There can be little doubt that if you are thinking of buying an engagement ring and ‘popping the question’ the next thought is, the ring. Now this in itself is fraught with danger. Not least in your mind maybe is, I hope she will say ‘yes’. That assumed, then where to go from there?. What style, what stone, what price, what ﬁnger size, eek. These are some big decisions and they all have to be correct.
Firstly though, let’s think about how all this engagement ring started. The Egyptians, Cleopatra and all that stuff believed that circles were a symbol of eternity. Wedded couples gave each other rings made from braided reeds. Believing that the correct ﬁnger would be the left hand, next to the little ﬁnger for the ring, it was thought that the Vena Amoris vein ran from here straight to the heart.
The Romans too believed in the ring for this ﬁnger, and in the 2nd century BC started the tradition of exchanging engagement rings in the form of a betrothal in lieu of giving the bride money or a valuable object. But this was more a symbol of ownership rather than one of love.
However, it was really started as a tradition in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy. This was actually a ring set with ﬂat pieces of diamond in the shape of the letter M. This set a precedent for European nobility who added other gemstones to compliment the ring with diamonds. Other precious stones like sapphires, emeralds and rubies also started to gain popularity. These were mostly worn by Kings and Popes and high church in regalia. The Middle Ages saw a further rise in the popularity of engagement rings with many having romantic sayings or phrases engraved around the inside of the shank.
The Most Famous Tagline in the World, “A Diamond is Forever”
However, these rings tended to be the reserve of the good and great. It was not until 1880 when Cecil Rhodes founded the De Beers mining company in South Africa that diamonds became more affordable to the middle classes. Controlling much of the world’s diamond production De Beers could mine millions of pounds worth of stones to supply the greater demand. Their ad campaign ‘A Diamond is Forever’ was probably one of the most successful taglines in history, and by the 1940s engagement rings became one of the leading lines in stores across the western world.
So we have come a long way from the earliest rituals when cavemen gave their chosen mate a cord of braided grass to wear around their wrist or ankle. Today no man would make a proposal without a beautiful ring to present to his intended.
The rise of Internet Shopping
So going back to the original questions. The market for new rings is certainly large and confusing. Apart from stores and jewellery shops, the internet is now a major player in the supply of new engagement rings. It is true to say that they have made choice easy. But if you put the words ‘diamond ring’ into a search engine, I think you will agree that the choice on offer is totally mind blowing and very confusing. Too much choice is never a good thing.
Prices seem to vary at an alarming rate. A one carat stone can be less than £2000 or more than £5000! Still, if you have an idea what the lady in your life would like then you have a head start. If not, you may have to somehow get an idea if she accepts the ring of your choice. If you get it wrong, and that is a big worry, then it’s not a great start if she asks you to change it for something else!
Pre-owned Jewellery at Vintage Tom
However, that is the ‘new’ market, and for us at Vintage Tom, we really are only interested in the pre-owned and antique ring market. So if you think that your lady is the sort of person who loves antique jewellery then a ring from the Victorian or Edwardian period could be just the thing. Try to ascertain if she would like sapphires, emeralds, rubies, or just a plain diamond.
Of course, the solitaire (single stone) is the most popular of styles, and these are available from the early part of the 20th century right through to present day. The two stone has been another popular style as it symbolises ‘togetherness’ and when set as a twist this style is very pretty. Three stone rings are another popular style and are often set with a sapphire, emerald or ruby to the centre. They sit well with an eternity ring and of course looks great with a wedding ring. Many have their stone set into platinum. Whilst the rest of the ring is probably yellow gold, platinum claws are very safe and strong.
Diamond Cluster Rings
Diamond clusters too have been another leading style, and popular from late Victorian through to modern day. These too are often set with a coloured gemstone. Wedding rings can also be supplied with a groove that will let the cluster ‘bed’ into. The Art Deco period and Edwardian styles are very ‘en vogue’ at present. The geometric and simple designs actually being seen by many women today as truly modern. We have many styles like this from just a few hundred pounds. If your lady likes vintage, this may be the ideal choice as they are very affordable. We now move onto the pre-owned market. This in effect is a modern day ring, maybe from last year back to say the 1970s.
Normally, for any ring less than a few years, or even a few months old these will be rings that have not made the ﬁnal destination of the intended’s ﬁnger. There are a variety of reasons for this. One supposes that if you do no mind purchasing a ring that was pre-bought by someone else then this is a great way to save a great deal on a brand new ring.
Usually if one has paid say £3000 for a new ring, the second hand one could be at least 1/3rd cheaper, or even half price! So if you are concerned about the purchase of another person’s engagement ring then think of Prince William.
He gave Kate his mother’s sapphire and diamond cluster ring and bearing in mind what happened to her. It was obviously something that did not concern him or the Princess. So if a vintage a pre-owned ring is for you, then have a look at our website. Understand that every piece is thoroughly checked and cleaned and comes with a superb gift box and appraisal. We can re-size a ring to ﬁt, which for our goldsmith is a very simple operation. If not satisfied and you can return the ring with your purchase, or if she actually says ‘No’, which we hope would not happen.