Let’s talk about diamonds, shall we? What if I told you that you can find a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind diamond ring for a fraction of the price you would expect to pay? I went on such a quest that ended with this ring:
One night over dinner, while pregnant of course, I casually mentioned to Mr. Heatherland that I had a keen interest in receiving a push present. He looked at me confused as he waited for the explanation of what a push present was, and by the end of my persuasive pitch, he thought it was a decent request.
Until the next day, when he asked some of his friends at work if they had given their wives a push present. The answers poured in at a resounding, “No, the baby is the gift“. So when he came back to report his findings, I wasn’t sure who I wanted hit with a sock full of nickels first, the guys at his office or their wives… It was a tough call.
But luckily Mr. Heatherland is a reasonable fella that likes to pick his battles, and this one was not worth the debate since he really felt like I deserved a gift. Phew! I then told him that I thought it would be a marvelous idea if my push present was another diamond ring to stack with my engagement band; after all what good is having a band if you can’t stack it with other bands?
I’m sure Mr. Heatherland wished he had known about the “stacking plan” before buying me such a generous engagement band, but now he knows I had envisioned one ring to symbolize our marriage, one to symbolize our child, and one to symbolize a big anniversary. Lucky for me I have
man hands very robust fingers that can carry such lofty jewelry ambitions.
THE ESTATE CASE
The hunt was afoot, and after just a few tries we quickly discovered that there weren’t a lot of other bands that complimented mine. Stacking was going to be much harder than I thought. You see, the height of my original band was quite taller than a traditional “stacker” and nothing was really looking good with it. We were starting to think we needed to have a ring made, which was not really in the budget.
We went to Long’s
jewelry store to poke around and get an idea on the height a custom band needed to be. As we wandered around, trying on different rings and perusing the cases of jewelry, the last stop we made was their estate case to looked at some of the consignment pieces.
Immediately my eye went to this circa 1910 five stone diamond ring. It was taller than mine, but I loved the way they looked together.
Mr. Heatherland was not so keen at first because it was seemed so much bigger than the engagement band, but then we started talking brass tacks about the price and learned something very interesting.
ANTIQUE DIAMONDS VS MODERN DIAMONDS
This ring has five Old European Cut diamonds, making it very unique to todays diamonds. Antique diamonds were hand cut with inventive faceting techniques during the 18th and 19th century to make them sparkle under gas lamps (since they were cut and worn before electricity was invented!). That makes them 100% one-of-a-kind, not cookie cutter laser cut diamonds.
But here’s the kicker: The way they GIA values antique diamonds is to compare them to modern standards of cut, clarity, and color. You have to remember that these diamonds were cut a century ago before the whitest diamonds of South Africa were even discovered! So how do they measure up to modern standards? Well, lucky for me… Not well! As a consumer you can score wonderfully large, gorgeous diamonds at a fraction of the price.
There is a whole camp of antique jewelry dealers that have lobbied to get updated standard to grade antique diamonds on their own scale so they can fetch higher prices, but a true and meaningful change has yet to be implemented.
This ring cost 80% less than what it’s modern day equivalent would have run us. And it truly is gorgeous! It holds up next to my modern band very well, complimenting it perfectly.
A RARE FIND
Antique diamonds are becoming more and more rare as well. Historically people would purchase a large antique stone with the intention to recut it with a laser to give it the modern day brilliance we’ve grown to expect- and in the meantime losing up to 20-25% of the diamond. To find untouched antique diamond is a special thing. There are three main styles: Old Mine Cut, Rose Cut, and Old European Cut.
(illustrations sourced from Erstwhile)
OLD MINE CUT, CIRCA 1750
Old mine cut diamonds were developed in 18th century Europe. Also known as cushion cuts, these diamonds were not round but had a slightly curved edge which formed a soft square. And because they were cut by hand to maximize their brilliance, they displayed a variety of facet patterns.
ROSE CUT, CIRCA 1800
Hello, unique. With just 24 facets, the subtle beauty of rose cut diamonds is that they impart a soft diffused light rather then the bright light we expect from diamonds. The most distinctive trait of a rose cut diamond is that they are flat at the bottom and dome shaped at the top.
OLD EUROPEAN CUT CIRCA 1900
The prevailing style from the 1890s to the 1930s, Old European cut diamonds are the grandfathers to the modern round brilliant cut we know today. This cut is rounder from the top than the old mine cut’s cushion shape, but has the same number of facets as a modern diamond, but the facets are large triangles instead, and the cutlet at the bottom is flat and visible when you look directly down at it.
HOW TO FIND THEM
My late night google-ing led me down lots of avenues to find antique diamond rings. But the best websites I found are Fancy Flea Antiques, Eragem, and Erstwhile.
Erstwhile is my favorite by far. If you have the budget and a taste for the finer things it’s a joy to swoon over their curated pieces as well as their own originals.
If you happen to live in New England, a trip to Market Square Jewelers is a must. They specialize in this sort of thing and have a great selection at modest prices. This is just the place to score something great. They also have a sampling of their vast inventory on their Etsy Storefront.
DOLLARS AND SENSE
Admittedly, I asked Mr. Heatherland to stretch the budget a little to accommodate this ring, but in my defense it is certainly a whole lot prettier and more unique than what I initially thought I wanted.
For a single hot minute I actually felt bad about stretching the budget. But then after experiencing my prolonged back labor in an unassisted, unmedicated birth I think I earned EVERY DAMN CARAT… I pushed, my God did I push! But that’s a story for a different day.