How to Buy Antique Diamond Rings [Guide]
Shopping for a vintage or antique diamond ring is just a tad different from shopping for many modern day sparklers. These pieces are rich with history and are truly unique in that most of these diamonds were cut by hand! That originality, however, is precisely what makes vintage and antique rings so exciting, as each stone is different one to the other! You can use this simple guide to buying antique diamond rings so you can find the perfect piece for you or your loved one.
The 4 C’s of Diamonds
Antique diamond rings are distinctive and rich with character. The basis for grading these diamonds falls under the same categories as today’s modern diamond grading system. The “4 C's” of diamonds are: Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carats. When buying an antique diamond, you’ll be looking for different traits in each of these categories. So how do you apply the 4 C’s to an antique ring? Here’s a quick rundown of the basics for you!
Diamond Cut and Shape
Diamond cut refers to how the diamond and light interact in regards to its proportions, symmetry and polish. The shape of the diamond is the outline of the stone (marquise, heart, emerald, etc). Creating a diamond suitable for jewelry is an intricate process that requires the patience and skill of a diamond cutter. This is especially true with old cut diamonds, which were hand cut by master artisans. Most modern diamonds are now cut using lasers.
The shape of your diamond says a lot about your style. Each shape has its own character and tradition—from dramatic and elegant to luscious curves that sparkle with brilliant fire. The main Old Cut or Antique diamonds include:
Rose Cut: One of the oldest diamond shapes, Rose Cuts have been used since the 1600’s. Jewelers of the time were limited in terms of technology, but that didn’t stop them from producing beautiful pieces. Instead of imposing an abstract design on the stone, they worked with the natural shape to bring out its inherent beauty and charm. Often fitted with a flat bottom and floral-like facets on the top, this cut creates a diamond that exudes antique charm and character. These diamonds have a very subtle look that is more demure and alluring!
Old Mine Cut: Distinguished by high crowns, small tables, deep pavilions, 58 facets, and a cushion-like outline, Old Mine Cut diamonds are the result of advancements in jewelry making technology that allowed for more intricate shapes than the previous Rose Cut diamonds. The facets are paired with a deep pavilion (instead of a flat base as in the rose cuts) and allow for a greater play of light within the diamond and a more brilliant sparkle! It’s no surprise that this style quickly rose to popularity!
Old European Cut: Like Old Mine Cut diamonds, the Old European Cut is also distinguished by 58 facets. This “newer” cut, however, features a larger table, improved pavilion proportions, and a more perfectly circular outline. This was made possible by the introduction of techniques that allowed diamonds to be cut on a wheel. Jewelers were able to “open” the stone to an even greater degree, letting in more light and providing extraordinary patterns and beauty!
In addition to the old cuts above, you’ll also find the following shapes in the Victor Barboné Jewelry collection:
- Pear: Also called “teardrop,” this is an elegant and luxurious shape. Pear shaped diamonds look stunning in a solitaire setting or surrounded by glittering accent stones.
- Emerald: An elegant rectangular, step cut shape that is often used for high clarity diamonds. Instead of the sparkle seen in brilliant cuts, the emerald produces a deep, mirrored look that is indeed timeless!
- Marquise: The marquise shape is regal and elegant and has a navette-like outline with a delicacy that enhances the wearer's natural grace. The marquise shape also allows smaller carat diamonds to appear larger and fuller.
- Asscher: Asscher is a variation of the emerald shape that is closer to a square and is particularly popular in vintage diamond engagement rings. Like emerald shaped diamonds, clarity is very important.
Antique Diamond Clarity Scale
Diamonds are natural substances that form in the Earth and, as a result, they usually have blemishes and inclusions within them. These characteristics are what set the clarity of a diamond. Clarity is assessed under 10x magnification, and inclusions are evaluated according to their number, size, position, and relative visibility. Like the other C’s, diamond clarity is graded on a scale:
- F- Flawless
- IF- Internally Flawless
- VVS1-2— Very, Very Slightly Included
- VS1-2— Very Slightly Included
- SI1-2— Slightly Included
- I1-2— Included
Flawless and Internally Flawless are incredibly rare, significantly increasing their price. The price and rarity decrease as you progress down the scale. An “eye clean” diamond may often represent the best value for buyers. Keep in mind that even if a stone is in the SI range, its inclusions can only be seen under 10x magnification!
Antique Diamond Color Guide
As mentioned previously, since diamonds are a substance from the Earth, most diamonds have a degree of color to them. Diamonds are assigned a letter grade on a scale to denote their color starting with D and ending with Z.
- D through F – “colorless”
- G through J – “near colorless”
- K through M – “faint”
- N through R – “very light”
- S through Z – “light”
Whiter diamonds (D-F range) are very rare. This increases their value significantly! Often, most diamonds in the near colorless range can look white to the untrained eye. In the vintage and antique world, it is more common to find diamonds with a hint of color to them. Diamonds with color can offer deeper character and can be even more beautiful than the super white stones! When it comes to choosing which color diamond is for you, there are a few other things to consider as well. The techniques used to cut antique stones may mask the true color of the stone so it is more important to look at the ring as a whole package than to chase a particular grade. Two stones can be the same on paper but look completely different in real life! This is why we encourage people to look past what you “should like” and go for what you actually fall in love with!
Antique Diamond Carats
Diamonds are measured in carats, a measurement of weight that is equal to 0.20 grams. Each carat is subdivided into 100 “points” to accommodate fractional sizes. Bigger diamonds are more rare than smaller diamonds which is why they are more expensive!
Often diamonds can look bigger or smaller than their actual weights. For example, you may see the phrase “faces up larger” which means that looking at the diamond straight on gives the appearance of a larger stone.
Find the Perfect Vintage or Antique Diamond Ring
Take your time, compare different styles and looks, and most of all, enjoy the process! Keep the 4 C's in mind, but we encourage you to choose the ring that speaks to you and is as rare and fitting as your personal love story!
Browse the gorgeous selection of vintage and antique engagement rings available from Victor Barboné Jewelry to find your dream ring today!