I don’t know when it started, but at some point I decided that I wanted a vintage engagement ring. I came to this realization in my early 20s, well before I met Mr. C. I guess I’ve always had this vision that I would wear something with a bit of history, something with an ornate Art Deco or Art Nouveau style, something different.
I’m enchanted with the idea of wearing a ring that once witnessed a great love. Maybe the ring eventually fell into the hands of a relative who sold it. Now it has the chance to know true love once more. But sometimes I wonder what if the opposite occurred—what if the ring is from a failed or rocky marriage? What if it has seen a great tragedy? In that case, I believe that we would be giving the ring a fresh start for love. I wonder where my ring has traveled, where it has been. Who once looked down at their hand each day to see that ring gleaming on their finger? Can you tell that I’m stupidly sentimental?
All antique rings from Erie Basin
When Mr. C and I first started talking about marriage, I told him that I wanted to play a role in finding the ring. I struggled with this choice because ideally I wanted the whole process to be a surprise. In a perfect world the entire engagement would be a surprise and the ring would be everything I had always dreamed it would be. But in reality it must be incredibly overwhelming for a man to walk into a jewelry store and try to predict which ring his girlfriend will love for the rest of her life. That’s a lot of pressure and I’ve seen it set some couples up for disappointment. Besides, I know myself well enough to know that I often have unrealistically high expectations. I didn’t want to set my poor fiance up for failure. I want to be clear that I wasn’t worried about being disappointed in the carat size—we’re both hard-working teachers, after all. We don’t exactly make a lot of money. I was more concerned about the wide range of styles found in antique engagement rings. Even on my own I was having trouble narrowing down what exactly I wanted.
I began browsing antique rings online not long after our first talk of marriage. OK, I might have begun “browsing” antique rings a month after we started dating. Yes, I was that girl. Thankfully, I kept it a secret until I knew that we were both on the same page concerning our relationship. But there were definitely some shameful lunch breaks where I would scroll wistfully through pages of antique engagement rings. I might have even pinned some into a secret Pinterest under a decoy email address. I regret nothing!! In fact, it was helpful because it gave me a good idea of what I was looking for in an engagement ring.
All antique rings from The Three Graces
In my weeks of searching I learned that finding THE antique engagement ring is easier said than done. Each one is unique, so it took some time to find rings that had all the right characteristics. There is also the danger of falling in love with a ring that is suddenly bought by someone else and gone forever, or loving specific qualities of many separate rings and being unable to find them all in one ring. At times I felt frustrated with my search, especially since I could not see or try on the the rings in person. This meant that we needed to find a store that carried antique engagement rings. Alas, there are not many in our area.
Initially Mr. C and I visited a few modern jewelry stores to check out their vintage-inspired options. We were often told that we could custom design our own vintage-inspired ring, but nothing really spoke to me. I wanted the real deal. After a while we managed to find a few jewelry stores that carried a smattering of vintage or antique rings, but I never found anything I loved. I started to feel more and more frustrated in our options.
Our next stop was a once-monthly antique mall in Atlanta, which was recommended to us by several people. It’s the Scott Antique Market, in case you are in the Atlanta area and looking for a vintage engagement ring. They have loads of other amazing finds as well, so it’s worth a visit either way! We were surprisingly overwhelmed by the selection of antique and vintage rings. Once again, the issue was that each ring was one of a kind. Some I loved but the diamonds had very obvious inclusions. Others were way out of our price range. We started to take pictures just to keep track of all the different rings I tried on throughout the day. We ended up spending hours there, but once again we didn’t find anything we loved. We left empty handed, but the trip helped me determine what look I had in mind and what looked best on my finger. It was becoming clear that perhaps buying online was the way to go.
Some phone photos of the rings I tried on at the antique mall (all personal photos)
A few weeks passed and I decided that maybe a Pinterest board of rings that I loved would be a good idea. Thankfully, I already had one that I had been keeping secret for months (yup, no shame!). The Pinterest board gave Mr. C a feel for what I loved most. The selection online from reputable antique jewelry shops is hard to deny, so within a few days I had 20-plus different rings chosen for price and characteristics that I loved—things like colored accent stones, delicate filigree work, and a low-lying profile. By showing him a wide variety of what I loved I knew that the ring would still be a surprise and I could rest assured that he would pick a ring that I would love. Then I waited. And waiting is always the hardest part.
I had so many questions: Which ring would he choose? When would he buy it? When would he propose? How would he propose? Did he have a plan or was he just thinking over his strategy? You will have to find out in my next post!