Vintage Rings as Engagement Bling

The scoop on how to find your special piece of times past.

A vintage white-gold and diamond ring, $8,600. All rings from Tiny Jewel Box. All photographs courtesy of Tiny Jewel Box.

When it comes to shopping for the perfect vintage engagement ring, Matthew Rosenheim is one of our area’s go-to jewelers. As president of Tiny Jewel Box, the multi-story, family-run jewelry emporium and upscale gift shop on Connecticut Avenue in downtown DC, Rosenheim sources the largest selection of vintage jewels and unique antique engagement rings in town. (As for the “Tiny,” in the shop’s name? Even though the current incarnation is anything but small, the original storefront was a mere 600 square feet.) For Rosenheim and his team of retail specialists, working with a couple to find that ideal ring is as important as breathing new life into a time-treasured piece of sparkling history. However, shopping vintage isn’t the same as shopping new; there are several factors to consider, such as condition, style and fake vs. real. Rosenheim breaks it down:

Obviously, vintage rings aren’t mass-produced, so what are the odds of finding our perfect piece?

Shop often. Vintage rings are typically one-of-a-kind and tend to sell quickly. Communicate with your jeweler about what you’re looking for, and check back often.

Condition is very important. Look for cracks in the mounting, and make sure the prongs of small stones are intact. While vintage rings may have lasted almost 100 years, there is no guarantee they will last another 20 without proper care.

Understand the difference between old diamonds and new ones. The clarity of vintage stones is typically a bit higher, but you will most likely have to tolerate a littler color in a vintage ring, as the sources of white diamonds available today simply didn’t exist in the early 20th century.

The look of vintage rings seem to be much more detailed than more contemporary options. What gives?

Think style. In general, vintage rings are much more stylized; many vintage engagement rings look like cocktail rings. If that’s not quite your style, think about a custom design to strike the perfect balance. The tools have never been better for custom.

What’s the best way to determine if a ring is truly vintage, or just a knock-off?

Expertise is key. A jeweler with vintage expertise will be able to easily tell a reproduction from an antique. It may not matter in the long run if that’s the ring that makes you happy, but the key is to know—and pay for—what you think you’re getting.

Diamond and pearl vintage ring, $2,900.
Vintage platinum and diamond ring with unique shape, $3,500.
Vintage 3-stone diamond ring, $32,000.
Vintage platinum and yellow-brown diamond ring, $6,500.
Vintage platinum, sapphire and diamond ring, $15,000.