How to Tell How Old a Ring Is | Antique and Vintage Jewelry Included

Maybe your mother gave you a diamond ring inherited from your great-grandmother. Or you have lately visited a precious metal store, and you want to know how to tell how old a ring is

At this point, the only thing you’re 100% sure of is that your diamond ring is old, so where do you start? Luckily, this vintage and antique jewelry identification guide has all the details to help you have a better idea of your ring’s age, so read on.

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Key Takeaways

  • Diamond cut, diamond culet, mounting or setting, and examining the girdle are the proven ways to determine the age of a jewelry piece.
  • Earring fittings and findings, jewelry styles, maker’s mark, manufacturing methods, and identifying black jewelry are the clues to help determine the date of older stones.
  • Look for professional help once you exhaust all other identification methods.
  • The easiest way to be sure that a ring is authentic is to buy it from a reliable and experienced jeweler.

How to Tell How Old a Ring Is

When determining a ring’s age, look for hallmarks and engravings, as British hallmarks often contain date stamps indicating the year of production. However, not all hallmarks will include all these details, and some antique pieces may lack them altogether.

Additionally, inspect jewelry stamps like 14k, 18k, 925 (for sterling silver), or PLAT/950 (for platinum) for material and origin information. Country-specific hallmarks, like the UK’s assay marks, can provide location insights.

Vintage ring materials also convey history, from Bakelite, the inaugural synthetic plastic from 1907, to camphor glass’s transition from mourning jewelry to mainstream adornment in the late 1800s, and the evolution of “paste” stones, and early rhinestones.

Foil opals, featuring a thin metal sheet over glass, gained popularity in the late Victorian era. Armed with these insights, you can uncover your vintage ring’s age and history without needing professional assistance.

A red gemstone ring on the dark background

What’s Antique and Vintage Jewelry?

Antique jewelry is older than one century, while vintage jewelry is at least 30 years old. That means there are numerous types based on popular materials, manufacturing styles, jewelry stamps, and fashion trends. Vintage pieces have a unique history and an uncommon style which is why people choose them often as engagement rings.

How Can You Tell if a Diamond is Antique

Five principle techniques are available to help you tell if a diamond is antique, which include diamond cut, diamond culet, mounting or ring setting, examining the girdle, and sending the vintage piece to a professional.

Aside from taking the vintage ring to a professional, you can carry out all other procedures at home with no or little expert tools. Here are more details about these methods:

A diamond ring in the box

A Diamond Cut

Examining a diamond shape is the easiest way to identify antique jewelry. Currently, there are hundreds of diamond shapes out there, which different jewelers have developed within the past four decades.

Approximately ten diamond shapes are genuinely antique. All newer rings or diamonds with geometric shapes, including round brilliant cut, radiant cut, princess cut, and heart cut, cannot be antique.

Diamonds with these cuts are genuinely antique; Old European Cut, Antique Marquise and Oval Cuts, Antique Emerald Cut, Old Mine Cut, and Antique Cushion Cut.

Authenticating a Diamond by its Cutlet

A culet is simply the facet available at the bottom of diamonds or other gemstones. It’s the small facet that is parallel to the table, easily visible to the inexperienced eye. The latest technology allows jewelers to cut off the bottom culet, making it difficult to see with the naked eye.

Even when you examine modern diamonds with a loupe, it’ll be difficult to see the culet. When you look into any authentic antique stone from above, this feature should be in the center, and it may be an octagon, oval, rectangle, or circular shape.

A vintage red diamond ring

Mounting or Setting

You can also identify antique jewelry by examining the mounting and setting, as there are numerous indications on the stone that’ll help you approximate the age. Use a gemstone loupe to enlarge the jewelry piece and examine it carefully while keeping in mind these important things:

  • Birthday dates and anniversaries are inscribed in the shank
  • Country export stamps, company signatures, antique jewelry hallmarks, and other marks that symbolize time periods
  • Small diamonds that are antique
  • Certification or appraisal that shows the time period of the stone
  • Fading or patina on the ring metal that indicates the time period

Examining the Girdle

The girdle is part of a diamond that creates an outline, and from the side, it separates the bottom, or pavilion, from the crown. Diamonds that date after the early 1940s usually feature a refined girdle.

Any girdle that seems to have a frosted sheen over it is a good indication of a real antique diamond.

Various rings and a mirror in antique frames

Clues to Help Identify the Date of Jewelry

Jewelry reflects societal values, culture, and, more importantly, time; additionally, it mirrors the attitude and taste of each period in history.

Several clues are available to help you identify the age of your antique or vintage ring, which include

Fittings and Findings for Earrings

Different findings and fittings for earrings help determine the age of vintage engagement rings or any other vintage jewelry piece. Jewelers use different findings like pin stems, clasps, and hinges to determine the age of antique or vintage rings.

Most of these findings were established between 1800 and 1960. Understanding the style of the earring, especially when it was invented, will help you date your jewelry.

Jewelry Styles

One of the most effective ways to identify the time period of your jewelry is style, which corresponds to a certain period. 

Old photos and pieces of jewelry

Let’s look at the most popular jewelry styles in different eras.

  • Late Victorian Era: The style existed between 1830 and 1900 and was named after Queen Victoria. Georgian and Victorian jewelry pieces are, in most cases, colorful, adorned with emeralds and rubies, and have sterling silver or white gold gilded metal.
  • Art Nouveau Era: Art Nouveau jewelry is easily identifiable for its soft and romantic design that features many curving lines in a dreamlike and natural manner. Both pearl rings and engagement rings with light-shaded stones were popular during the Art Nouveau Era, which was between 1890 and 1910.
  • Edwardian Era: The Edwardian Era introduced the use of platinum between 1901 and 1920, but diamonds were the main focus. Most platinum and diamond pieces of this era stick to a white color scheme and have delicate designs. Also, jewelry of this period utilizes migraine, a tiny platinum beads border around the edges of gemstones.

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Maker’s Mark with Additional Marks

The maker’s marked reference materials also enhance the jewelry investigation process. A library of jewelry reference materials on the maker’s marks would include different jewelry book types. 

Finding a match for the maker’s mark is intimidating, but knowing the manufacture time and region will help you pinpoint where to start looking for a complement to the target mark.

The organization of the maker’s mark can be by jewelry type, alphabet, era, or country. Remember, reference materials on maker’s purity mark haven’t started to cover jewelers and firms creating jewelry throughout history.

Vintage jewelry images

Take Note of Manufacturing Methods

Manufacturing methods vary significantly, but some details and components remain unique and can help determine jewelry age. For example, hand carving indicates a piece dates back to at least the 1900s.

Incredibly intricate, relatively small, and filigree work, with a combination of platinum and gold content, in most cases, points to Edwardian jewelry. Machine gemstone cutting was established in the early 1900s, introducing some popular modern shapes such as the round brilliant cut.

How to Identify the Materials of Black Jewelry

Antique stores, estate sales, and flea markets are common places for black jewelry. Knowing what a black jewelry material is can make a huge difference in terms of determining its age and worth. Most black jewelry is made from Bakelite, gutta-percha, bog oak, and glass.

two vintage diamond rings

Authenticating a Vintage Engagement Ring

A proven and easiest way to be sure that a vintage engagement ring is authentic is to buy it from a trusted and experienced jeweler. A credible and reliable jeweler will have already done the research about every piece, ensuring it’s of high quality and legitimacy.

If Your Ring isn’t Authentic

Discovering that the vintage engagement ring that you’ve just purchased isn’t authentic can be disappointing. However, that doesn’t make the engagement ring less valuable in terms of the relationship it presents and its sentiment. 

Being truthful about your engagement ring and discovering more about it, including age and care, will allow you to keep your jewelry looking brand new for many anniversaries.

Jewelry Mysteries: The Power of Hallmarks

For those passionate about jewelry stories, hallmarks are the first step. Stamped symbols hold composition, origin, and designer secrets. British hallmarks even mark the production year, infusing history. Not all hallmarks hold all details, and antiques might lack them. To spot material, watch for metal-specific hallmarks. Designer stamps like Sarah Coventry, AVON, and Trifari hint at age, regardless of value.

Gold14K, 10K, 750, 585, 375
Platinum950, PLATINUM, PLAT
Silver925, Silver, 800, Sterling
Palladium950, PALLADIUM, PD
Rhodium950, RHODIUM, RH

How to Date Antique Rings?

Dating antique rings is a captivating endeavor that unveils their historical significance. To determine the age and origin of your antique ring, begin by scrutinizing its design, paying attention to era-specific features like filigree and gemstone cuts. Check antique ring no hallmarks or maker’s marks as they can offer crucial information.

Examine gemstones, materials, and craftsmanship, considering the popularity of certain styles during different periods. Consulting antique jewelry experts, referencing provenance, and comparing your ring to historical jewelry references can provide valuable insights.

Additionally, evaluating wear, and patina, and participating in antique jewelry communities can further refine your dating efforts. While it may not always yield an exact date, this process offers a rewarding journey of discovery.

Antique blue diamond ring

FAQs on How to Tell the Age of A Ring

How Can You Tell if a Ring is Antique?

You can tell if a ring is antique if you examine its shape, cut, quality, symbols, and marks available, as well as the wear of the stones. Other features to consider include style, manufacturing techniques, and jewelry stamps.

How to Identify Antique Jewelry?

Identifying antique jewelry involves various techniques, and one essential method is to check for antique ring no hallmarks, stamps, or maker’s marks on the piece. These markings often contain valuable information about the jewelry’s origin, age, and authenticity. Carefully examine the jewelry for any inscriptions or symbols, and if you find them, research their significance to gain insights into your antique piece.

Can You Tell the Age of a Ring by its Hallmark?

Yes, you can indeed determine a ring’s age through its hallmark, provided you understand how to interpret these markings. Hallmarks, including maker’s marks, serve as crucial indicators of a jewelry piece’s origin and manufacturing date. These stamped symbols and codes offer valuable insights into the history of the jewelry, assisting you in gauging its age accurately.

How Can You Tell How Old a Diamond Ring is?

You can tell how old a ring is if you examine it yourself or visit a professional. Be sure to keep in mind jewelry stamps, styles, and manufacturing methods when determining how old a diamond is.

Do Diamonds Look Better in White or Yellow Gold?

The choice between white and yellow gold for diamonds depends on your preference and the diamond’s color grade. High-quality, colorless diamonds often appear exquisite when set in platinum or white gold rings, as these metals enhance the diamond’s brilliance by minimizing any noticeable color.

However, it’s essential to note that a yellow gold ring setting can sometimes reflect a subtle yellow hue onto a colorless diamond, adding a warm, vintage charm. Ultimately, the decision should consider your personal taste and the specific characteristics of the diamond you wish to showcase.

How Can You Tell if Old Jewelry is Real?

You can tell if old jewelry is real by examining all important indications and features, such as hand-crafting. Most hand-crafted jewelry pieces are real. Alternatively, you can seek the services of a professional jewelry provider.

Final Thoughts on How to Date a Ring

All in all, determining the age of a jewelry piece can be an intricate process that requires a blend of knowledge, experience, and meticulous attention. By analyzing diamond cut, culet, mounting, and girdle details, you can make an initial estimate of its age.

Moreover, considering factors like earring fittings, jewelry styles, maker’s marks, production techniques, and identifying black jewelry can further assist in dating older pieces.

However, if all other methods prove inconclusive, seeking professional assistance is advised to ensure a well-informed purchase. Ultimately, the most reliable way to authenticate a piece is to acquire it from a trusted and seasoned jeweler who can provide assurance of its origin and history.

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James Allen jewelry and logo

James Allen

  • A wide selection of pieces
  • Outstanding customer service
  • A lifetime guarantee

1 thought on “How to Tell How Old a Ring Is | Antique and Vintage Jewelry Included”

  1. Hello! My husband purchased my engagement ring from a Pawn Shop years ago. They told him it’s an “antique” ring. I haven’t gone anywhere to find out if that’s true. I was curious to see if that’s something you’re able to do, or if you know where I can go to see how old my ring may be? Thank you!


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