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How to Shop for a Vintage Engagement Ring


Vogue Arabia, April 2021. Photo: Gregory Harris

A burgeoning engagement is an exciting time in anyone’s life. But the actual shopping for the ring can be quite a daunting task. There are the big-name jewelers, the trendy settings, the industry-adored up-and-coming jewelers, and everything in between. A lot of the time, vintage rings can be overlooked or deemed intimidating. In actual fact, a vintage ring is a cost-effective way to get a spectacular stone, often—if from pre-1930—hand-cut. And if you know where to look, a trusted seller can have what you may have been looking for all along.

Jill Heller, a New York–based jewelry curator and purveyor of contemporary and vintage jewelry, has some base guidelines for approaching the vintage engagement ring market. “Once you’ve begun shopping,” says Heller, “look for weighty pieces made of high-quality and durable materials–you want to choose a piece that can continue to be worn and enjoyed for years to come. I only recommend rings that are 18-karat gold or platinum.”

Deciding the setting and stone are other factors to keep in mind. “I would steer away from stones that are vulnerable to damage, like opals and pearls,” says Heller, “and go for a harder stone instead. It’s also important to beware of gemstone quality and avoid heavily included stones, which are weaker and likely to crack or chip over time.”

Heller encourages some creativity in the process—after all, this should be at least a little fun! “Don’t get too hung up on what an engagement ring ‘should’ be. If you’re drawn to a diamond solitaire, that’s great, but if it’s not for you, there are plenty of unique options out there.”

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