The Victorian period ended in 1903 with Queen Victoria's death, and it was also the start of the shorter Edwardian period with his crowning. But as far as antique jewelry goes there was a time of overlap, where it is very difficult to tell if a piece of vintage jewelry is of the Victorian or Edwardian periods.
In 1901 the journal the Illustrated London News observed that 'it is actually the fashion in France, and now coming to the United Kingdom, to wear a large ring on every finger, along with two or three smaller rings on different fingers.'
1/ Platinum on Gold Three Stone Vintage Diamond Engagement Ring with Heart Gallery (Circa 1910)
it was a time when the antique jewelry circle was again coming back to following the designs from the 18th Century and the time of Queen Anne. It was a time when the antique cluster rings, and big Marquise rings which went along the finger were again popular. Just going off at a tangent; it is interesting to note that once again in the 21st Century the antique jewelry designs are coming to full circle again, in the way they have influenced contemporary jewelry. The antique cluster ring style now appears as the modern halo design, which has been very popular with young people looking to get engaged. Just continuing along this tangent path; the idea behind the antique cluster engagement ring design, was that it was initially made for those seeking a vintage engagement ring, but who were working on a tight budget. From a distance, the surrounding diamonds were abutting the central diamond, giving an effect from a distance, in creating and giving a wow factor in what looked like one large stone.
2/ Platinum Marquise cut Diamond Cocktail Ring set with calibre Emeralds (Circa 1920)
Even though the styles and designs of vintage jewelry were similar to that of earlier periods, there were some notable differences in the making of the vintage engagement rings and dress rings. The antique jewelry settings were much lighter, the stones were cut differently, and now where as in the past they had made gold mounts with a silver top to set diamonds, Platinum tops on gold mounts were being used for vintage diamond engagement rings. The reason for firstly the use of silver and then, later, platinum tops was that vintage jewelers noticed that diamonds shone more brightly when set in a white metal, as to previously when they were set in all gold mounts, with the gold color sometimes reducing the brightness of the diamond. In the early antique jewelry silver tops were used, but the vintage jewelers had noticed that over a period of time the silver started to oxidize (darken dramatically). Platinum had recently been discovered, but was a lot harder to use, as it needed extremely high heat so it could be worked and shaped, however it did have the advantage that it did not dull down from the kisses of time.
3/ Platinum Sapphire & Diamond Art Deco Engagement Ring (Circa 1920)
Platinum was also a very durable metal, and an innovation of the vintage jewelry makers was platinum lattice work which filled the marquise or cartouche shaped bezels and provided almost invisible support for the gemstones in vintage diamond engagement rings. Also with the innovation of more modern diamond and gemstone cutting techniques, they were able to use different shapes of stone with in the vintage mounts. Calibre cut Sapphires, Rubies & Emeralds, could be cut in more regular shapes, and could be set in the vintage rings en entarcia, from end to end, giving a measured neatness.
4/ Platinum & Ascher Cut Diamond Engagement Ring
Both the gem set vintage engagement ring or dress ring was the principal concern of the Estate jewelers. The publication 'Queen' in an article from 1905 'regretted that vintage engagement 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 exchange value.' This view was born out by looking at the books of Vintage jewelry retailers. The vintage jewelers Hennell's in London, their books showed that diamonds were the favorite choice for vintage engagement rings, the largest between 1-10 carats, were mounted as solitaire engagement rings, and the smaller diamonds as cluster.
5/ Platinum on Gold Old Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring (Circa 1915)
Just before the First World War, many officers got married before leaving for the front so from 1914 the demand for vintage engagement rings increased dramatically. Colored gemstones also became a little more popular in vintage engagement rings, and sometimes a symbolic vintage engagement ring was commissioned, with a heart shape design. or even a heart shaped cut gemstone.
6/ Platinum on Gold, Old Mine Cut Diamond cluster engagement ring. Circa 1910
The magazine Queen commented: '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.' It is interesting to note that at this time period very often the wedding bands were of plain gold, sometimes with engraving along the edges, but it was also a time when inscriptions were added to the inside of both vintage engagement rings and wedding bands. Very often this was just the initials of the couple and either the engagement or wedding date, but also what became very popular in the inscriptions were Bible verses for example 'Many waters cannot quench love' or 'Till death us do part'; sometimes the inscriptions were in Latin, and they could be part of the saying included in the family crest; and sometimes the inscription was just something romantic like 'My precious darling.'
The American Jewelry historian George Kunz, in his article Rings for the Finger (1917) talks about platinum hoops encircled with crowns of ivy and oak, and also overlapping rings of platinum and gold, inscribed with the names and the dates of firstly the engagement and then the marriage. Kunz, in touch with the social changes of his time, suggested that: 'in view of the great number of divorces now granted we might well introduce the custom of giving divorce rings.' Though this suggestion never really became popular.
7/ Sapphire and Diamond Triple Cluster Engagement Ring in 18 Karat Gold. Circa 1900.
At this time period we had the Vintage engagement ring, the vintage wedding band, and then traditionally when the couple had the first child they would wear on the other hand a platinum band set with diamonds, and these became known as vintage platinum 'eternity' bands, because the diamonds went around the entire circumference. The custom was for every child that another vintage diamond eternity band ring was given. A later variation, though diamonds remained the most popular gemstone, was to give either a vintage sapphire eternity ring for a boy or ruby ring for a girl.
Now this is not generally the modern custom giving the vintage eternity rings for the children, but a lot of couples like the idea of having a vintage eternity band ring as their wedding ring, because of the thought of going into a wedding commitment, with the eternity ring as a symbol spending the rest of their lives together is very appealing.
At Beverley R, antique and vintage jewelers in downtown Chicago Illinois, we have one of the largest collections of authentic and original antique, vintage and estate pieces of jewelry, and engagement rings in the state of Illinois. Each piece is hand selected for its uniqueness, and fine quality, which will set its wearer out from the crowd. As you can see from our 'Google' reviews, we have very many delighted and satisfied customers, who love their antique jewelry purchases from us.