by Danielle Bernato
© Stardust Antiques
it comes to diamond engagement rings, women shoppers tend to
fall into two general categories. First, there are the women
who desire the largest stone their fiancé can possibly afford
(or not). Then there are those who prefer something simply beautiful,
wherein the overall aesthetic value of the ring is cherished
over the diamond's size. For those who reside within that second,
smaller category, an antique engagement ring may fit the bill.
The term "antique" encompasses several eras of jewelry,
including, but not limited to, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau,
and Art Deco. Of these artistic periods, Art Deco is perhaps
the most popular design among antique engagement ring enthusiasts
"Young people are getting weary of plain looking rings,
they tend to prefer the setting itself to be more ornate, more
interesting," says Pat Tuohy, owner of Adelaide Claiborne
Collection in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The term "Art Deco" is derived from the Exposition
Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes,
held in Paris in 1925, when the style was in its heyday. For
those who love antiques, though, Art Deco has always been in
vogue, says Ken Gold, who co-owns New York City's Stardust Antiques
with his wife Esther. "We love to sell Art Deco here in
the store because it's the most uniquely wonderful old style
that's still modern and contemporary," he says.
"Art Deco style is really a confluence of influences borrowed
from many cultures," adds Joyce Jonas, President of the
American Society of Jewelry Historians and adjunct professor
in New York University's Appraisal Studies program. "The
exotic themes represented in Art Deco range from Egyptian to
Oriental, Native American, Aztec Indian and Persian."
The timelessness of Art Deco is wholly appropriate to the era
in which it flourished. Occupying the years between 1915 to
the end of the 1920s, Deco bridged the transition from the old
world to the new, when typically handcrafted items that had
survived the Industrial Revolution thus far were beginning to
be made by factories, Jonas explains. Art Deco rings therefore
have a streamlined, geometric, graphic look that is still delicate-a
© Stardust Antiques
Deco rings are frequently distinguishable by metal "steps"-seen
in the ring's profile-that lead up to the center stone. Think
of the Chrysler Building, and how its tower is shaped in steps
toward its highest point. This defining characteristic of Art
Deco engagement rings reflects the period's architecture, Jonas
says. In addition, he adds, though Art Deco jewelry designs
were originally characterized by the use of bright, contrasting
colors (a divergence from the paler palette of earlier, Edwardian
designs), they later moved toward an all-white look.
Antique rings often feature a square setting holding a round
diamond. Six or more smaller diamonds may flank the center stone,
set within various geometric and graphic shapes along the visible
part of the ring. Baguettes were introduced during this period
as well, and contrasting stones, such as sapphires, emeralds,
rubies or onyx, were commonly featured as accents in engagement
rings of the era. Platinum, meanwhile, was the metal of choice.
It has great lightweight strength and tends to have a whiter
look than silver, providing a striking juxtaposition to the
diamonds or other stones in the rings.
The combination of sapphires and diamonds in a platinum setting
is "the hottest look in antique jewelry right now,"
notes Gould. For those with less colorful tastes, though, later
style Art Deco engagement rings featuring diamonds accented with
diamonds are available in most stores that carry the style. Unlike
many modern rings, an antique engagement ring is not merely a
showcase for a highly valuable diamond. However, the cut and quality
of the center stone continues to be an important aspect of any
engagement ring. Typically, the diamonds in Art Deco engagement
rings will contain a Brilliant cut stone, or even an Old European
or Old Mine cut stone (visit the Stardust
Antiques Website for brief explanation of these cuts) Most
engagement rings and settings of the era contain or can hold between
0.50 and 1.5 carats, but exceptions exist at either end of the
is the case with any antique, there are only a limited number
of the items available, and many of them are not in circulation
for a variety of reasons. Because it can be difficult for storeowners
to find originals, Tuohy adds to her store's collection by selling
reproductions, which are available with or without a center
was very fortunate to find a man who makes amazingly accurate
reproductions using molds, which is how they were originally
created," Tuohy explains. "It takes a very skilled
jewelry maker to work with platinum because it's a fast-setting
Whether you choose to buy an actual antique or a reproduction
ring is a personal matter. But, before you make any significant
purchases, do your research. A number of Websites feature antique
engagement rings for sale, and you can also learn more about
Art Deco at a few sites dedicated to the style.
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