Antique engagement rings come from all throughout history, each era reflecting a different kind of style. The major ones you’ll notice are Art Deco, Victorian and Art Noveau styles. Though it’s less likely you’ll find these older pieces at an estate sale (Victorian jewellery is almost 200 years old), it’s important to understand the characteristics.
The Victorian period was marked by romance. Queen Victoria wore a snake engagement ring, signifying everlasting love, and so trinkets professing love became quite prominent. Hearts, lover’s knots and romanticized figments of nature (such as the crescent moon) became popular. Estate jewellery from this period is characterized by its usage of darker colors: jet, onyx and deep garnets.
Art Deco and Art Noveau can look alike to the untrained eye, but the two are very different. Art Noveau is more about sensuality and form, so most pieces have decidedly feminine curves to them. They also depicted nature, but usually used bird or floral motifs in their designs.
Art Deco pieces tend to be very sleek and geometric, influenced by the incredible architectural marvels of the skyscrapers built around the jewelers who made them. Another noteworthy aspect of these vintage engagement rings is their use of colored gemstones, such as jade, lapis lazuli and frosted quartz.
How do you find these pieces? The best method is through a dealer such as Cynthia Findlay Antiques, where you can buy online or in store. Dealers sell pieces that are certified and appraised, so the cost you’re paying is a bit closer to the piece’s value. You’re also assured of the authenticity of the piece, which makes a difference for consumers and collectors alike.