“Vintage diamonds have a soul to them, a history, a story to tell.
“Anything old has that great feel—an old pair of jeans, an old jacket, it has already been alive and stood the test of time. A new diamond looks so squeaky clean. In art, if you take a perfectly straight line, it’s not going to be nearly as appealing to the eye as a line that’s broken a little.
Image from Erstwhile Jewelry
“When things are off just a bit, they appeal to the eye more than something that’s completely perfect. Vintage engagement rings are soulful and one of a kind. Plus, the most eco-friendly and conflict-free diamond is an old one. You’ll wear it for the rest of your life; you want it to be special.”
We agree with Jared from Erstwhile Jewellers; the soul, the glamour, the romance and the story behind a vintage ring are what make it special. Their ethics also appeal as they pre-date any current diamond conflicts and ensure no additional mining was undertaken on your account.
We love examining the scintillating stones that come from deep within the earth, finding out about the history and imagining it on a finger of a 1920s flapper girl or lady of an Edwardian household.
Whether it’s Georgian cluster or Art Nouveau aquamarine that captures your imagination from under that glass topped counter, choosing a vintage ring is different to buying or designing a contemporary piece. Here’s some expert advice for choosing a ring and how to care for it after you’ve accepted its presence on your finger forever.
Files, photos and Pinterest
Scan the net for picture of rings that you like, don’t worry about paying too much attention to the period, but more the look and design that you’d like to try on. The more you learn about jewellery, the easier it will become to know exactly what you are looking for. For example, do you love square cut rings with a central coloured stone or prefer the traditional diamond centre stage?
Open a Pinterest account and add your photos. This means that if you don’t want to be present for the engagement ring shopping trip, then your beloved has a ready-made file to show a jeweller your tastes.
To give you some ideas, here’s our The Ring’s the Thing board on Pinterest – including some vintage beauties.
When many of these stones were cut, electricity wasn’t invented and experts say that it can be tricky to determine their true colours as “older diamonds tend to face up better (look whiter) than they actually are.”
Don’t be afraid of asking whether the seller has a certified gemologist on the staff, as misjudging a diamond’s colour is an easy mistake to make. Likewise, when trying on a ring, see how it looks under natural, electric and low lighting.
In an interview with Brides Magazine, Olly Gerrish of Grays Antique Market offers this advice:
“You should always ask what the carat of the gold is (18 or 15 carat) which a lot of antique rings were made in. Nowadays the norm is 14 carats, so don’t be surprised if a dealer says the ring is 15 carat. Some rings are not marked but have been tested with acid to ascertain the quality of the gold. Also ask about the size of the stones: the dealer should be able to tell you the carat weight.”
Invest in a jeweller’s loupe
For those who want to up their jewellery game then purchase a 10 x (ten power) triplet loupe which allows you to examine the fine details on an antique ring, and check the edges of the precious stones. It’s quite common to find chips in the diamond which gives you a negotiating stance.
Buying a loupe is a practical tool that will save you from making costly mistakes and is a clear signal to the dealer that you are not a complete novice. But remember to practise at home before you whip it out at your local antiques market.
Your jeweller should advise you on the best way to care for your particular ring. Is it with soapy water, a toothbrush, or a special cloth? Because antique gold is often a lower carat (15) corrosive washing agents could discolour it.
Also, be aware that stones vary in different strengths with pearls, ivory, coral, turquoise, opal and amber falling into the soft category. Take extra care to ensure you don’t scratch them whilst cleaning.
These antiques have lasted into this century as they’ve been treated with ladylike care. Often the designs, with their intricate detail are not as hard wearing as modern rings. Tapping away at the computer is fine but forget gardening, going to the gym or a hardcore spring clean. Remove them and treat them like the heirlooms they are.
Going vintage is only one way of ensuring your ring is ethical. Over the next few weeks look out for our features with designers’ picks for 2013, their views on the environmental and social issues surrounding gold, diamonds and other precious stones and metals, and how they are seeing these affect their businesses.
Are more of us demanding ethical jewellery for our big day?
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