Vintage wedding bands offer enduring style and a bit of history.
There is something to be said for a piece of jewelry with a story to tell. Vintage wedding rings have soul to them—whether they’re found in an antique shop or refashioned from Great Aunt Edith’s engagement gems.
“It’s not only the sentimental value and the warmth of the piece, but there is also the appeal of the old European-cut stones,” says Janice Blumberg, a self-proclaimed lover of vintage jewelry and the co-owner of Be on Park in Winter Park (beonpark.com), which carries select estate jewelry and one-of-a-kind antique rings.
Vintage rings can be found at estate sales and online, but Blumberg recommends focusing your search on well-known jewelers. “You always want to buy anything of value from a reputable store,” she says, in case you need to take it back for polishing or repair.
And repairs, especially when it comes to rings made more than 100 years ago, are likely. “Antique rings have been well-loved but also well-worn,” Blumberg says. “Your ring could have been worn for decades, so it might need the prong work updated, or it may need to be reshanked.”
As you begin your search, keep an open mind in regards to the stone. Diamonds have been in favor for the last few decades, but previously, emeralds and sapphires were the top choices. “Emeralds are known to be brittle; you’ll want diamonds around the stone to protect it,” says Blumberg.
If you do select an antique diamond ring, don’t be surprised if the gemstone is not bright white. There was a time when slightly rose, green or yellow diamonds were the fashion.
Found the perfect piece? Be sure to get a complete description of the ring from the seller as well as a certified gemologist’s report and appraisal. You’ll need these for insurance purposes.
If you are considering resetting heirloom stones or redesigning a vintage family ring, you should also get the same report and appraisal before working with a jeweler to have a ring reset or completely redesigned.
Then you can decide on several redesign options, including changing the setting, adding more stones, or transferring heirloom stones to an entirely new band.
“When it comes to vintage jewelry, there really are no rules anymore,” says Blumberg. “It’s about what you love.” And perhaps what someone else may have loved, too.
From Marilyn Monroe’s platinum eternity band with its 35 baguette-cut diamonds to Princess Diana’s 18-carat oval sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds, some of the most jaw-dropping rings can be found in the history books.
Sure, Beyonce‘s 18-carat bling is nice, but it doesn’t compare to Wallis Simpson’s 19.77-carat emerald engagement ring, given to her in 1936 by Edward VIII, who abdicated the British throne for the American divorcée.
When then-Senator John F. Kennedy asked Jacqueline Bouvier to be his bride in 1953, he presented her with a ring from Van Cleef and Arpels that featured a 2.88-carat diamond mounted next to a 2.84-carat emerald with tapered baguettes.
Fifteen years later, Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis trumped the former president when he gave Jackie a 40-carat marquise Lesotho III diamond that later sold for $2.59 million at auction.
While Britain’s young royals William and Kate get plenty of media attention, there was a time when Queen Elizabeth II made the headlines. Her engagement ring, an heirloom 3-carat diamond solitaire flanked by five additional diamonds, was designed by Prince Philip using stones from a tiara belonging to his mother, Princess Andrew of Greece.