FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What do you mean by vintage and antique?
There is some confusion around these terms, and they are used to mean different things by different people. However, most people who deal in antiques would likely agree that an antique is understood to be 100 years old or older.
Vintage is a bit harder to define, especially as the term has become popularized in recent years as a synonym for the word used. Some people hold that an item has to be at least 20-30 years old to qualify as vintage, while others put that number closer to 50 years.
The Heart Deco collection is made up of a mix of vintage and antique pieces. I generally use the term vintage for items that are at least 30 years old, and save the term antique for items that are a century old or more (or that are nearing a century). Whenever possible, I also include approximate dates, so that regardless of the terminology, you can get a sense of when these pieces originated.
What metals are found in vintage & antique rings?
Vintage rings can be found in a wide range of precious metals. Most of the Heart Deco rings are comprised of gold and/or platinum. Vintage gold jewellery can be found in a range of purities and colours, depending on the alloys that were popular and/or available during different historical periods. Because pure (24 karat) gold is quite soft, nearly all gold jewellery is created from an alloy (a mixture of gold with one or more other metals). Given the natural colour of gold, yellow gold is by far the most common.
Other popular colours, such as rose gold and white gold, are created by mixing gold with a metal of a different colour. For instance, rose gold is created by mixing gold with copper, while white gold is created by mixing gold with white metals such as nickel and palladium. Rose gold rings were especially popular in the mid-late Victorian era, while jewellery only began to be manufactured out of white gold in the 1910s.
The vast majority of contemporary gold jewellery in North America is made of 10K, 14K or 18K gold. (K stands for karat, or carat*, which is a measurement of purity.) The higher the karat number, the more pure the gold. Vintage jewellery can also be found in a range of purities that are not commonly seen today, including 9K, 12K, 15K, and 22K.
*Most commonly seen in antique British jewellery (i.e. 18ct vs 18K), both refer to the same purity.
The use of platinum in jewellery became widespread in the late 19th century, gaining in demand in the early 20th century thanks to scientific advances. Most platinum jewellery is also created from an alloy, typically 95% pure.
What are the benefits of gold vs. platinum?
Generally speaking, platinum is a slightly stronger, more durable metal than gold. It is also considerably more expensive. However, gold is also a strong and durable metal, and both are widely used in jewellery. Gold and platinum each remain a popular choice for wedding and engagement rings.
Platinum is denser than gold, making rings made of platinum heavier to wear compared to gold rings. Despite platinum's strength, it is actually somewhat softer and therefore more prone to scratching than gold. (Though minor scratching to either metal can often be polished out.)
Gold rings with a higher karat (gold purity) are softer compared to lower karat gold. Therefore while rings with a high gold content, such as 18K or 22K are a more luxe option, lower karat rings will be slightly harder, and more durable.
If you have a strong preference as to metal content and/or purity, you may want to consider looking for a ring from an era when that metal was widely used and available. Otherwise, it is safe to say that there are proven benefits to each!
Can my ring be re-sized?
Most Heart Deco rings can be re-sized within about 2 sizes (US) up or down. In some cases, a larger change in size may also be possible. Rings that are not generally recommended for sizing include eternity rings (where a pattern - with or without gemstones - encircles the entire band). Some other ring styles, including semi-eternity rings may also have limitations on sizing. Please feel free to contact me with questions about specific items.
Costs for sizing vary. Some jewellers charge a flat rate, while others will charge more for sizing up than down. Generally speaking, you should expect to pay extra for sizing a ring crafted from a more expensive precious metal (i.e. 22K gold or platinum). Likewise a large, heavy band may cost more to size up than a narrow band will. I recommend calling a few jewellers in your area for quotes - it is always best to find a jeweller who is experienced working with vintage & antique pieces. Be sure to know your own ring size and the ring’s current size, as well as the metal content to get the most accurate quote.
Where can I find more information on terminology and the historical era(s)?
For a newcomer to vintage & antique jewellery, the terminology can be overwhelming. There are different historical eras and styles, all with their own vocabularies. Even the diamond (or gemstone) cuts are different than the ones widely used today. The styles and eras often overlap (you might be interested in a Victorian-style ring from the Deco era, or a Deco-style ring from the 1980s), which only adds to the confusion.
For what its worth, I believe that the most - and in some cases only - important piece of information when buying an antique ring is whether you love it. Well, maybe that and whether you can afford it!
For those of you who would like to better familiarize yourself with the terminology, these are a great place to start:
- The History of Wedding Rings is a concise article that provides an overview of the major historical eras related to vintage & antique wedding rings, including common trends for wedding rings in each era.
- The Antique Jewelry University by Lang Antiques is the place to go online for antique jewellery enthusiasts! An extensive compendium of information on everything from settings to styles and design periods.
Please take a look at the rest of my Vintage 101 series for more in-depth answers to buying and wearing vintage & antique jewellery. If you don’t see the information you’re looking for, feel free to contact me for more information.