Antique Engagement Ring Buying Guide

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Antique Engagement Ring Buying Guide

When two people establish a relationship, they usually follow a traditional pattern. They share food and entertainment, learn about each other’s personalities and values, and eventually establish a relationship based on mutual attraction, trust, and other factors. As their love grows, the couple begins to think about spending a lifetime together. Traditionally in Western culture, the man asks the woman to marry him and gives her a token of his affection, usually a ring. Engagement rings are typically made of precious metals and set with at least one diamond.

For men who are planning a proposal but have limited resources, an antique engagement ring could be the perfect choice. They may be able to find antique rings in local jeweller’s shops as well as on websites like eBay. Antique rings offer unique style, affordability, and heirloom quality. Buyers should understand the term "antique" and the key features of the ideal antique engagement ring.

Defining Antique Engagement Rings

An antique engagement ring, by definition, is a ring that is over 50 years old. Unlike a brand new ring, an antique ring comes with its own special history. These rings from a past generation often have a luxurious design with intricate details. Modern engagement rings are generally much less ornate. Today, it costs much more to create the kind of beautifully crafted ring common to the old world. Thus, each antique ring continues to grow in value throughout its lifetime and for generations to come.

Understanding the History of Antique Engagement Rings

Fine rings fashioned before or during the 1920s were frequently created from platinum or white gold. The workmanship is often exquisitely detailed, featuring lacy engravings. From 1930 to 1950, yellow or white gold became the norm for engagement rings. Some rings included both yellow and white gold in their design. The centre diamond was often flanked by a row of tiny diamonds or diamond chips. Sometimes, instead of these extra diamonds, craftsmen incorporated delicate engravings of flowers, swirls, hearts, leaves, or other patterns and shapes. Diamond rings set during the 1940s were sometimes enclosed in a box-like setting. These square settings make the gem seem larger than it actually is.

Choosing Antique Engagement Rings

Buyers who are considering an antique engagement ring should be not hold these historic rings to the same standards as they would modern rings. The basic criteria, such as carat weight, clarity, colour, and cut, are the same. However, a good antique engagement ring is judged slightly differently from a modern ring in each of these key categories. With an antique ring, buyers should also be looking for character, that intangible sense of richness and history that makes a ring unique.

The Carat Weight

The carat weight of the diamond refers to the size of the gem. One carat is 200 mg or 0.2 grams. A larger stone is typically more expensive. However, if buyers would like the look of a larger stone without the higher price tag, they can purchase an antique ring from the 1930s or the 1940s enclosed in a boxlike "illusion setting" as previously mentioned. These settings are square enclosures that wrap around the diamond. They sometimes include extra engraving, beading, and other handwork to further enhance the apparent size of the gem.

The Clarity of the Diamond

Another important factor related to quality and price is the clarity of the diamond. Clarity ratings are based on the number of inclusions within the diamond. Any flaws such as cracks, bubbles, or bits of another mineral are called inclusions, while surface issues like chips, scratches, or pits are referred to as blemishes. The more natural flaws or inclusions are present in the gem, the more visible they are and the lower the clarity rating, which also means a lower price. Diamonds that are clear of flaws and blemishes are much more expensive.

Typically, top jewellers whose good name depended on the quality of their work designed antique engagement rings. Most of these craftspeople would use only the clearest and brightest diamonds for their rings. If buyers can ascertain the origins of the antique ring, they can find out what kind of reputation the manufacturer had. If a well-known, trusted jewellery company or a reputable individual craftsman made the ring, its diamond is likely to be of good quality. The chart below lists the grades commonly given to diamonds and explains their significance.




A truly flawless diamond; extremely rare


Internally flawless but with surface blemishes, also very rare


Just barely included with flaws that are nearly impossible to detect even with magnification aids

VS1, VS2

Slightly included with flaws hardly visible under magnification around 10x

SI1, SI2

Slightly included with flaws that are easily visible with 10x magnification

I1, I2, I3

Included with flaws obvious to the unaided human eye

Buyers are usually advised not to purchase diamonds in the I1, I2, or I3 categories due to the clearly visible flaws. But they should also be aware that the higher the grade, the more expensive the ring.

The Colour of the Diamond

Diamonds come in a variety of beautiful colours. Modern buyers usually prefer clear, brilliant white diamonds. Around 1900, however, customers prized diamonds with an array of different colours, considering the more the better. Antique engagement rings typically feature diamonds with a faint pink hue, shades of yellow, or tinges of green. Buyers should not limit their choices to white diamonds alone. The unique personality of their special someone might be best reflected with a softly coloured diamond.

The Cut of the Diamond

The diamonds in modern engagement rings are usually laser-cut. Their shapes are sharp and precise, cut to match the current standards for achieving the most light reflection from the gem. In contrast, the diamonds set into antique engagement rings were cut lovingly by the hand of a master jewel cutter. These old-world craftsmen did not limit themselves to prescribed standards. To them, revealing the best of the diamond was an art, not a science. Their stones do not have the sharp, exact, brilliantly reflective look of today’s diamonds. Instead, they have a softer appearance and a romantic glow about them, allowing owners to see not just the light but also the character of the individual gemstone. Today’s buyers may find that they prefer these antique cuts to the standard cuts of today.

The Character of the Ring

Besides the standard gauges of value and quality like cut, clarity, and carat weight, there is another consideration for buyers as they select an antique engagement ring. The character of a particular ring can render its value beyond price for the right buyer. Character refers to the general design and charm of a ring and may also stem from its unique history. Antique rings are, by nature, heirlooms, and as such, they possess a significance that brand-new modern rings have yet to achieve.

Establishing a Budget for an Antique Engagement Ring

Because of all the benefits and one-of-a-kind features inherent in antique engagement rings, buyers might expect these rings to be priced beyond their reach. However, many antique rings are actually far less expensive than the brand-new engagement rings carried in jewellery shops. As with any purchase, buyers should to look at their financial situation and their savings and determine what they can afford to spend on this special purchase.

Buying an Antique Engagement Ring on eBay

You may be able to find antique engagement rings in local pawn or antique shops or through some jewellers. eBay also carries a number of antique engagement rings. Type "antique engagement ring" into the search bar to see hundreds of results. You can limit your search by specifying a price range or by choosing to search within a certain kilometre radius of your postcode. The latter option allows you to see listings from sellers near you. You may be able to arrange an in-person pickup of the ring rather than having it shipped.

Remember to save your search so that eBay can let you know when sellers post new listings for antique engagement rings. You may also want to browse eBay Shops to see some additional ring options. As you shop, look for eBay’s Top-rated seller seal, which is posted on the listings of the most reputable and highly rated eBay sellers. Other things to look for include free postage and packaging offers, return policies, or rings bundled with other accessories. If you have questions about any of the rings on eBay, click on the Ask a Question link that you see on the listing page. You can also visit the profile page of the ring’s seller and click the Contact Member link to leave the seller a message.


An antique engagement ring brings with it the character and marks of its previous owner. Though some characteristics may add richness and interest, others may be actual flaws or may represent damage that occurred to the ring in the past. Buyers should carefully evaluate the quality of the antique ring that they are considering, including the cut and clarity of the diamond, the precious metal of which the band is made, and the general design of the ring. The ring should be the correct size for the recipient’s left-hand third finger. However, if buyers find a perfect ring that is a little too large, they can have it resized. It is usually easier to have the ring made smaller than to upgrade the size for a larger finger. With some careful thought and advance research, buyers should be able to find a beautiful, affordable antique engagement ring that lasts for a lifetime and beyond.

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