“My girlfriend wants a vintage filigree diamond engagement ring. We’re willing to buy online or from a local jewelry store, but the process is quite frustrating. The vast majority of vintage rings exhibit heavy signs of wear. To our dismay and horror, there have even been chips on several of the center stones!”
“Many of the rings exhibit what I consider to be extensive signs of wear and tear… Most of the rings have dents, dings, and scratches, some of them also exhibit signs of repairs. One local jeweler proposed refurbishing a vintage ring so that it looks like new. It took a few hours for that concept to sink in… Imagine paying a small fortune for an antique ring and then having to pay to restore it. That is not really a concept that I find appealing.”
Is it possible to get the look of an antique vintage filigree engagement ring without the wear and tear? Where would you go to buy a vintage filigree diamond ring? Do you know anybody who sells vintage filigree style settings that are in good condition? One possibility that we’re considering is to buy just the vintage setting, because we recognize that modern diamonds offer better light return. Is all of this too much to ask? It seems like we’re stuck in the classic Catch 22 scenario. Perhaps you could also suggest some options for something in the range of 1.00 – 1.20 carats, G+ color, VS-2 clarity or higher? Thanks.”
What is the allure of vintage jewelry?
Is it the history, the craftsmanship, the unique design? The mystery that lies behind the life experience it has gathered throughout the years? Why do you want a dusty, old ring? Or does it merely meet the requirement of Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue?
It can be a real challenge to find a vintage filigree diamond engagement ring that is in good condition. The problem with buying vintage jewelry and engagement rings is that you never really know what you’re getting. It is quite common to find chips around the girdle edge of the center stone… Plus it seems like the diamond grading reports are always severely out of date or non-existent.
The good news is that vintage style jewelry is experiencing a modern day revival. Popular jewelry designers like James Allen offer extensive selections of vintage style engagement rings in their online catalogs. One of my favorite designs is this vintage filigree style engagement ring from James Allen, SKU 17450W. This ring will accommodate a round diamond weighing between 0.30 – 1.50 carats. It’s available in white gold, rose gold, yellow gold and platinum.
Without a doubt, you can find some incredibly beautiful vintage diamond engagement rings online and in jewelry stores. Unfortunately a lot of them contain center stones with chips, or other kinds of wear and tear like bruising. So many of the vintage jewelry that I’ve seen is worse for the wear.
Quite a lot of vintage jewelry requires extensive repair before it can be worn. Did I say extensive? Perhaps I should say “expensive” because it can cost a lot refurbish or repair vintage jewelry. In most cases, it is probably more cost effective to custom design a new engagement ring from scratch.
I actually prefer to buy modern reproductions of vintage style jewelry, because the designs are more symmetrical. Until quite recently, the majority of jewelry designs were hand-carved from chunks of wax. Carving rings out of wax by hand makes it practically impossible to create truly symmetrical design. It always seems like one half of the ring looks slightly different from the other side of the ring, this is not an issue with CAD.
Modern versions of vintage style jewelry are created using Computer Aided Design. CAD produces engagement ring designs that are perfectly symmetrical on all sides. This is the through finger side view of the vintage filigree style ring designed by James Allen, SKU 17450W. This ring incorporates a mix of vintage filigree style elements within the cage work with a touch of modern flair.
Practically anything is possible using CAD to design jewelry that appeals to people who prefer vintage or modern ring styles. The advantages to buying a vintage style ring with origins in CAD are practically endless. It enables you to enjoy a vintage filigree style ring that is symmetrical in design and shape. The structure of the ring is sturdier and you don’t have to worry about oxidation or metal failure.
This is a side profile of the filigree vintage style engagement ring designed by James Allen. Did you catch that part about not having to worry about oxidation or metal stress if you buy a new ring as opposed to a vintage e-ring? Did you know that the alloys used to make jewelry oxidize over time? The chemicals released by our skin cause a redox reaction with the other metals mixed with gold and platinum…
Speaking of chemicals mixing with our skin, a lot of vintage jewelry is held together by old solder that is not lead free! Be sure to avoid buying vintage jewelry with visible solder lines because the solder may contain lead. The advantages to buying a vintage style ring with origins in CAD are practically endless… symmetrical shape, no metal stress, no oxidation = no worries.
Since I tend to be a straightforward and direct kind of guy, I’m going to come right out and say it… I’m not a fan of vintage diamonds. Old World Diamonds simply can’t compete with the light performance of modern diamond designs. For one thing, there are substantial differences in the types of lighting that we use to illuminate our world.
In this modern era, the majority of lighting situations that you’re going to encounter are going to be diffused light. This means that most of the time you’re going to be looking at your diamond under broad spectrum lighting. Under this type of lighting, most vintage diamond cuts look flat and lifeless.
Vintage diamond cuts were designed to perform well under the pin-fire lighting conditions created by candle and fire light. Old European Cut [OEC] diamonds for example, tend to feature:
This cutting style is perfect for the pin-fire lighting conditions of yesteryear, however it fails to perform in this modern age. Dramatic changes in how we illuminate our world, became the driving force of improvements in diamond design.
The transition from fire light to electric light was one of the driving factors that inspired Marcel Tolkowsky’s Diamond Design. Tolkowsky’s findings published in 1919, paved the path for the development of the modern round brilliant cut diamond.
Development of the Tolkowsky Ideal Cut Diamond took many more years to come to fruition. The progression of diamond design included the incorporation of:
The crown section of the diamond now accounts for about one third of the total depth of a round brilliant cut diamond. The pavilion section accounts for approximately two thirds of the total depth.
These changes completely alter the overall look and visual performance of vintage and modern diamonds. Not only do the diamonds look different in terms of the size and intensity of the sparkle, the volume of light return is clearly evident to the most casual of observers.
Rock or tilt one of the older and modern round diamonds back and forth, and the pattern of contrast brilliance is completely different. The difference between the look of vintage and modern ideal cut diamonds are as different as night and day.
Assuming that you’re looking for the highest volume of light return and best light performance, I suggest buying one of the following James Allen True Hearts diamonds:
These diamonds have proportions within the middle region of the range designated for the zero ideal cut proportions rating. They all have an overall cut grade of AGS Ideal-0 and exhibit very nice patterns of hearts and arrows. The higher degree of optical precision necessary to produce the crisp and complete pattern of hearts and arrows, will produce sparkle that is bolder, brighter and more vivid.
These diamonds are going to perform well in practically every lighting environment you are likely to encounter. They will exhibit a high volume of light return and a virtual balance of brilliance and dispersion. The combination of the 75 -78% lower girdle facet length and higher degree of optical precision is going to produce broad spectrum sparkle. If you really want a spectacular looking vintage filigree style ring, this is the way to go!
Take advantage of my free Diamond Concierge Service! Submit the form and tell me about the diamond you seek. I’ll use my industry resources to help you find the best diamond available. Be sure to specify:
It is not necessary to specify a range of proportions, I’ll adhere to the range that I’ve relied upon for 30+ years…
If you’re searching for diamonds on your own, be sure to avoid options that contain the following types of inclusions:
For more information on these types of inclusions, refer to Diamond Clarity Characteristics. Hopefully this article provided you with the insight that you were looking for. Please leave a comment below or send me a note if you have any questions.
Todd Gray is a professional diamond buyer with 30+ years of trade experience. He loves to teach people how to buy diamonds that exhibit incredible light performance! In addition to writing for Nice Ice, Todd "ghost writes" blogs and educational content for other diamond sites. When Todd isn't chained to a desk, or consulting for the trade, he enjoys Freediving! (that's like scuba diving, but without air tanks)
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