Antique Engagement Rings
We have read many articles on antique engagement rings. Some offer an education on the 4 C’s of diamond purchasing. Others discuss where to shop for antique rings and others yet bring a perspective on styles from different eras of jewellery design.
We’d like to approach this subject from a practical standpoint. Specifically, antique engagement rings have already lived one life, perhaps several. Before starting a new life with you, how can you ensure the ring will stand up to the wear and tear you expect of it?
What to Look For
All antique engagement rings exhibit some form of wear. And that is quiet alright, it’s part of the charm. Perhaps the original engraving on the ring is not as sharp as it used to be. Or maybe a stone setting has come loose. With this type of purchase, you should probably assume additional costs for repairs. Wear is normal but how much is too much? Let’s examine this question in more detail.
First of all, examine the stones to determine if they are secure within their setting. You can do this with a loupe, a small magnifying glass used by jewellers and watch makers. All settings, no matter what type, will wear out in time. A knowledgeable vendor should point out features that will require repairs. And you should also ask them to point out damages that are permanent and beyond repair.
Conduct a physical examination yourself using the loupe to find loose stones or missing prongs. If you notice any dirt build up in the ring ask the jeweller to clean it for you because over time, the dirt can solidify and hold the stone in place! Loose stones become very apparent after a cleaning.
All gemstones experience wear, even diamonds. Use the loupe to get a magnified view of the stones. Examine them closely for chips and cracks. Gemstones are cut and polished into multi-sided surfaces called facets which consequently make the stone sparkle. Review the facet edges to see if some are dull-edged with exposed non-polished stone. Under these circumstances, your personal preference should drive this purchase. How much imperfection are you comfortable with?
The most common request we receive with antique engagement rings is resizing. Depending on the design and the amount of resizing required, this can either be a simple request or a very tricky one. Sometimes, even when resizing is possible, we do not recommend it. Changing the ring from its original state can make it weaker.
Ask the seller pointed questions about sizing. Has it been resized before and if so, how many times? Find out if the seller has an opinion about the integrity of the ring, in the event you require it resized.
With vintage and antique engagement rings, we begin our examination on the underside because this is where they wear out the most. The gradual loss of metal over time reduces the metal thickness. At a minimum you should have 1.2mm of metal in thickness and width all of the way around for structural integrity. Ideally, the more metal you have the stronger your ring will be. It is sometimes possible to re-shank the item in areas where the metal has thinned out.
Look for clues about the quality of the metal. Generally this will be stamped on the inside of the ring. Typical stamps are 22k, 18k (also 750), 14k (also 585), 10K (also 420), PL or PLAT for platinum and 925 for sterling silver. The more expensive antique engagement rings may even come with additional hallmarks that date it and determine by whom it was made.
A Brand New “Antique”?
Antique engagement rings are inherently popular because most of all, they are unique and charming. In addition, some are sentimentally special for the memories of a mother or grandmother who wore it before. Unfortunately, we do see heirlooms which are just too compromised to repair. In such cases, we will recommend fabricating a new ring in a similar style by re-using the materials.
Some clients love antique styles but have concerns about all the unknowns related to this purchase. If so, let us put your mind to ease. We can certainly design a brand new custom engagement ring for you in the antique style that met your fancy.
The possibilities are quite endless and we encourage you to bring in your antique engagement ring for a free consultation. We’d love to see it – and you! Get In Touch!