The Wonder of Antique & Vintage Rings
We class vintage rings as between 20-99 years old, and antique rings as 100 years and older. Whether they are antique or vintage, older and pre-loved rings are our joy and our passion at Kit Clayton Jewellery. There is something so magical about an old piece of jewellery. Every antique ring has a story to tell - it's been loved before, it's possibly even been lost before! Both could have happened many times. When looking at an antique ring we can't help but wonder where it has come from and what it has seen. Whose finger has it adorned, what parties has it attended, who made it and what momentous historical events has it survived? Whether you are looking for an antique gypsy ring, a diamond solitaire, an emerald cluster, a sapphire trilogy, a tourbillon, bombe or five stone ring, we will have something to suit your tastes. And we are ring hunting all of the time, so check back regularly to view our latest antique jewellery finds.
Symbolism in Vintage Rings
When it comes to symbolism, finger-rings sit at the top of the jewellery pile. These small and highly coveted pieces of jewellery have been around for 4,000+ years and have been used throughout history as vows, love tokens, as symbols of power and even as signatures. No other item has survived in the same number quite like the finger-ring and, thanks to this, old rings give us a fascinating insight into the history of mankind. One of earliest rings found was a signet ring engraved with two lions either side of a God. This incredible piece of history is believed to date as far back as 1400-1300 BC, and likely belonged to a Hittite prince. Even older rings have been found in Ur tombs that date back a further thousand years. Now we don't stock anything quite that antique at Kit Clayton Jewellery! Instead we focus on and have a passion for Victorian and Edwardian rings, Art Nouveau and Art Deco rings. We also love, collect and sell vintage rings from the mid-twentieth century onwards. We've listed some of our favourite antique ring styles below.
Antique Acrostic Rings
Acrostic rings were first introduced in 1809 by a Parisian jeweller named Mellerio. His idea was to spell out a word, using the first letters of each gem in the piece, taken in order. So for example the ring in our picture to the left is an acrostic REGARD ring. It features the stones: Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond. Regard(s) was a Victorian or Edwardian term of endearment or love, and regard rings were often presented as love tokens. Another common word used in acrostic jewellery was DEAREST. Genuine acrostic antique pieces are hard to come by and often fetch high prices at auction.
Snake or Serpent Rings
A snake or serpent with its tail in its mouth was an incredibly popular motif for both men and women during the 1800s. Snakes worked well as bracelets wrapped around the wrist, but they also worked well as rings too, wrapped around the finger. In fact, snakes had been used as motifs in jewellery since antiquity, but as always with Queen Victoria, the jewels she wore became incredibly popular during her rule, and it was no different with the snake ring Prince Albert gifted her for their engagement. The snake ring signifies endless, everlasting love, and Queen Victoria's ring was set with an emerald in it head. The style was emulated by jewellers all over the UK and the world after this gifting, and in many antique snake rings the head may be set with precious stones, and scales may be added with blue enamel.
Memento Mori Rings
Morbid some might think, but memento mori rings - which frequently feature skulls and other symbols pertaining to the inevitability of death - serve as a reminder to us that our life is to be cherished and lived to its full. These were made throughout history, but were particularly popular during the 17th and 18th centuries. This style of antique ring is highly collectible today, and prized for its morbid uniqueness. Most surviving pieces are Georgian and early Victorian in age, but some of these rings survive from older periods in history.
Antique Art Nouveau Rings
Be still our beating hearts! Art Nouveau rings are works of art, a push against what was seen as the 'banality' of so many late 19th century rings, and instead featured and idealised view of nature in their designs. René Lalique was the great master jeweller of the Art Nouveau period, and pieces of his are highly coveted. You'll recognise antique art nouveau rings by their delicate and flowing designs, often set with diamonds in a mix of gold and platinum.
Art Deco Rings
In the 1920s, finger ring design focused on daring contrasts of colour, with gems cut in the modern style and set in a geometric configuration. Scale was an important part of Art Deco design, and where budget was an issue, people came to favour large semi-precious stones on their hand over a smaller diamond or ruby. Synthetic rubies and sapphires were also available by the 1920s, and would be used in jewellery to great effect. The Art Deco ring style is particularly popular for antique diamond engagement rings, both genuine antiques and modern reproductions. Something about the Art Deco aesthetic resonates a great deal with the jewellery buyers of today.
Why buy an antique or vintage ring?
So many of us love antique jewellery, and especially finger rings. But why is that? Why would we prefer a vintage piece of jewellery to a modern one. We believe it's because antique rings hold a little bit of magic in them. In most cases we don't know anything about the antique ring's history, and so it's left up to our imagination to decide all the things the ring has seen. The tears of joy and sorrow, the lives lead while wearing the piece, in times long before our own. Each piece of antique or vintage jewellery, whether it be a ring or something else, carries its own secret history around with it. We get to add our chapter onto that secret history, as its latest custodian, until the piece is ready to move on again. That's the allure of vintage rings, we believe. A tie to the past and a promise to the future.