples on sourcing just the right ring.
What are the popular periods of vintage jewelry for engagement rings?
Brides with a romantic and feminine style like rings made from around 1901 to 1910. The jewels are referred to as Edwardian, because it’s the period when Edward VII was the king of England. Edwardian rings are almost always made of platinum. They have gorgeous details in the metalwork and they can be pierced with patterns, covered in filigree or decorated with small diamonds. The center stones for Edwardian rings are usually round Old-Mine or Old European-cut diamonds–they were cut by hand and have gorgeous chunkiness to them that’s different than modern stones. Edwardian rings are definitely not cookie cutter.
Brides who are minimalist and indeed maximalist types like Art Deco rings form the 1920s and 30s. Gems in these jewels come in all kinds of fancy shapes. There are emerald-cuts and heart shape diamonds from this era, and you will often find side stones on the rings like trillions or tapered baguettes. The metal is almost always platinum, and usually smooth and unadorned–but sometimes, given the deco designs from the period, you will find geometric patterns on the rings.
Modern engagement rings with a diamond of 1-carat or more are supposed to come with a certificate from a gem lab outlining the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity and carat weight. How is gem certification handled in vintage rings?
The same is true for the vast majority of the vintage and antique rings in my collection with center stones of over 1-carat. Sometimes, a mounting can be too delicate to remove the stone and taking it out would ruin the ring. In those cases, I have a gemologist give a best guess at the quality of the gem and put the details in writing.
What can people expect in terms of prices for vintage rings?
There are rings in our collection for $4,000 on up to $90,000. The average is around $10,000. If you are looking for a ring on the lower end price-wise, scale sapphires, rubies and emeralds can be less expensive. A vintage ring with a diamond cluster, instead of a center stone, can cost around $4,000.
What are some things clients should be asking about or be aware of with vintage rings?
Be sure that the ring is authentic and that you are working with a reputable dealer. There are a lot of vintage style designs on the market that are made to look like old rings–but they’re simply vintage-inspired. Be sure to ask the dealer if their designs are authentic. Old rings can increase in value over time whereas re-creations do not.
Above: An Edwardian platinum engagement ring with 3.56-carat Old European Diamond center stone flanked by eight round diamonds and an Edwardian marquise shape platinum engagement ring with three round diamonds from Stephanie Windsor Antiques.
Vintage engagement rings are sort of one-of-a-kind in that you probably don’t ever have two examples of the same design in your assortment, right?
It’s true. It can be heartbreaking if someone sees a ring before they get engaged and then it’s gone. In those cases, I will scour the market to try and find what they are looking for–or something similar.
Select rings from Stephanie Windsor Antiques can be found online at Barneys.com. A wider selection is in the jewelry boutiques at Barneys in New York and Beverly Hills.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US