Many modern brides love the charm and romance of vintage engagement rings, but run into a little trouble when it comes to actually shopping for a vintage ring. You may love lacey and elaborate filigree, but not the chunkiness of some vintage filigree rings. You might fall in love with a ring’s history and personality, but the historic off-white carbon-spotted diamonds may have a little too much “personality” for you. You’ll see rings with feminine curves and charming details, but the metal is the wrong color or the diamonds are the wrong shape. You might even find a photo of the perfect vintage engagement ring after hours of searching Pinterest… only to realize that someone else already bought it.
Last fall, a bride-to-be from Virginia fell in love with an antique sapphire engagement ring with a large, floral halo in rose gold (left), but it had already been sold to someone else. Secrète remade the ring by hand, with a few upgrades- a bigger, higher quality sapphire, bigger, clearer diamonds, and sturdier craftsmanship all around.
Vintage ring shopping is fraught with potential dangers, but don’t get us wrong-- our Estate Collection holds a special place in our hearts. But custom engagement rings are our specialty, and with 30 years’ experience designing and making our own fine jewelry, we think there are incredibly special ways to incorporate vintage details into your own unique engagement ring.
Secrète designed and hand-made the Victorian-inspired engagement ring (bottom row) in platinum and diamonds, featuring a 3ct Old European cut center stone. The design was based on Victorian settings (top row).
1. Find your inspiration.
The first thing that can help you when designing a vintage-style engagement ring is to know what you like. You don’t have to research the history of jewelry or learn a million specific terms, you just have to learn your own tastes. Your inspiration can be anything-- from a ring to another piece of jewelry, to a painting, or even an architectural element or a piece of music.
One Maryland couple's inspiration for a custom vintage-style engagement ring wasn't an antique, but actually another contemporary vintage-style engagement ring. We made this Art Deco-inspired engagement ring (top) in platinum, aquamarine, and diamonds based on some of the features the couple liked about the original (bottom). Our clients wanted an era-appropriate emerald-cut center stone, more aquamarines, and handmade construction for their custom remake.
As you're looking, try to notice what you like. Do you like the way round stones look on your finger versus emerald-cut? Do you like wider styles, or do you prefer dainty, airy settings? You may prefer the feminine, floral details of Victorian designs, or you might be drawn to the cool geometric styles of the Art Deco Era. You may even be inspired ancient design details-- those Egyptian mummies had fantastic jewelry!
Secrète made this solitaire engagement ring in platinum, inspired by a photo of a retro-era ring by Tiffany & Co. The bride opted to have us custom-make it in contrasting brushed and polished platinum instead of the two-tone gold of the original.
2. Be true to your style.
Finding a beautiful vintage style you love doesn’t mean you have to be 100% historically accurate when designing a vintage-inspired engagement ring. You may want a ring that’s a little 17th century, a little 19th century, and a lot 21st century, and that’s fine-- it’s your engagement ring! When you’re working closely with a trusted jeweler who listens to your opinion and offers expertise, you may discover options you didn’t know were possible for keeping your vintage-inspired ring true to your style.
This simple platinum and lab-created diamond three stone engagement ring was made by Secrète this year. It nods to the Art Deco era with the gorgeous emerald-cuts and geometric lines, but is still clean and modern. The best of both worlds, this has vintage elegance and contemporary conflict-free stones.
3. Consider the details...
Even the simplest engagement ring design can have some historical romance with the right details. Engraving, milgrain (a little line of dots), or a design in the basket (the part of the ring with the prongs) can nod to the past while keep the ring’s overall feel timeless. A ring does not have to be a knuckle-to-knuckle Victorian navette to capture the charm of a bygone era-- sometimes it just takes one detail to make your unique engagement ring stand out from the cookie-cutter alternatives.
From most angles, this gorgeous diamond engagement ring is a classic round diamond accented by a dainty pave shank. From the side, you can see the vintage tulip petal inspired prongs, accented with diamonds. The groom knew his bride wanted something classic but unique, so we helped him hide this sweet detail in the side view.
The Florentine-style engraving on the knife-edge of this otherwise simple and petite engagement ring was actually inspired by a family heirloom with a similar engraving style. Secrète was proud to help carry on the family tradition with this unique detail.
4. … Or think about the big picture.
You could also achieve a vintage-inspired feel by tailoring a ring’s overall shape, composition, or arrangement of stones in a way that mimics historical designs while keeping the details modern. For example, lots of estate and antique jewelry is colorful with funky fancy-cut diamonds; you could take a photo of a colorful antique ring you love and design an all-white round-brilliant version of it, so it’s vintage in the shape, but modern in the details.
This pink sapphire and single-cut diamond Art Deco ring (left) is part of Secrète's Estate Collection. Its shape and the attractive use of parallel lines inspired the contemporary engagement ring (right), made in 18k white gold with round brilliant white diamonds for a more subtle nod to the era. Both rings are available at our DuPont Circle store.
Many brides may want to have one or two aspects of their ring vintage-inspired, but think doing the whole ring like that would be “a bit much.” Contemporary details like smaller halo stones, daintier shanks, mixed metals, and modern brilliant-cut diamonds can be incorporated into a custom engagement ring that still feels vintage.
Secrète custom made this beautiful engagement ring by recycling diamonds from an over-the-top vintage ring in the bride's family. The silhouette is elegant and vintage inspired in its curves, but the overall look is clean, low profile, and timeless.
5. Always choose quality.
No matter what type of jewelry purchase you’re making, quality is the most important thing to consider, in both the materials used and the craftsmanship. Some antique rings were made to last and are heirlooms for generations, but iit makes sense that some antique rings aren’t in the best shape-- whether from decades of wear or less-than-amazing craftsmanship from the start. What may be a surprise is that many newly made vintage-inspired rings are not made to last.
Online jewelry giants that machine-stamp their settings in factories overseas design their rings to be lightweight and cost efficient, and brides suffer when diamonds fall out or pretty filigree details bend. Other “crafty” jewelry makers may have adorable designs, but lack the professional resources and equipment to build well-made jewelry from high-quality materials. It’s important to choose an experienced jeweler with an in-house goldsmith for an heirloom-quality custom engagement ring.
We loved designing and hand-crafting this mid-century inspired engagement ring for an adorable young couple in 2017. This oval Tanzanite is accented with round diamonds set in square frames-- very mod!
The unique wide shank and milgrain edge make this antique-inspired engagement ring so pretty. This low profile ring is in 18k rose gold, a beautiful vintage-y touch, and handmade by Secrète to last for generations.
Interested in designing your perfect vintage-inspired engagement ring? Contact us or visit Secrète in Washington, DC, or Bethesda, MD to start the custom-design process! It's easier than you think!