Old-Fashioned Dazzlers

Rings >

Ring makers around the world have let out a collective harrumph. Instead of selecting a brand-spanking new sparkler, Prince William chose to ask for the hand of Ms. Middleton with the sapphire-and-diamond ring that his father gave his mother, Diana, some 29 years ago. Speaking at a brief press conference, William said, “It’s very special to me. As Kate’s very special to me now, it was right to put the two together.”

The sentiment behind a beloved heirloom is one of many reasons vintage rings are a great way to embark on your future à deux. Not only are they often more unique and often of a higher quality, they represent the ultimate in recycling. Here’s how to find and keep vintage bling.

Where to Look

Do your research to ensure you’re working with a reputable firm that accurately represents its rings, warns Suzanne Martinez, owner of San Francisco-based Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry. “You don’t want to buy an art deco engagement ring, only to find out later that it’s a reproduction mounting.”

Seek out professionals that can answer questions about the jewelry, gemstones and historical significance. The ring itself should have been examined by gemologists and a restoration department and guaranteed for quality and condition. “Many older rings survived because they were only worn on special occasions rather than a day-to-day basis like we do now,” Martinez says.

What to Look For

Marlene Harris, owner of Marlene Harris Collection, a Pittsburgh-based antique jeweler, says vintage rings were typically made by skilled craftsmen who didn’t take shortcuts. “They’d work on a piece until it was perfect.”

When shopping for an engagement ring, Harris advises looking for beautiful design and detailing. The filigree should be crisp and fine, and the diamonds should sparkle. Check the prongs to ensure stones are secured.

Time & Cost

A ring repair can be as simple as the replacement of a small missing diamond or as complicated as rebuilding a worn out gallery and remaking missing parts, notes Martinez. It typically takes Harris two or three days to complete a minor repair on an heirloom ring. The price for this work varies depending on the amount of labor and gold or platinum used, and may be affected by previous shoddy work.

To that end, when having a vintage ring repaired, make sure the jeweler has plenty of experience with old jewelry, Martinez says. The work may require the use of a laser, in which case a trained technician is needed.

Maintenance Tips

To extend the life of her own rings, Martinez takes them off when she’s at home, as she might do dishes, laundry or other chores that are hard on precious metal and stones. She also warns against wearing your ring at the gym. “A vintage ring is usually on the delicate side and not meant to bear weight or pressure.”

In addition, make sure your ring is sized properly – the shank on a ring that’s too large will deform and may break. Even if the fit is perfect, it is highly recommended that you visit your jeweler every six months to have your ring cleaned and the condition checked; many will offer this service for free.

“Over time improper wear can ruin an old ring and loose stones can fall out,” says Martinez, “So it’s important to catch little problems before they get bigger.”

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