By definition, antique means the engagement ring is over 100 years old - this style is also very similar to that of vintage jewellery. Be aware however that not all jewellers follow this rule, and be particularly wary if you see antique white gold jewellery, as white gold was not introduced until just after the First World War.
Antique engagement rings can be found at antique fairs, flea markets and gang directly to a specialist antique jeweller. Here is a brief history of the main trends and styles over the last two centuries, starting with Victorian jewellery right through to the 1950's:
This refers to jewellery from the reign of Queen Victoria. Designs were often sentimental, incorporating hearts, flowers and images of nature, apparently inspired by Victoria's love for her husband and children. Affordable gemstones were used; usually garnets, but also corals, turquoise, amethysts, and seed pearls. Victorians also joined their Queen in her passion for opals, later moving on to diamonds which became more affordable with the discovery of large deposits in South Africa.
ART NOUVEAU (1890- 1919)
At his time, the feminine form was highly celebrated, and in this way soft curves and graceful lines were all the rage. One very popular design was the depiction of the female face with long, flowing hair. Striking images of nature were also popular - butterflies, dragonflies, snakes, poppies, orchids and water lilies. Design tended to override materials in terms of importance at this time, and so rings were made with a wide variety of stones and settings. Amber, moonstones and opals were most popular, but other interesting materials like ivory, copper, tortoise-shell and glass were also commonly used.
This was a brief period during the reign of Edward VII. Jewellery from this era was delicate and graceful, typically decorated with many diamonds, or often peridot which was the King's birthstone. Jewellery from this time is usually platinum, and is famous for its excellent quality.
ART DECO (1920-1935)
This style originated in France and represents a sharp move away from previous styles. This period was all about bold colours and straight geometric lines and shapes, reflecting the flamboyance of the flappers that symbolise this era. Art Deco jewellery often has a strong Egyptian influence, with designs incorporating images like the falcon and sphinx. Emeralds, rubies and sapphires were the most popular stones.
Large, bright geometric shapes characterize this era. Ribbons and bows were very popular and coloured stones set in pink gold were highly fashionable.