There’s just something special about a vintage ring — the combination of timeless beauty, unique history, and long-lasting quality makes it a treasure anyone would be lucky to own.
Here in Portland, where vintage and antique stores sit on almost every corner, it can be difficult to know where to start and how to find the most authentic pieces.
We’re here to help. Our guide will teach you everything you need to know to choose the perfect vintage ring.
What is a vintage ring?
Vintage is a term used to refer to an item fitting within a certain era or decade. Many people don’t realize that the term “vintage” is used to describe a variety of types of rings and can be used synonymously with the term “antique”.
- Antique/vintage ring: Any ring over 75 years old (but typically closer to 100 years old)
- Estate ring: A pre-owned ring (no more than 50 years old)
- Vintage reproduction ring: A new ring styled to look like a ring from a previous era
Using the term “vintage” to describe all all these types of rings is perfectly acceptable. However, if you’re looking for something specific, knowing the exact definitions is helpful.
The 4 major eras of vintage & antique rings
Getting a sense of the major eras of vintage jewelry will help you get a better sense of what you’re looking for. Plus, knowing a bit about a ring’s time period will give you an ever deeper appreciation for its elegance and beauty!
The very first diamond solitaire engagement ring originated during the Victorian era. But jewelry from this time period is much more varied than a solitaire ring.
Victorian era pieces are known for being creative and colorful, adorned with rubies and emeralds. Additionally, rings during this time often featured gilded metal, rolled gold, and gold-plated techniques.
Art Nouveau: 1890-1910
Art Nouveau is one of the most recognizable jewelry styles. Rings from this period are known for using curving lines in a natural and dreamlike way.
People are drawn to Art Nouveau rings for their romantic and soft features. Pearls were very popular during this time, as were pastel-shaded gemstones.
The use of platinum in jewelry originated in this time period, but diamonds were the primary focus in the Edwardian movement. Edwardian rings are light and delicate — so much so that diamond rings were often set in lace instead of metal.
Couples who choose an Edwardian period ring are typically intrigues by its sophisticated and elegant vibe. These rings are stunning!
Art Deco: 1920-1930
The Art Deco era was edgy and minimalistic (the Commodore Hotel in Portland is a great example of Art Deco design!) Rings from this period typically hold a strong, geometric design with a certain feminine appearance.
During the period, people were less interested in diamonds and more excited by unique gemstones. Many rings from this time feature sapphires, rubies, and emeralds.
Vintage ring terminology to know
As you’re searching for a vintage ring, you’ll across a few terms that may be unfamiliar. The best jewelers will ensure you understand all these terms, but here’s a quick cheat sheet to reference along the way.
- Halo - A small collection of stones surrounding the main stone of your ring (like a halo)
- Milgrain - A precise beading detail embellishing the edges of jewelry metal
- Filigree - Ornamental fine wire formed into a delicate design
- Solitaire - A ring with one diamond featured in the center
- Pavé - Tiny accent diamonds set closely together
- Brilliant Cut - A diamond or other gemstone cut with 58 facets and a shape resembling a cone (the most popular diamond cut today)
- Old European Cut Diamond - A round diamond cut similar to (but less bright than) a newer brilliant cut
- Old Mine Cut Diamond - A brilliant cut that has a squarish shape with a smaller table, larger cutlet, and higher crown
Questions to ask the jeweler about a vintage ring
The key to properly evaluating a vintage ring comes down to asking the right questions. We’ve written an in-depth article about the right questions to ask when buying a diamond ring. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.
What’s the history of the ring?
Start by getting some information about the vintage ring! This is the fun part. Learn the ring’s age, era, and any special details the jeweler may have about its history.
What are the 4 C’s of the diamond?
All diamonds are graded on the four C’s: Carat, Color, Clarity, Cut. This universal system helps identify a diamond’s best qualities. Your jeweler will help guide you through this process and help you see the beauty of the stone.
Can you verify the ring’s precious metal content?
Metal is important. It can affect the level of durability of the ring. Ask the jeweler about the metal of the ring and if they can verify its content.
Can the vintage ring be modified?
Vintage rings are often more tricky to repair, upgrade, or resize. Talk to your jeweler about how easy it will be to make any modifications.
Is the diamond certified?
If you’re choosing a vintage ring containing a diamond, make sure your jeweler can prove the stone is natural. A trusted jeweler will have a GIA certified gemologist on staff to accurately certify and appraise your diamond.
Where to shop for a vintage ring in Portland
Let’s start with where not to shop.
Like we mention at the start of this guide, there are many vintage stores in Portland. While you may hope to discover a hidden treasure in one of these stores, searching for a vintage ring in an antique or thrift shop will not result in the perfect ring.
Always shop for vintage rings at a trusted local jeweler. What are the tell-tale signs of a trustworthy jewelry shop? Here’s what to look for:
- A GIA certified gemologist on staff
- Experience in the local community
- Excellent customer reviews
- Hand-selected vintage collection
- High-quality customer experience
Discover Portland's largest collection of vintage and antique rings
Located downtown on 3rd Avenue, Malka Diamonds is home to one of the largest collections of vintage and antique rings in Portland.
Our collection includes stunning period pieces — from Art Deco, Edwardian, and Victorian rings to Art Nouveau and Mid-Century jewelry.
Our experienced team of vintage ring experts have curated a collection of both impeccably preserved pieces as well as those that are ready for restoration. Most of our vintage collection is over 75 years old, with the majority being 100 years old!
Whether you’re looking for an engagement ring, anniversary ring, or a unique gift for a special someone, we’d love to meet you and help you browse our collection.