Where to shop for a vintage engagement ring?
September 18, 2015 8:19 PM   Subscribe

Where are the best places to look at vintage engagement rings? Or just vintage rings made with fine materials in general?

My gf is getting married. I suggested she look at alternatives to big box stores or custom made rings that cost a small fortune. I showed her some pictures of vintage rings that I like and she now thinks it's a good idea to consider looking at them. I’m thinking antique stores, but that’s all I can really come up with other than online stores. Online they’re priced rather ridiculously for what you’re getting, and I’m pretty sure she'd prefer to handle the ring and try it on before choosing it. Any suggestions would be great
posted by Avosunspin to Shopping (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Local pawn shops can have some antiques mixed in with the rest.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:29 PM on September 18, 2015

There are jewelers that specialize in vintage/antique rings, and some of them also sell new rings. Look for local family-owned jewelry stores. Search term is "vintage and estate jewelry."

But be aware it's not at all easy. I also wanted to go this route, but we couldn't make it work despite looking at hundreds of rings. For one thing, we looked in a lot of antique shops, but usually any dealer may at best have one case or so of vintage rings, so there's not much to see, and traveling to all the shops takes a lot of time. But even at the stores that specialize and have a pretty good inventory, it is hard to find a match. Some rings can be resized, but not all - it depends on the metal and on the stone setting. Some stones and settings are beautiful but not practical for a ring you're going to wear everyday, because they scratch, chip, or are too high off the ring surface. I found a lot of stones I loved in settings I didn't like, a lot of settings I liked with stones I didn't like, and a lot of both on a band I didn't like. You can always buy stones and have them set in a custom ring, but that'll be pricier than buying vintage. Also, I found that the prices for vintage rings online were consistent with what we were seeing in the stores. There was nothing very good for less than $900 and many of the nicest vintage rings were above $4K.

So it is worth looking for if you have time, but be aware it can be a needle-in-haystack type search. In the end I got a custom engagement ring made on Etsy for a couple hundred, and wedding rings from eWeddingBands, and am really happy with both.
posted by Miko at 8:37 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on the city you live in, there can be whole stores dedicated to vintage jewelry, if you're able to state where you or your friend live, that can help the search especially if you're wanting to physically check them out. The key you're going to want to search for, probably isn't 'vintage' but 'estate' jewelry. Its my understanding that the term 'vintage' is avoided by nicer shops, and typically refers to lower quality jewelry (this is just the impression I got when I was looking last. No idea if this is industry wide, but I found the search much easier when I shifted towards the 'estate' label).

If for some reason either of you are in Portland, Oregon Malloy's is the shit for stuff like this. They're just awesome, and have tons of different eras represented.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:39 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

We found a dealer that my mom found through one of those antique markets that have a bunch of stands run by different people. Maybe it was just a slow time in the vintage jewelry market but we saw tons of nice things at really reasonable prices. But we did find that working with a dealer directly was helpful and much less expensive than the fancier antique stores.
posted by vunder at 9:02 PM on September 18, 2015

Best answer: We definitely went this route and were very happy with it. We lived in New Orleans which has a ton of antique shops. We spent an afternoon going through them and found a awesome vintage ring for like $300. I've seen similar rings online for 2-5x that amount.

Where do you live?

One thing to consider with vintage engagement rings is that often the rings are stand-alone - i.e. they don't have a matching wedding band (or if they did it's been separated). It can be hard to get a matching band that's not custom-made. I decided I didn't care about having two rings so I'm fine with this, but it's something to consider.
posted by radioamy at 9:11 PM on September 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Brilliant Earth has vintage and antique engagement rings, with showrooms in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

We got a vintage ring by watching the used ring ads on Craigslist and realizing that in our city, there were a few stores that bought and sold a fairly high volume of them, which made it easy to find something close to my size and in a style we liked.
posted by slidell at 11:49 PM on September 18, 2015

Isadora's Antique Jewelry (isadoras.com) is here in Seattle and they have wonderful stuff. Great quality. It is all as they say it is. They also have a wonderful website with great hi-res pics of all of it. You can order with confidence. I've bought many pieces from them. (Sorry it's late and I'm phone but had to answer this one!)
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:43 AM on September 19, 2015

I like Lang's Antiques in San Francisco, and they have a good website. Most of the rings are very expensive, however.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:07 AM on September 19, 2015

My sister got her ring from Lang-- she loves it. One pitfall of vintage is that people were smaller, so it's hard to find anything bigger than a 7 in women's rings, and you can only resize up 1 size or less. Lang had great service and fair prices. It's a trip to go in person, so if you can, it's worth it!

I like to drool over the website for Three Graces but I'm never bought anything there.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:52 AM on September 19, 2015

If your friend in in Portland, Gilt is fantastic. I tried Malloy's but found a better selection and a better range of prices at Gilt. (This is not a paid endorsement.) The staff there is great. If she isn't in Portland, maybe she can email them and ask if they can recommend a shop in her area.
posted by Beti at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2015

Agree with Iris Gambol that Brilliant Earth has a great selection. I've seen them in person in SF. Although price-wise they're a lot more than if you dig around at antique stores because it's a curated collection (the price comparison I mentioned above was with BE).
posted by radioamy at 11:09 AM on September 19, 2015

We got my vintage Art Deco ring from etsy. Most places have a 30 day return policy that would allow you to try it on and return it if it didn't work.

But etsy works best if you've got a particular style you're looking for so you can use those search terms.

Brilliant Earth is HELLA expensive, but they have beautiful rings.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:22 PM on September 19, 2015

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