If you want a truly unique ring with a rich history, you may consider an antique, vintage, or estate ring. Understanding the differences between those classifications and other labels used to describe jewelry can help you choose a ring that is high quality and a good value, as well as having the personalized touches you prefer.

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Jewelry Labels and Descriptions

Rings and other pieces of jewelry are often labeled as different categories that help describe and define the style, era, and design of the piece, as well as highlight its overall look, age, or ownership. The most popular types of labels and descriptions include…

Era- or Period-Specific: Rings and jewelry pieces are often described by the era they were designed, particularly when an era has a very distinctive style such as Victorian, Edwardian, Art Deco, or Mid-Century. There is often overlap between the edges of different eras, however, so these labels can be indistinct.

Style:Style-based descriptions are very common and broad, such as diamond solitaires, cameos, three-stone rings, halo settings, or channel bands. These descriptions, though they do give a basic sense of the style of the piece, do not generally refer to one specific period and could apply to jewelry of any age or quality.

Ethics: It is becoming more popular to categorize jewelry pieces under ethical standards, such as noting when a diamond is conflict-free or eco-friendly. This helps conscientious buyers seek out pieces that are more ethically sourced and have not been obtained through nefarious or dubious transactions.

Occasion: It is easy to label some rings and pieces of jewelry by the typical occasions or type of wear they’re associated with. The most common is engagement rings or wedding bands, but anniversary rings, cocktail rings, mother’s rings, and right-hand rings are similar designations.

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Defining Antique, Vintage, and Estate Rings

Some of the most challenging jewelry descriptions to understand are when pieces are labeled as antique, vintage, or estate. While the exact description can vary by jeweler and may fluctuate based on the paperwork associated with any individual piece, its general craftsmanship, overall condition, and when the stones were mined, the basic guidelines for these descriptions are…

Antique: Generally, a piece of jewelry has to be more than 100 years old to be considered antique, though some jewelers do include rings from the 1920s and 1930s under the antique umbrella, particularly if they are of exceptional quality.

Vintage: Vintage rings are generally at least 20-30 years old, but are not as old as antique rings. The term vintage is often applied to costume jewelry as well, so take great care when determining the authenticity and quality of vintage pieces.

Estate: An estate ring or piece of jewelry is pre-owned, liquidated from someone’s personal estate. There are no age, era, or quality distinctions for estate jewelry, and this broad description can cover many types of pieces.

In addition to these general classifications, several vague labels may be applied to jewelry that either cannot be easily classified or that is actually new but resembles older pieces. If a piece is described as “-inspired” “-esque” or “-style” such as “antique-inspired” “vintage-esque” or “Art Deco-style” it will share characteristics with those classifications, but is not necessarily authentic. It is always best to thoroughly examine and appraise such jewelry to be confident of its origins.

Finding an Authentic Ring

With so many labels and vague descriptions that can be applied to jewelry, it may seem overwhelming to seek out a truly lovely and authentic piece. A reputable jeweler will be able to offer expert analysis of the jewelry, however, including documentation through ownership or insurance records, independent appraisals, and evaluations that help determine the authenticity of a piece. For example, examining the lapidary techniques on the gemstones, as well as the setting style, manufacturing method, and materials used in the piece can help determine its precise origins and history. Vintage Diamond Ring does all this to ensure its jewelry is of the highest quality and is appropriately classified so you never need worry about inaccurate information, and can feel confident in every piece you purchase.

Authentic Ring