We’re takin’ it back to the old school w/ these vintage engagement rings - the heirlooms your grandkids will be fighting over!
If you’re anything like me and watch Say Yes to the Dress religiously, you know that every bride wants to feel unique and special on her big day (where is Randy when I need him??). If you’re also like me and have a deep appreciation for the past, you’ll want an antique engagement ring setting that reflects just that. With this handy guide you’ll be able to pick the perfect ring style and era to reflect your personality!
I’m going to take you back to a time when our whole universe was in a hot dense state… wait no that’s too far!! We’re in the Roman age baby where simple engagement ring styles were an absolute must for any Venus wannabe out there. Did you know, the origin of the engagement ring is said to trace back to the ancient Egyptians, but historians say that engagement rings can only be reliably traced to the Roman era. (If we’re talking about wedding rings, that’s another story entirely, which I’ll get to shortly!) Historically, the metal of choice for these Roman gods and goddesses was a simple iron band, which later evolved into gold rings in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
What to look for: Keep an eye out for simple understated gold or silver vintage wedding bands, perhaps with the Roman numeral of your wedding date or some special words engraved on the inside (maybe that saying you guys constantly say that secretly grosses everyone out...then again maybe not). A ring like this expresses that your love for each other is something that can only be seen if you look at it from the inside (of this stylish ring, of course)! This style is perfect for the modest bride and cost effective I might add!
Now, this is kind of off topic, but still related, and also super cool! Did you ever wonder why we wear these big rocks, i.e. engagement rings, on our left ring fingers in the first place? Well, this tradition was inspired by our Egyptian brothers and sisters, who were actually the ones who invented wedding rings. Their belief was that a vein ran from the third finger of the left hand directly to the heart. This vein was referred to as “vena amoris,” or the “vein of love.” (Swoon!)
What to look for: The first wedding rings were actually braided rings made of hemp or other natural fibers. Now you might not want to go quite that authentic, but we can draw a little inspiration from some ancient Egyptian royalty (and maybe Etsy)!
Celebrity inspiration: Queen Nefertiti, stepmother of King Tut, was a strong ruler and arguably one of history’s most famous beauties—her name literally means “a beautiful woman has come.” Way to set the bar pretty high right off the bat there, mom and dad. Nefertiti was known not only for her beauty, but also for her love for her husband, Pharaoh Akhenaten. Depictions of the couple riding chariots together and even kissing in public exist to this day. Forget Nicholas Sparks, this couple is truly on another level with a love that has stood the test of time. If you see yourself as a strong ruler like her, but aren’t a fan of over-the-top glitz and glam, this is the perfect vintage engagement ring style for you!
Now let’s fast forward a couple (thousand) years to the Gatsby Era...it’s great isn’t it? Here speakeasies were all the rage and all you had to do was flash a little glitz and glam to get the party started. These feminine, delicate, and geometric vintage art deco engagement rings incorporated gemstones into their designs, and were typically set in white gold or platinum.
What to look for: Keep your eyes peeled for intricate geometric art deco jewelry designs with accent baguettes. When it comes to color, a little green (emeralds) and blue (sapphires) is what you want to look for to really emulate that 1920s style.
Celebrity inspiration: Theda Bara, a famous 1920s actress, was the closest thing to the Kim Kardashian of her day and no doubt would have fashioned an engagement ring similar to the style below. This siren of the silver screen exuded her iconic sultry look with a smoky eye and art deco inspired jewelry. This ring style is the perfect fit for any vampy seductress with a flair for the vintage.
In the mid-20th century, the world was just coming out of the Great Depression and the value of diamonds was plummeting as the stone was beginning to fall out of fashion with the younger crowd. Diamond mining company De Beers had a solution and came out with an ad campaign in 1947 that would change the history of engagements as we know them. De Beers claimed that “A Diamond is Forever” and thus, a diamond was really the only acceptable stone for an engagement ring, and the funny thing is it worked. BIG TIME. Since then, diamonds have become a staple for most engagement rings.
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What to look for: When it comes to style, look for a single solitaire diamond as your focal point that features accent marquise cut diamonds, if you want a little something extra. If you’re looking for something a little more durable, sapphire and ruby engagement ring accents are the way to go, as they are high up on the Mohs hardness scale.
Celebrity inspiration: In 1962, style icon Jacqueline Bouvier received a dual diamond and emerald engagement ring from John F. Kennedy. The ring consequently started a trend and emerald engagement rings became the rage for fans of the First Lady. Jackie would go on to alter the engagement ring setting, but would revert back to it in later years to honor her late husband's passing. How romantic is that? I mean really… I’m not crying you’re crying... This ring style is perfect for the refined lady with an edge.
In the 1980s, sapphire engagement rings were huge (thanks Princess Di) and they have become an increasingly popular alternative to the mainstay diamond in recent generations.
What to look for: Keep in mind, though alternative stones may be unique, stones such as emeralds are quite fragile and not as durable as diamonds. If you’re in the market for an alternative stone, expect many inclusions - but then again, the imperfections are the best part right?
Celebrity inspiration: On July 29, 1981, the wedding to end all weddings took place—Lady Diana Spencer wed Charles, Prince of Wales at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and people all across the world were losing sleep to catch the fairy tale unfold on live television. This princess bride fashioned an oval-shaped sapphire with a diamond halo that would go on to inspire thousands of imitations. I think this is the closest we may get to a Disney princess wedding in real life folks.
Today, engagement rings come in all shapes and sizes, and even newly designed rings draw inspiration from bygone eras. If you’re interested in learning more about these rings, historical or otherwise, check out this post from Bustle. Before I leave you, I had to include this super awesome video, which gives a rundown of engagement ring styles throughout history!
Nowadays, homages to these historical gems are becoming even more popular amongst the newly engaged. Duchess Kate Middleton currently sports her mother-in-law's engagement ring, an heirloom that will span the generations I’m sure. Starlets like Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, and even Mary-Kate Olsen have also chosen engagement rings of bygone eras.
Which ring was your favorite? Do you know of any other iconic vintage engagement rings? Would you take the plunge and go vintage? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to share this post with your friends or your bf (hint, hint)!
**Featured image via E! News