Antique Engagement Rings:
The custom of a prospective groom giving his fiancée an engagement ring -originally called a betrothal ring - can be traced back as far as Rome in the second century B.C. While a modern bride-to-be might not be interested in the kind of brass or iron ring used way back then, many couples today choose antique engagement rings. Since they're from an earlier time, antique engagement rings often are one of a kind. That might be part of the appeal for celebrity couples like Courteney Cox and David Arquette and Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, who celebrated their engagements with antique rings.
Some couples like the thought of an antique engagement ring linking them to the past, giving their relationship a sense of history, even though they're just starting their life together. This feeling is enhanced when the ring comes from a family member. But not everyone has a relative with a family heirloom they're willing to part with - and even if you do, sometimes that can backfire ... what if your fiancé's Great Aunt Mildred offers you a ring that's been in the family for three generations, but it's big and gaudy and your taste is much more refined.
Antique Engagement Rings: What Qualifies?
To qualify as an antique, something has to be more than 50 years old. The term "antique" often has an association of being costly, and even though it's technically "used," an antique engagement ring can sometimes cost more than a new one. Once you decide you want an antique engagement ring, you can narrow the field by selecting a specific period. Victorian antique engagement rings, for example, from the mid-late 19th century, might have intricate scrollwork or other designs engraved in the metal. Antique engagement rings from this period also might feature different gemstones than we're used to seeing in modern engagement rings. In Victorian times, stones were chosen as symbols: an opal was thought to bring good fortune, a garnet meant the couple would become lifelong best friends. Other periods also popular for antique engagement rings are Edwardian (early 20th century) and Art Deco (1920s & 1930s).
Fine jewelry stores that feature antique jewelry generally offer an assortment of antique engagement rings. Jewelers who sell antique jewelry go to estate sales, pawn shops and flea markets to find merchandise - you can look for an antique engagement ring at these places yourself, but that can be very time consuming. You'll most likely spend more at a jewelry store than an estate sale or flea market, but it might be worth it in terms of time saved and wider selection.
You can also look online for an antique engagement ring, but the Internet might be a better resource for researching the kind of ring you want than for actually purchasing it, since you won't be able to actually see the ring before you buy it. However you shop for an antique engagement ring, make sure to get an independent appraisal to ensure its condition and value before committing to buying it.
Show us your antique engagement rings!