There is a certain charm that comes with antique rings that their modern counterparts most times lack. Every ring has its own story, and that is what collectors love about them. A Victorian ring with a birthstone setting, for example, may have once been purchased as an engagement ring long ago, and while the original owners are long gone, the ring remains. Their lasting beauty, handcrafted cuts, and unique settings, make them highly desirable, and more personal compared to mass-produced modern rings.
When it comes to purchasing antique rings, however, most buyers are out of luck in the jewellery store. Some antique shops specialising in jewellery pieces sell them, and a buyer can always get lucky at an estate sale. However, the largest online collection of antique rings is easily found on eBay. Antique ring buyers should select a piece that fits into their budget, in good condition, and appeals to them personally.
Antique Ring Eras
An antique ring is typically over 100 years old. Buyers should not get antiques confused with vintage, though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably by sellers. A vintage item is older than 25 years but less than 100 years. Most of the antique rings sold on eBay or found in stores are from either the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Georgian Era: 1714-1837
The Georgian era is the furthest back that most jewellery collections go. Anything older is very rare and usually only found in museums. Dating Georgian jewellery is a highly complicated process, since all of the pieces were handmade and most lacked any type of uniform marking. Only a highly trained antique jewellery appraiser can accurately date these pieces, and even then the dates are not precise.
The quality of these pieces vary, with some of them being absolutely exquisite, and others appearing rough and unfinished. The difference in quality was a direct result of the skill of the craftsman. While anything from the Georgian era is rare, the best pieces of the highest quality are the rarest of all, and customers pay a small fortune for them.
Georgian Gold Rings
Modern gold always come with a mark that states the carat weight of the metal. However, in Georgian times there were no markings, and if they were, they were used sporadically. The good news is that gold from this time is highly valuable because it was most likely made from 22ct gold, the only legitimate standard. The bad news is that this gold is extremely soft and brittle, meaning these rings can easily be damaged.
Georgian Gemstone Rings
The main difference between Georgian gemstones and their modern day counterparts, is the cut of the gems. A diamond is a good example of how gem making has changed over the centuries. During the Georgian era, diamonds appeared in a rose cut. This antique shape featured a rounded shape with a flat base and pointed crown. This style was so prevalent, that the rose cut is sometimes called the Georgian Old Cut. Other gemstones common from this time include garnets, pearls, and polished coral.
Victorian Era: 1837-1901
The Victorian era is a favourite of antique collectors, especially collectors of the early years, when the jewellery was still handmade. It follows the reign of Queen Victoria, and includes the time before and after the Industrial Revolution. This lengthy time period is often divided into three smaller eras, each one with its own unique style.
Customers should know that anything from the early Victorian era was likely handmade and has more in common with the Georgian period, rather than the later Victorian periods. Both the mid and late Victorian eras came after the Industrial Revolution, when jewellery began to be mass produced. Pieces from these eras are far more affordable than the early Victorian or Georgian period.
Victorian Gold Rings
In the Early Victorian time period, gold was still unmarked and mainly produced in 22ct weights. However, changing standards brought about the introduction of 12ct and 15ct gold rings in 1856, close to the end of the early Victorian era. Metal smiths started marking their gold so that buyers knew what weight they purchased. Many appraisers use this to help date Victorian pieces since any gold ring that lacks a mark was produced before 1856, and any piece that includes a mark comes from either the mid or late Victorian eras.
Victorian Silver Rings
There are examples of silver rings from the Georgian and early Victorian eras, but they are few and far between. Most silver Victorian rings on the market today come from the mid to late Victorian era. Silver was cheaper and more plentiful than gold, as the famous Comstock Lode was discovered in America. It was the metal of choice for mass-market jewellery, and this is one of the reasons why so many Victorian rings for sale today are made of silver.
Victorian Mourning Rings
Rings with large, dark stones of onyx or jet, are called mourning jewellery. These pieces are hallmarks of the mid Victorian era and can be dated directly to this period. The stones themselves are very large, and many modern gem makers today would not create rings from such gigantic gemstones. They are also rather stark when compared to other Victorian pieces, since they were meant to be worn by a woman who was mourning a loved one who died.
Victorian Engagement Rings
Engagement rings from this period are a perfect example of how jewellery styles change over the decades. Pieces from the early Victorian use a large, solitaire birthstone as the gem for an engagement ring. These pieces are usually set with romantic symbols, such as a snake biting its own tail which was representative of eternal love to the Victorians. In the late Victorian era, however, the solitaire diamond ring became more common.
Victorian Diamond Rings
The development of the solitaire diamond was due to several reasons, including diamond mine discoveries in South Africa. Diamond cuts themselves also evolved, as the technology used for shaping them became more precise. The old rose cut, which was so heavily used in the Georgian and early Victorian eras, fell out of use by the late Victorian era. Instead, diamonds started using modern cuts that reflected more light, making them look exceptionally brilliant.
Victorian Gemstone Rings
Almost every gemstone known to man was used at some point in time during the Victorian period. However, certain types were used more often than others. The purple amethyst was popular across all three periods. Cairngorm quartz from Scotland was heavily used during the early Victorian era, but was hardly found in the time periods that followed.
Golden green peridot, appeared in the Early and Late Victorian, but was difficult to find during the mid Victorian era. Opals were actually considered bad luck until Queen Victoria started wearing them in the mid Victorian era. By the late Victorian era, opals were featured in many different rings.
How to Buy an Antique Ring on eBay
eBay possesses an overwhelming selection of antique jewellery, stretching across thousands of different items. Many of these are rings from a variety of time periods, including the hard-to-find Georgian era. Buyers can browse through all of the ring listings until they are able to find one that is right for them.
Searching for an Antique Ring on eBay
Anyone who wants to browse through the selection of antique rings on eBay can do a search for topics such as 'antique rings' or 'antique Victorian rings'. This type of search returns a large number of results for you to search through individually, allowing you to see all options available until you find what you are looking for. Say, You can choose to limit your search results further by using more specific keywords such as 'Victorian quartz ring' to return results for only one type of antique ring. By making the search terms as specific as possible, you can get a very narrow list of results.
Authenticity of Antique Rings on eBay
Many antique rings, especially those from the Georgian or Early Victorian period, command high prices. This is due to their age, their handmade quality, and the high value of their metal settings. However, you should not just blindly accept that simply because a piece is listed as being Georgian, that it is actually from this era. Always do your homework and see what proof the seller offers that verifies the authenticity of the ring in question. For example, true Georgian rings typically do not have any metal markings, and therefore look their age. These rings usually come with some sort of appraisal, or certificate, stating its authenticity.
Antique rings are the highlight of any jewellery fancier's collection. Their rarity makes them unique among modern designs, and the handmade quality of some older pieces is truly stunning. When these pieces were new, many of them cost a small fortune, and this is still true today. However, that does not mean that a customer cannot find affordable antique rings. Many sellers on eBay offer rings from the mid to late Victorian eras at vintage-level prices.
Buying rings from the older Georgian and Early Victorian periods is more expensive, but the rarity of these pieces increases their value. Customers need to make careful decisions about how much money they want to spend, what types of rings they like, and how much age and quality matter to them when purchasing an antique ring. By following these guidelines, buyers can purchase a ring that combines timeless fashion with a deep sense of history.