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An antique engagement ring showcases the superior artistry and craftsmanship of yesteryear, much like a fine painting or sculpture. The attention to detail sets them apart from modern, mass-produced rings. Such beautiful handiwork is often cost-prohibitive to reproduce these days; therefore, antique rings will continue to appreciate in value over time.

Antique engagement rings from the turn of the century through the 1940s are the most sought-after today. The design of the rings varies by time period, reflecting the tastes of each era. Edwardian era rings (1900s to the 1920s) are often white gold or platinum, and characterized by filigree designs. Yellow and white gold were in fashion during the 1930s-1940s, with many rings made from a combination of these metals. Delicate, intricately carved details of floral, leaf, heart, or other motifs, or small side diamonds, are usually seen gracing the sides of the center diamond. A square shaped setting of white gold often holds the center diamond, enhancing the whiteness and apparent size of the stone.

When considering THE FOUR C's (clarity, carat weight, color and cut), it is important not to judge an antique ring by modern standards.

The price of the diamond will still be largely determined by carat weight, or size. Rings from the 1930s and 1940s often have wonderful "illusion" settings; the center diamond often sits in a substantial, elaborately detailed center box, giving it a much larger appearance. Many people find this to be a beautiful, artistic way to have the look of a large diamond at a smaller diamond price.

Price is also affected significantly by clarity, which is determined by the number and nature of natural inclusions in a stone. Simply speaking, clear diamonds have a higher pricetag. Many jewelers of yesteryear made it a matter of pride, and reputation, to use only very fine (VS clarity) diamonds in their engagement rings. They would not put a poor quality stone into a beautifully-crafted mounting.

Preferences in diamond color is more a matter of taste, and has changed throughout the decades. In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, a diamond that showed a rainbow of colors was highly prized; therefore, it is not unusual to see diamonds with a soft yellow, pink or green tint in antique engagement rings. Modern tastes favor bright white diamonds; accordingly, they are more expensive. When choosing an antique ring, consider how the diamond's color plays a role in the beauty of the ring, and let your own tastes be your guide.

The cut of an older diamond has the least relevance to modern standards. Today's diamonds are cut by laser, according to precise mathematical formulas for maximum brilliance, or light return. In contrast, facet proportions of older stones exhibit much more variance, as these diamonds were slowly, and lovingly, cut by hand. Antique diamonds preserve the artistry of an earlier era, and are often admired for their softer, romantic glow.

Finally, a fifth "C" must be considered in choosing an antique engagement ring: character. The intricate detail and fine workmanship of such rings is their true value; the cost of such labor today is extremely expensive. Browse both modern and antique rings to compare what a certain budget (say $600) will buy you. Rings with similar size and quality diamonds will be comparably priced; the art and craftsmanship of the antique ring is an added bonus.

Keep the four "C"s in mind when looking for antique engagement rings; however, let your own tastes, and the fifth "C", character, be your ultimate guide. For it's the fifth "C" that embodies the romance and charm of this very special purchase!