Buyer's Guide

Rings, Engagement Rings, Dress Rings & Coloured Gems:

Finding your perfect Antique/Vintage, Engagement Ring or Dress Ring, may seem like a daunting task, but long-time LAPADA member and Antique Jewellery specialist Robin Haydock and his team offer you their best advice and hopefully helpful tips for making this a memorable and enjoyable occasion:

A 1.30ct Diamond Solitaire Ring to Baguette Shoulders mounted in Platinum, Circa 1950

A 1.30ct Diamond Solitaire Ring to Baguette Shoulders mounted in Platinum, Circa 1950

1. Always pay close attention to the description of the piece you are viewing, frequently used words like "Art Deco", when referring to jewellery, don't necessarily mean that the piece was manufactured during the 1920’s or 1930’s. The terminology "Art Deco" refers to an artistic movement founded in the 1920's which has strongly influenced jewellery design ever since; consequently, significant amounts of “Art Deco” style jewellery has been produced throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries and many of the pieces which we see today in the pre-owned market place are later interpretations of the earlier style. Currently, original 1920’s and 1930’s “Art Deco” jewellery is always more expensive than its later counterparts.

As other artistic styles were prevalent at the same time as the “Art Deco” movement, it is not necessarily correct to categorise “Art Deco” as a specific historical period.

Be aware of Diamond gradings (particularly on rings with substantial Diamond content, pay particular attention to Colour, Clarity, Cut (marginally, less relevant in antique jewellery) and Carat weight, ask your dealer how they have arrived at the assessment of the grading being offered to you.

2. Where Gem hardness gradings are concerned, some Dealers may advise you to avoid softer stones as they may chip, scratch or break more easily, please remember all stones (including Diamonds) may possibly chip, should sufficient undue pressure or accidental impact be applied. Where softer stones, like beautiful Emeralds are concerned, their success is very often dependent on how they are set, i.e. how high they sit in their settings, do they have exposed edges (collet style settings are probably best for Emeralds) and whether they have other harder stones surrounding them which may provide additional protection to the girdle of the stone.

Where beautiful Opals are concerned, occasional as opposed to everyday wear is our preferred recommendation; we would suggest that Opal rings are never worn during high impact activities, such as sports or gardening etc. (please see section 3 below). When storing Opals, avoid exposure to heat; never leave Opals out in direct sunshine, particularly when sunlight may be magnified through glass.

Please remember that one Diamond can easily scratch another stone (Diamonds included), therefore never store or transport Gem-set jewellery, loosely together.

3. How and when you intend to wear your beautiful ring is a relevant issue; irrespective of whether you choose a more modern or an antique ring, we would always recommend removing your ring when: engaging in extreme and/or heavy impact sports, gym, swimming (fingers can shrink in cold water and rings may fall off), housework and heavy gardening etc., we would also recommend that you take your ring off when sleeping, showering or bathing.

A very fine Sapphire & Diamond Cluster Ring mounted in 14ct White Gold, Continental, Circa 1930

A very fine Sapphire & Diamond Cluster Ring mounted in 14ct White Gold, Continental, Circa 1930

4. Always remove your lovely ring when applying creams and soaps, "build ups" may accumulate at the back of the stones which will substantially interfere with the stone’s light dispersion.

5. Where coloured Gems are concerned, you may also hear the terminology Natural Sapphires and Rubies, this phraseology is used as a reference to describe whether a stone is either natural or synthetic. Due to supply and demand issues, synthetic Sapphires and Rubies were first developed during the 1920's and 1930's and at that time they were considered to be equally as valuable (this is not necessarily the case today). You may therefore find examples of very fine "Art Deco" jewellery which has been set with either synthetic Sapphires or Rubies; while this type of jewellery has a value in its own right, this does not necessarily evaluate to the same extent as those pieces which have been wholly set with Natural gems.

6. You may also hear the terminology "Untreated Stones"; while this is an extremely complex issue (there are numerous other levels of treatment around to consider) as a basic guide to Sapphires and Rubies, we’ll try to summarise this for you.

Since the Roman times some, Sapphires and Rubies have been heat treated to enhance their natural colour. In approximately 1915, a French scientist developed a more effective and commercially viable level of heat treatment and as a consequence some 1920's and 1930's very fine jewellery contains this type of gem. As the 20th Century progressed, particularly post 1960's, heat treatment levels got higher and higher, consequently most modern stones have been heavily treated to enhance their colour. Therefore, slightly treated stones are much rarer than their modern equivalent and where untreated stones are concerned these are understandably rarer still; untreated Rubies in particular are scarce. Consequently, slightly, minor treated and untreated Sapphires and Rubies are very much in demand and are understandably much more expensive than their modern counterparts.

Please do not rely on the age of the setting as an indicator of treatment levels and always ask the dealer to confirm (in writing) to what level the Gem you are buying have been treated. From our own point of view, where minor, slight or untreated stones are concerned we always obtain an independent Gemmologist’s report.

Whatever, please do not confuse the phraseology "Natural" with "Untreated", it is perfectly feasible to have a "Natural" stone which has also been treated.

7. Similarly, the origin of some coloured Gems (i.e., Burma, Ceylon, Colombia, etc) amplifies their desirability, rarity and therefore their price, where these are concerned, we always obtain an independent Gemmologist’s report substantiating the origin.

8. Verify what type of metal your potential engagement ring is made from, also consider whether you ultimately want a Gold or Platinum Wedding Ring to wear next to your lovely ring, if you match the same materials this will reduce the potential risk of wear issues later on; it's always best to have the same type of metal for each ring. Please remember that full Platinum settings were infrequently used prior to the 1930's. Whilst Platinum is considered the hardest metal used in jewellery making, please remember that all metals can bend or be damaged under undue pressure and impact.

An exceptional Emerald and Diamond Three Stone Ring mounted in Platinum (Marked) and 18 Carat Gold, Pre-Owned

An exceptional Emerald and Diamond Three Stone Ring mounted in Platinum (Marked) and 18 Carat Gold, Pre-Owned

9. Look at the quality of setting and the overall condition of the piece, ask the dealer if there has been any restoration, if so, to what extent and when. It's normal to expect that a genuine antique or vintage ring will have had several resizing's during its lifetime. Ask the dealer if resizing the ring could affect the stone or compromise the ring in any way and if you decide to resize it, ask your dealer if they will arrange this for you (for free - for the first time).

10. Buy the best quality piece you can afford, and you will not go wrong, never buy solely because the piece is cheap; if an Antique ring is genuine and unusual it will not be cheaper than a modern equivalent or later reproduction.

11. Regarding Diamonds, remember the "Four C’s": Carat, Colour, Clarity and Cut, please be realistic on budget; If you are comparing prices between dealers then make sure you are doing so on a “like for like” basis. Please be aware that one level of differential on a known Carat weight, Colour or Clarity may make a substantial and exponential difference to the internationally recognised trading price for that particular specification of Diamond. When a single Diamond has been described as an H-I Colour etc., it’s worth considering that ultimately this Gem can only be one colour grade or the other; it certainly can’t be both. Meanwhile, broader colour type descriptions are often used in multi stone set jewellery.

12, a. Ask the dealer to check the claws before you collect the ring and make sure there are no rough edges to snag on clothing; ask if they will help maintain the ring, allowing you to bring it back from time to time for inspection of claws etc.

Where Round-cut and Cabochon gems are concerned (domed, polished stones, without facets), if these stones are claw set, there can occasionally be a slight element of movement within the setting (lack of angular faceting may present a physical reduction in tension and purchase against the claws). Providing the above guidelines are maintained and the claws are periodically checked and remain intact, then this in itself should not present any undue problems.

Whatever the type of Gem or setting, it is always wise to have your ring periodically checked by your Jeweller; particularly if you notice any physical changes or have any concerns.

12, b. For your own peace of mind, ask the Dealer to provide a fully headed invoice outlining the full description of the piece and to outline any terms of purchase agreed during your discussions. Also ask them to provide you with an Insurance Valuation, enabling you to add your lovely piece to your insurance policy on an "All Risks" basis, which should (please check with your insurers) cover it outside of your home and (just like you would with a car) insure it for Accidental Damage.

14. Where Antique & Vintage British Platinum jewellery is concerned, it is not uncommon for this to be unmarked. There was no requirement to mark British Platinum jewellery until this was introduced by the Hallmark Act of 1973. Prior to this Platinum. "Plat" or "Pt" marks on English Jewellery were optional. N.B. the test results we achieve on unmarked white metal jewellery, only apply to the areas tested.

15. Prior to the 1960's it was highly unlikely that the majority of British Jewellery would carry a designer's name. Openly advertising who designed your clothes, accessories or jewellery etc. was not considered "de rigueur"; discretion being societies preferred. Of course (by the late 20th Century), the more open, French, global and to some extent mass marketing influences, of Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel designs etc. eventually changed British society's thinking. As a result, fine English jewellery of equal and extremely high quality is available; the unquoted signature of this is often self-evident in the workmanship of each individual piece.

16, Where British late 19th & early 20th C' jewellery is concerned (if marked), please do not confuse the makers marks with the designer; these were often two completely different individuals.

17. If you would like to visit our stand: no. 143 -144, "Downstairs" at Grays Antique Centre, Mayfair, we will be more than happy to welcome you (please contact us first to arrange an appointment) and guide you through our current collection. Alternatively, on all of our on-line purchases we offer a 14-day return policy (subject to the terms & conditions, as published on our website), Whichever way you choose to make your purchase, we will endeavour to do everything we can to ensure that your experience fully meets your expectations and to provide you with a beautiful piece of Jewellery which you will enjoy wearing for many years to come.

N.B. Grays Antique Centre operates on two floors and has a larger "Downstairs" section, (which some visitors unfortunately miss). if you are visiting Grays, it's well worth taking the time to visit the "Downstairs" section; our stand faces you as you walk down the main staircase.

While Saturday trading was suspended by our landlord, during the pandemic, we remain hopeful that this facility will soon be reinstated.

Notwithstanding, for those who can't visit us during the week, our online sales facility allows for 14-day approval, subject to our published shipping & returns policy and terms & conditions, N.B, this facility is only available for on-line purchases.