5 Vintage Engagement Ring Ideas for the Alternative Bride

Over the centuries, starting even with Posy rings in the middle ages, rings have been given as tokens of affection.  However, despite what many modern brides may think, the styles, materials, symbols, and stones that were used varied widely throughout history, and it wasn’t until the 20th century when diamond engagement rings became a norm. Let’s look to history and imagination to suggest five engagement ring options for the vintage, discerning bride:

Use a Wedding Band as an Engagement Ring

Yes, you read that right – a wedding band.  My own engagement ring is a wedding band, my husband’s grandmother’s.  As a woman who didn’t need a big ring, the wedding band with its small row of diamonds was absolutely perfect.  Once we did get married, the original engagement ring that went with the band was what we used – reversing the norm!  I’m proud of our unique and one-of-a-kind “engagement ring”, which allowed us to make a family heirloom all our own.


My own antique engagement ring from the 1930’s

From deep rosy gold Victorian rings, to plain bands in warm, buttery high karat gold, there are countless varieties of rings to choose from. What wedding band could you see using as your engagement ring?

Victorian rose gold dogwood flower wedding band, of substantial weight and with intricate engraving.

Antique buttery 22k gold wedding band with an inscription from 1921

Vintage rose gold ruby flower band

Vintage 14k white and yellow gold diamond band

A unique and beautifully detailed gold and blue enamel wedding band

A Cluster Vintage Engagement Ring

While a solitaire diamond ring is one of the most common engagement ring styles, a cluster ring is a unique take that allows you to get more sparkle for your money.  When stones are clustered together in a setting, smaller carat stones can be used to the same visual effect as a large stone – and is a lot lighter on the pocket book.  Cluster designs are also an eternal classic, and have been used as a design element in rings for centuries.

Antique 1920’s platinum and yellow gold 1 carat diamond cluster ring

A great example of how smaller diamonds can look much larger in a cluster setting

A star shaped dainty diamond cluster engagement ring


A 1940’s white gold buckle shaped diamond cluster makes quite a statement!

Colored Stone Vintage Engagement Ring

A diamond is forever…or is it? While diamonds have been used in rings for hundreds of years, the diamond engagement ring craze is a newer phenomenon, made popular in the 1930’s and 40’s by DeBeers jewelry company.  At the time, diamonds were neither scarce nor particularly valuable, so DeBeers coined the famous phrase and did targeted marketing (as well as controlled the supply!) to create a desire for diamonds and a belief in their value.

So…don’t believe the hype!  Other stones can make marvelous engagement rings, as we saw firsthand with Princess Kate Middleton’s gorgeous sapphire ring.  To help in choosing your stone, consider the meaning and symbolism behind each:

Agate: truth, protection, strength

Amethyst: the “lovers gemstone”, signifying true love and fidelity

Aquamarine: courage to overcome fears, protection on journeys

Blue topaz: fidelity, friendship, gentleness, and integrity

Emerald: fertility and calm

Garnet: fertility, protection and healing

Onyx: thought to deflect the negativity of others — associated with determination and perseverance

Pearl: harmony, humility, purity, worth

Ruby: fire, passion, the opening of the heart

Turquoise: friendship, associations with nature

A stunning Victorian rose gold synthetic emerald and diamond ring (sold, Stacey Fay Designs)

An antique emerald and rose cut diamond ring; custom order for a client.  This is a halo design – another take on a cluster ring!

A rose cut diamond is surrounded by rubies in this unique “target” antique ring

This simple and more modern vintage ruby ring is perfect for the bride who prefers dainty designs

Queen Victoria’s engagement ring had snakes, and yours can too in this stunning antique garnet snake ring.

With a large aquamarine stone and a halo of hearts and flowers, this ring screams romance

A deep blue sapphire is encircled by diamonds in this stunning vintage piece.

A domed amethyst cabochon is set in a rose, yellow and green flower setting in this Art Deco piece

A Family Heirloom Makes a Wonderful Vintage Engagement Ring

Which brings me to my fourth point – as you and your love are talking together about marriage and engagement, consider whether a family member may have a suitable ring.  Too many family heirlooms are sold off or melted down over the generations, so your breathing new life into one can be extraordinarily meaningful.  You can of course keep the ring intact as I did with my own, or, many brides are choosing to get their heirloom stones reset into modern settings.

Choose an Engagement Ring with a Symbolic Number of Stones

While people often think about the symbolism in the stones themselves, the design or number of stones in a ring can speak to your commitment and future together. Toi et moi rings – French for “me and you” – are highly sentimental, yet with two stones are simple enough not to overwhelm.  Trinity rings, with three stones – one for the past, present, and future – also offer a highly symbolic ring which doesn’t fit the solitaire norm. What number of stones is significant for your life?

A vintage toi-et-moi (“me and you”) red spinel ring

A unique and mystical toi et moi ring, with moonstone and an emerald doublet

A Victorian rose gold ring with two synthetic emeralds and seed pearls in an infinity pattern

A stunning Victorian turquoise ring with five stones lined up perfectly. Does the number 5 symbolize anything for you?

Post contributed by Stacey Kennealy, curator and owner of Stacey Fay Designs Jewelry

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