Jared from Erstwhile Jewelry is a fifth generation jeweler. His family opened their first jewelry shop in Russia in the 1800s, so "I've been surrounded by the business since I was little," he says. Here, he reveals seven tips for choosing an antique engagement ring...
Do you know what kind of ring she likes?
Lots of guys come in with no idea what their girlfriend might want. One foolproof style is a diamond in the center with a couple stones on the shoulders. Also, Pinterest has been a big help. Guys will come in and say, this is my girlfriend’s Pinterest page and she has a bunch of rings on it. So we figure out her style based on that.
What’s your budget?
Unless you’re a billionaire, you’re guided by budget. You can get something very inexpensive, or the sky’s the limit. Price is generally dictated by the size and quality of the center stone. If you have a tight budget, you can choose a smaller clear white diamond or a bigger darker diamond. For a diamond, avoid any color grade below K (too yellow) or any cut grade below Very Good (not enough sparkle). Personally, I’d choose a better cut and clearer color over more carats, but if she's expecting a boulder, your choice is made for you. But, ultimately, the style resonates most.
What’s her ring size?
Sneak into her jewelry box, and borrow a ring to show the jeweler. But don’t worry if you don’t know your girlfriend’s size; you can always resize the ring after you get engaged. Rings can be sized by any jeweler; it’s super simple, it’s Jeweler 101.
Does she follow trends?
If your girlfriend is fashion-forward, we can help you figure out what she might like. Yellow gold Victorian rings are in huge demand right now, although they’re hard to find. Ninety percent of people want the ring to have a low profile, versus having the diamond rising way up off the finger. Art Deco is a huge trend now—picture the Chrysler building and the Empire State Building, with geometric lines and hard angles.
What does she do for a living?
Does she work with her hands? You might want to avoid a more delicate ring. My stepmother is animated with her hands, and I know she’s broken jewelry just by talking!
Are you working with a jeweler you trust?
Often guys want to get engaged as soon as possible—there’s a romantic sense of urgency—but you should take time to find a jeweler you trust. When buying online, you can figure out which jewelers are trustworthy from the online community. Look at reviews from other customers—for example, our reviews are on Yelp. Don’t just look at the testimonials on the company’s site, since the company can handpick those! Also check their return policy: make sure they give you enough time to see the ring and confirm that you love it—at least 14 days.
Would she prefer a new or antique diamond?
Vintage diamonds have a soul to them, a history, a story to tell. Anything old has that great feel—an old pair of jeans, an old jacket, it has already been alive and stood the test of time. A new diamond looks so squeaky clean. In art, if you take a perfectly straight line, it’s not going to be nearly as appealing to the eye as a line that’s broken a little. When things are off just a bit, they appeal to the eye more than something that’s completely perfect. Vintage engagement rings are soulful and one of a kind. Plus, the most eco-friendly and conflict-free diamond is an old one. You’ll wear for the rest of your life; you want it to be special.
Thanks, Jared! And December is by far the most popular month for engagements, according to the New York Times. Are any of you anticipating a popped question? :)
P.S. Will you cry at your wedding? And would you wear a cardigan?
(Ring photos from Erstwhile Jewelry Co.)