THE HISTORY OF ANTIQUE ENGAGEMENT AND WEDDING JEWELRY
The early Roman era is credited with the initial custom of giving rings for wedding purposes. After families reached a marriage agreement for their children, an engagement would be celebrated with an established rite. Engagement rings would be exchanged during this ceremony. The engagement ring would be placed on the left ring-finger in accordance to an Egyptian belief that that a very fine vein ran directly to the heart from the left finger. The Romans used an ancient clasped hand design for betrothal rings. This “fede” or “trust” ring remained popular for centuries and is still used in jewelry.
Typically antique wedding rings from the 19 th century and the 20 th century were plain gold bands. Many of these gold bands were engraved with expressions of affection or important dates. Gemstones in antique jewelry were expensive luxuries as trade with the Middle East and Asia had not yet allowed for the flow of imported stones. Not all wedding rings were plain gold during the 19 th century. Some antique wedding rings were made with a delicate designs using turquoise, which symbolized the forget-me-not flower. It was not uncommon to find 19 th century wedding rings using pearls or small diamonds.
During the early 1900s, wedding jewelry was designed to be delicate and feminine. Edwardian wedding rings were set in platinum or a mix of yellow gold topped with platinum or silver to allow diamonds to shine. Diamonds were the most common gemstone in 1910 wedding rings. Edwardian engagement rings would often have old-mine cut diamonds or old-European-cut diamonds. Old-mine cut and European-cut diamonds have high crowns that enhance luster under candlelight. 1910 antique filigree rings were crafted with delicate gold or platinum. Antique platinum diamond rings have maintained much of their beauty because of the durability of platinum.
The 1920s wedding rings used more geometric designs and colored stones. Art Deco engagement rings were constructed with old-mine cut, European-cut and brilliant-cut diamonds and set primarily in platinum or white gold. New diamond cutting techniques allowed for new diamond cuts which would add an enhanced geometric flair. Synthetic sapphires or rubies were used to accent art deco engagement rings. 1920s engagement ring shapes featured a center diamond in square, octagonal or hexagonal pronged settings. Art Deco wedding ring settings may have been domed or even stair stepped. 1920’s and 1930s engagement rings would be embellished with engraved designs on the shoulders and shanks of rings. The 1930s wedding rings would be made of 18kt and 14kt white gold filigree designs. Ring shanks would continue to be thin by today’s standards.
During the 1940s, platinum was required for war efforts and was prohibited for other purposes in the U.S. Silver would often be used instead of platinum and jewelry hoarding occurred.
1960s and 1970s wedding rings would bring a change by using yellow gold mixed with diamonds instead of platinum, silver or white gold.
When shopping for antique and estate wedding rings it is important to confirm that the ring is symmetrical. It is also important to verify that all gemstones in estate engagement rings are tight and in good condition. Antique diamonds should be closely examined for chips or internal fractures. Antique platinum rings should be checked closely to see if the engraved design is still visible and that all parts of the filigree are intact. Antique Pearl or Turquoise wedding rings need to be checked for discoloration and scratches. If an estate wedding ring needs to be resized, make certain that all hallmarks and inscriptions are retained.
THE HISTORY OF ENGAGEMENT AND WEDDING JEWELRY
Ten Two Three Estate Jewelry
By: Chris Cosby
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