Vintage Style Engagement Rings
Always a popular choice for engagement rings are the Vintage styles. Influenced by the ornate detailing of the Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, these rings bring back the romantic stylings of bygone eras.
Today’s vintage inspired designs often incorporate stylings from the Victorian, Art Nouveau, Edwardian and Art Deco periods into one ring. Beading/pave, milgrain, filigree and engravings intermingle with each other to create a finished product that is a stylish and sophisticated blend of beauty and craftsmanship. Each period had its own distinctive style and feel as well as design techniques unique to the era.
Below are two examples of vintage influenced designs from James Allen that incorporate hand engravings and delicate metalwork…
Antique Bezel & Pave Set Engagement Ring
Antique Style Hand-Engraved Diamond Engagement Ring
Victorian Era (1837-1901)
The Victorian age hails from the time of Britain’s beloved Queen Victoria, 1837 to 1901.
Victorian engagement ring styles tend to utilize many small diamonds that are often combined with other gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, jade, opal or pearls. The settings are ornate, intricate and well crafted. The metal of choice was usually either yellow gold or sterling silver.
The Victorian look is very distinguishable. Victorian engagement rings could be comparable to today’s pave and halo settings in their use of many gemstones and ornate settings.
Art Nouveau (1890-1915)
The period that is considered to belong to the Art Nouveau moment is between 1890 through 1915. During this time in world history, times were tough but the outlook was bright. A middle class was gaining strength in Europe and America had her feet firmly planted on the ground of world influence.
The artisans of the day were very much interested in designs with a “nature” theme. Etching with floral designs, animals, flowers, fairytale creatures such as gnomes, fairies and elves, and vine branches were seen on jewelry and artwork of this era.
Influenced by the Victorian age, the Art Nouveau period is distinguished by stylings with striking curves and nature influenced engravings. Everything was intricate and delicate but with bold pattern work and unmistakable femininity.
Edward VII only spent nine years as the King of England, a throne he inherited from his mother, Queen Victoria. The mark left by King Edward was substantially appreciated in the world of fashion, interior design and jewelry.
The look of the Edwardian Era is a combination of delicate swirls, decorative lace trims and tiny floral designs that are all contrasted by sharp angles, boxy outlines and rigid lines. The final look is polished but with a dash of ornamental extravagance.
The technique known as filigree was introduced during the Edwardian time. Filigree is a method of working fine bits of precious metals into delicate lace-like patterns that look light and airy. The practice of milgrain beading was also brought in during the Edwardian era.
The metal of choice during the Edwardian period was platinum as its strength allowed the thin and delicate filigree patterns to be produced.
Art deco (1918-1938)
Architecture built and designed during the Art Deco movement is to this day considered of the most stylish and beautiful around. Painters and sculptors also embraced this art movement, defined by bold symmetrical and geometric shapes. The New York City Chrysler building is a classic example of Art Deco architecture.
Engagement ring settings with blue sapphire accent stones (often in baguette or triangular cuts) contrasted with a central white diamond were popular. Gemstones, including rubies and sapphires, as well as bold shapes, straight lines and bright colors were in vogue.
The step cut, used to shape emeralds, with its clean lines was also popular during the Art Deco period.
Vintage Design Techniques
Modern vintage design is generally a mix of period styles, and utilize a number of intricate design techniques including: Filigree metal work, Milgrain edging, bead/pave settings, and engravings.
The word filigree stems from the Italian word “filigrana” which stems from the Latin word “filum.” This word basically means a thread of wire and a grain or bead. This style of metalwork was very popular at the beginning of the 20th century and has recently been brought back to life with the rising demand of antique styled engagement rings.
The basic idea behind filigree work is to bend or shape threads of fine wire into a decorative design. As common with the integrity of the craftsmanship in the early 1900’s, this style was popular because it was not an easy thing to accomplish. Many hours could be spent on just one thread of metal before the final look was achieved. Then, the metalworker would move on to the next thread of metal to shape it just so. One ring could contain dozens of metal wires.
There are four styles of filigree. These styles are openwork, ground-supported, a combination of ground-supported and openwork and finally is the addition of a second material interwoven with the wire. The openwork design uses four or five heavy and thick wires to create a design. The design will not have a backing and will be held in place simply by its structural integrity.
The ground-supported design uses a foundation of sturdy metal to support the metal wires that are soldered to it. From this sturdy base, the metalworker can sculpt the ring from one starting point. This is much easier to accomplish than openwork. However, it is more common to see a ring that falls under the third category-a combination of the openwork and the ground-supported design. The fourth type of filigree uses a second material such as enamel to interweave the metalwork and thus bring color and contrast into the ring’s design.
Filigree was and still is cherished for its complexity and for the high technical skill required to create it. Rings and jewelry are not the only venue for filigree either. Delicate sculptures, plates and stemware are a popular way to show off larger and even more complex filigree designs.
The ability to carve a picture, a pattern or a message of love on metal began around the first millennium. Ancient artifacts and jewelry bearing images of flowers and nature dating back to 1022 AD have been discovered near Rome and Egypt. While many of these images are crude, it is still an incredible feat for early man to accomplish.
Nowadays, the process is still as impressive but not nearly as challenging. A jeweler can use computer-aided technology to engrave almost anything, even the tiniest lettering to spell out just about any words that will fit on the chosen area. However, engraving is still considered an art form when a metalworker uses a hand-engraving tool to achieve the design or message.
The word milgrain literally translates to “a million grains.” This style of metalwork has been around since 5000BC and was first developed in Asia. The Milgrain style is denoted by the appearance of small metal beads that are linked together to make a lining or an edge to either jewelry or other trinkets.
Like filigree, achieving this look was very difficult and took painstaking efforts and time to produce. Artisans would use special knurling tools to create each tiny bead. Computers now aid the jewelry maker to perfect the size and shape of the beads and thus create a line of beads that are absolutely identical to each other.
Ring setting images are from James Allen.