Many people use the word antique to refer to any jewel that was made more than 100 years ago, but the answer is not as simple as that.
“What is an antique ring” should be an easy question to answer. The prevailing definition of antique – in relation to furniture or jewellery – is any creation that is a century old or more. Using this definition, all rings crafted before 1922 are considered antiques, while any ring made after that date falls into the vintage or modern category. But it is not that simple – for us at The Vintage Ring Company and for other stores and dealers who categorise their jewels as antiques.
Edie, an Edwardian engagement ring
The world of antiques is divided into eras – from the Elizabethan age (1558-1603) all the way through to the Edwardian period (1901-1910) in the UK; and from the Early American period (1640-1700) to the Art Nouveau era (1890-1910) in the US. After that, from the 1920s onwards, the years are usually referred to by decade, except for the 1910s – the decade that was dominated by World War I, which raged from 1914-1918.
Daisy, an Art Deco engagement ring
The years between World War I and the onset of World War II in 1939 spanned some two decades, and it was during this interwar period that the Art Deco movement swept through Europe and the United States. We categorise all rings designed and made during the Art Deco era, which are among the most-coveted antique rings on our website, as antiques, even though technically not all are – only those crafted in 1922 or earlier.
There are two reasons why we use the Art Deco period, rather than the specific year of 1922, as a guide to whether a ring is classified as an antique. Firstly, when we acquire our Art Deco rings, we often don’t know the exact year they were made, just that they were made during this period. Secondly, the Second World War brought about profound changes in the world, marking a very distinct cut-off point between the “old” and the “new”. The aesthetic of the mid-century designs that emerged from the ashes of the war were so radically different to anything that preceded them that it is seems natural to classify any ring from the Art Deco period and earlier as an antique.
Lucinda, a mid-20th century engagement ring
To browse our selection of antique engagement rings, click here.