Rings are unique among personal adornments. No other piece of jewelry carries such a weight of symbolism. Rings can be enjoyed for themselves as objects of beauty, with mountings of different designs, some classic and timeless, others with their own quirky characteristics, or with the beauty and brilliance of the gemstones they carry; but equally fascinating can be the meanings and symbolisms that have been attached to them. With Antique and Vintage rings, lovers and wedded couples have pledged their faith, monarchy, aristocracy, popes and cardinals exercised their power, nobility displayed their lineage, merchants marked their goods. Vintage Rings warned their wearers to meditate on salvation, commemorated the dead, and proclaimed loyalties. Almost every example brings a human story to life. Throughout history, we have Antique, Vintage and Estate rings worn by kings and queens, by presidents, and sports stars. Infinitely precious yet unobtrusive, personal and enigmatic, rings speak to us in a language that defies time.
1/ Platinum & Diamond Art Deco Engagement or Cocktail Ring with calibre Sapphires
In 1901 the Illustrated London News magazine observed that 'it is actually the fashion in Paris and therefore becoming so here in the rest of Europe to wear a large vintage ring on every finger, and even stack two or three antique rings on some of the fingers'.
2/ Unusual Edwardian 18 karat Yellow Gold & Diamond Engagement ring with natural-colored diamonds
In antique and vintage rings from the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods, influences from the 18th Century predominated. The Antique Jeweler J. W. Benson in 1910 advertised their antique rings - 'Old English Cluster Rings from the style of Queen Anne and Antique Marquise rings, handmade reproductions of the exquisite French models worn by the noblesse of the eighteenth century'. However, these vintage reproductions of earlier antique rings were quite different from the originals, for not only were the antique diamonds and gemstones cut differently, but platinum was now being used in the making of vintage rings; and the platinum millegrain settings were much lighter than the gold or silver used in making earlier antique rings. An innovation in the making of estate rings was platinum latticework which filled and provided an almost invisible support for the gemstones in both Edwardian and Art Deco cocktail and engagement rings. Alon with the use of fine platinum work, gem cutting techniques had also improved, and they could now cut small calibre gemstones into shapes of measured size and neatness, far more preciously, to be used in the decorative setting of antique rings.
3/ Late Victorian Diamond Cluster Engagement ring
At this time period both for art deco cocktail and engagement rings, the 'gem set ring' was the principal concern of antique jewelers'. The periodical 'Queen' said in 1925 'it regretted that vintage rings, the preeminent symbols of friendship, love and married life are no longer designed in regard to the significance of the gift but in reference to the intrinsic worth of the antique ring or its exchange value.'
4/ Art Deco Platinum & Diamond engagement ring with filigree lattice work
The magazine also said that even the wedding ring which should be honored as the most significant jewel in my lady's casket is worn by the smart woman of today as narrow and insignificant as possible. Yet romance was not completely dead and sentiment did still exist, as very often initials were inscribed on the inside band of the antique ring shank.
5/ Art Deco Platinum & Triangular Cut Diamonds with calibre Onyx & Emerald cocktail ring
Here at Beverley R Jewelry in downtown Chicago, we have the largest selection of original Platinum & Diamond or Platinum and Gem set Art Deco Engagement rings, and to add that touch of romance we can have the engaged couples initials also engraved onto the inside of the shank. Along with our large selection of Art Deco Platinum and gem set rings we also have a large selection of original yellow gold diamond and gem set engagement rings from both the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
6/ Art Deco Platinum & Cushion cut Diamond Cocktail ring with calibre Sapphires
Along with the initials, many of these Vintage engagement rings also contained quotations, some Biblical: 'Many Waters Cannot Quench Love' , and 'Till Death Do Us Part', or heart felt deliberations 'My Darling For Ever & Aye'.
The American Jewelry Historian George Kunz, in his article 'Rings for the Finger' discusses Vintage platinum hoop rings encircled with crowns of floral designs, or vintage 'gimmel' hoop rings one of gold interlocking with one of platinum, which many believe the contemporary design of multi-colored Cartier band engagement or forever rings were based on. Kunz also suggested in his article that with the increase in divorce rates back in the Art Deco era, there might be a market for a Vintage divorce ring, but this never really became popular. At Beverley R Fine Antique & Vintage Jewelers in Chicago, we also have a large selection of signed Vintage Jewelry from the major makers both Cocktail and Engagement rings along with a large selection of original of Art Deco 'Eternity Band Rings' in Platinum set with diamonds going around their circumference, with many couples liking the idea of making their wedding vows with an Art Deco eternity band to signify the unbreakable union to which they are committing.
7/ Art Deco Platinum & Cabochon Ruby Cocktail/Engagement Ring
In an earlier article by the magazine Queen, in their series about the different types of Estate Rings, they commented how the 'mourning ring' had died in popularity as a memento. However the tradition was revived by Cartier after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Here relatives of the victims had their diamonds outlined in black onyx or enamel to great effect.
8/ Antique Yellow Gold & Grylls (Three Headed) Cameo ring
Also in this Antique period the symbolic snake ring was continued to be worn by both sexes, and with its symbolism of timelessness and eternity it was also popular as an engagement ring, especially after prince Albert proposed the future Queen Victoria with a serpent engagement ring. At Beverly Antique Jewelry we have a large selection of original antique serpent rings, for any couples who are looking for Vintage Engagement Rings or love tokens that reflect historic symbolism.
9/ Antique Yellow Gold Garnet, Diamond & Enamel Mourning Ring
Lastly at this Vintage time period for the man-about-town, he liked to wear an antique intaglio signet rings in plain gold or platinum or set with a semi-precious gemstone with his crest or initials carved into it. Sometimes rather than initials or the family crest, gentlemen wore Vintage Intaglio or Cameo Rings with novelty animal or mythological creatures carved in/on the gemstone. At Beverley R Jewelry, we have a large selection of antique intaglio and cameo rings both of plain gold and also different carved agate and gemstone rings, for those who want an everyday ring with a difference and something none of their friends will have.
10/ Antique Yellow Gold & Cornelian Intaglio Ring of Poseidon
Lastly George Kunz mentions in his article the enormous number of Vintage and Estate rings made in the United States for members of societies, Freemasons, trade unions and colleges and school fraternities, with emblems enameled or encrusted with gems.
At Beverley R Antique & Vintage Jewelry just off the 'Magnificent Mile' in Chicago, we have the largest collections of original Antique and Vintage Jewelry for every occasion, with knowledgeable staff who can share the historic significance of the pieces in relation to their time periods.