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 the piece of jewelry 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.

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

Do you have a piece of jewelry in your old stones collection that you think is more valuable? If yes, you may be eager to discover more about the era, age, history, and similar pieces of jewelry.

Without experience or excellent training, it can be difficult to determine the approximate or exact date of the vintage piece. Finding out if a jewelry piece is truly authentic or antique is not a process exclusive to technicians and jewelers.

With some background knowledge, tricks, and tips, you can determine the approximate date of your piece of jewelry without seeking a professional jeweler’s help.

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.

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, 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 gemstones 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 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.

  • Victorian Era: The style existed between 1830 and 1900 and was named after Queen Victoria. 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 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.

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.

Antique blue diamond 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.

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

You can tell the age of a ring by its hallmark as long as you know how to read. Hallmarks help determine jewelry’s origin and the year manufactured.

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.

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.

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