Engagement rings: top tips for buying a vintage piece

Vintage is a theme that will always remain popular among brides, whether it's for their dress, their jewellery or their wedding decor at the venue. Even vintage-inspired engagement rings are trumping the traditional solitaire.

Celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Ashlee Simpson, Milla Jovovich and Mary-Kate Olsen have all been proposed to with gorgeous vintage, art deco pieces – but what should the groom-to-be think about before investing in an antique ring?

Read on for the top five things to consider before buying a vintage engagement ring, as recommended by Pontus Silfverstolpe, antiques critic and co-founder of online platform Barnebys...


How can I be sure that I am buying a genuine item?

It is becoming more and more difficult to identify a counterfeit stone, so make sure you buy through a certified jewellery expert. Reputable auction houses check for authenticity before listing an item, so you are less likely to get caught out when purchasing from a reliable vendor. If you stumble across your prefect ring at a jewellery market, be wary of the selling price. If the price feels too low you should always question the authenticity and quality of the item.

Is the ring well made?

It is important to remember that most choose to wear their engagement ring on a daily basis, and therefore the ring must be sturdy and well made. When considering a vintage ring, check the quality of the stone's setting. Does it look worn, loose or damaged? If the setting looks unstable, then you will want to negotiate a lower price as you will need to get the stone reset. Similarly, antique stones can sometimes be quite fragile, so you want to check for hairline cracks or chips to the stone.

I found my dream ring, will resizing it decrease its value?

Resizing a vintage ring will not detract from its value or worth. Unlike repairing an antique wooden item with new wood, making a ring slightly smaller or larger will not reduce the overall worth of the item, as the original composition of the item remains largely unchanged.

Am I looking for a vintage ring or a vintage stone?

Increasingly, couples are buying a vintage ring and then re-setting it in a new metal, or melting down and re-using the antique gold or silver. This allows for a truly unique piece and offers the buyer far more choice when shopping for an antique item. So long as you like the cut and colour of the stone, you can remove it from its original casing and design your own band, allowing for a contemporary style while ensuring that you maintain that vintage edge.

What do the hallmarks mean?

Both silver and gold rings will have been stamped with easy to read markings. These hallmarks indicate when the ring was made, the quality of the metal, and the tradesman, so by checking that the ring you are interested in has these markings, you can gage the age and quality of the ring. It is worth remembering that often the stone will be older than the metal, as precious gems were often passed from generation to generation. Hallmarking guides are easily found online and the staff at your local antiques shop will often help decipher the markings.

Barnebys (barnebys.co.uk) is an online search and valuation tool for artworks, antiques and collectables, where brides and grooms can search for vintage engagement rings and more.

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