5 Vintage Engagement Ring Ideas for the Alternative Bride

Over the centuries, starting even with Posy rings in the middle ages, rings have been given as tokens of affection.  However, despite what many modern brides may think, the styles, materials, symbols, and stones that were used varied widely throughout history, and it wasn’t until the 20th century when diamond engagement rings became a norm. Let’s look to history and imagination to suggest five engagement ring options for the vintage, discerning bride:

  1. Use a Wedding Band as an Engagement Ring

Yes, you read that right – a wedding band.  My own engagement ring is a wedding band, my husband’s grandmother’s.  As a woman who didn’t need a big ring, the wedding band with its small row of diamonds was absolutely perfect.  Once we did get married, the original engagement ring that went with the band was what we used – reversing the norm!  I’m proud of our unique and one-of-a-kind “engagement ring”, which allowed us to make a family heirloom all our own.

1930's diamond white gold engagement ring
My own engagement ring from the 1930’s

From deep rosy gold Victorian rings, to plain bands in warm, buttery high karat gold, our shop has a variety of rings to choose from. What wedding band could you see using as your engagement ring?

Victorian rose gold dogwood flower windowpane wedding band
Victorian rose gold dogwood flower wedding band, of substantial weight and with intricate engraving.
Antique 1921 22k gold wedding band
Antique buttery 22k gold wedding band with an inscription from 1921.
A 1930's thin diamond wedding stack band
Thin diamond gold wedding band which can easily be stacked with other rings.
  1. A Cluster Vintage Engagement Ring

While a solitaire diamond ring is one of the most common engagement ring styles, a cluster ring is a unique take that allows you to get more sparkle for your money.  When stones are clustered together in a setting, smaller carat stones can be used to the same visual effect as a large stone – and is a lot lighter on the pocket book.  Cluster designs are also an eternal classic, and have been used as a design element in rings for centuries.

antique Art Deco 1 carat diamond cluster ring
Antique 1920’s platinum and yellow gold 1 carat diamond cluster ring (For sale at Stacey Fay Designs)
Vintage diamond cluster engagement ring
A great example of how smaller diamonds can look much larger in a cluster setting. (Sold Stacey Fay Designs)
Diamond cluster engagement ring
A star shaped dainty diamond cluster engagement ring (For sale at Stacey Fay Designs)
1940's white gold 1 carat diamond engagement ring
A nearly 1 carat 1940’s diamond cluster ring makes quite a statement.
  1. Colored Stone Vintage Engagement Ring

A diamond is forever…or is it? While diamonds have been used in rings for hundreds of years, the diamond engagement ring craze is a newer phenomenon, made popular in the 1930’s and 40’s by DeBeers jewelry company.  At the time, diamonds were neither scarce nor particularly valuable, so DeBeers coined the famous phrase and did targeted marketing (as well as controlled the supply!) to create a desire for diamonds and a belief in their value.

So…don’t believe the hype!  Other stones can make marvelous engagement rings, as we saw firsthand with Princess Kate Middleton’s gorgeous sapphire ring.  To help in choosing your stone, consider the meaning and symbolism behind each:

  • Agate: truth, protection, strength
  • Aquamarine: courage to overcome fears, protection on journeys
  • Blue topaz: fidelity, friendship, gentleness, and integrity
  • Emerald: fertility and calm
  • Garnet: fertility, protection and healing
  • Onyx: thought to deflect the negativity of others — associated with determination and perseverance
  • Pearl: harmony, humility, purity, worth
  • Ruby: fire, passion, the opening of the heart
  • Turquoise: friendship, associations with nature
Antique Victorian rose gold emerald and diamond engagement ring
A stunning Victorian rose gold synthetic emerald and diamond ring, sold (Stacey Fay Designs)
Antique rose cut diamond and emerald engagement ring
An antique emerald and rose cut diamond ring;  a custom order for a client through Stacey Fay Designs.  This is a halo design – another take on a cluster ring!
Antique ruby, diamond and gold ring
A rose cut diamond is surrounded by rubies in this unique “target” antique ring. Take a peek at this ring.
Vintage gold and ruby ring
This simple and more modern vintage ruby ring is perfect for the bride who prefers dainty designs. Available at Stacey Fay Designs.
Antique garnet double snake rose gold ring
Queen Victoria’s engagement ring had snakes, and yours can too in this stunning antique garnet snake ring.
Vintage 10k gold heart and flower aquamarine ring
With a large aquamarine stone and a halo of hearts and flowers, this ring screams romance (sold, Stacey Fay Designs)
Vintage gold sapphire and diamond engagement ring
A deep blue sapphire is encircled by diamonds in this stunning vintage piece.
  1. A Family Heirloom Makes a Wonderful Vintage Engagement Ring

Which brings me to my fourth point – as you and your love are talking together about marriage and engagement, consider whether a family member may have a suitable ring.  Too many family heirlooms are sold off or melted down over the generations, so your breathing new life into one can be extraordinarily meaningful.  You can of course keep the ring intact as I did with my own, or, many brides are choosing to get their heirloom stones reset into modern settings.

  1. Choose an Engagement Ring with a Symbolic Number of Stones

While people often think about the symbolism in the stones themselves, the design or number of stones in a ring can speak to your commitment and future together. Toi et moi rings – French for “me and you” – are highly sentimental, yet with two stones are simple enough not to overwhelm.  Trinity rings, with three stones – one for the past, present, and future – also offer a highly symbolic ring which doesn’t fit the solitaire norm. What number of stones is significant for your life?

Vintage 14k gold two stone toi et moi red spinel ring
A vintage toi-et-moi (“me and you”) red spinel ring (For sale at Stacey Fay Designs)
Vintage gold moonstone and emerald doublet ring
A unique and mystical toi et moi ring, with moonstone and an emerald doublet (sold, Stacey Fay Designs)





Antique rose gold toi et moi emerald and seed pearl infinity ring
A Victorian rose gold ring with two synthetic emeralds and seed pearls in an infinity pattern
Antique 15k gold turquoise ring
A stunning Victorian turquoise ring with five stones lined up perfectly. Does the number 5 symbolize anything for you?
Antique diamond gold and platinum trilogy ring
A dainty trinity ring, English made with a platinum top and gold shank (sold, Stacey Fay Designs)











Garnet Gemstone History

At the start of the New Year is one of our favorite stones in antique jewelry – garnet. Garnet is the gemstone of January birthdays, the Zodiac sign Aquarius, and the second wedding anniversary.  In modern times, many people view garnet as ruby’s less attractive cousin – you may imagine dark, even muddy stones which are a dime a dozen.  We hope this article dispels this myth, helping you understand garnet’s deep history, and the characteristics which make this gemstone unique, quite special, and in some cases, rare.

Garnet Colors and Characteristics

Raw garnet mined in metamorphic quartz stoneWhile many people think of red when garnet comes to mind, they can be found in a spectrum of colors, including pink, orange, purple red, orange red, and even green and blue.  Garnets can even exhibit a rare color changing phenomenon.  While all garnets have the same crystalline structure, different chemical compositions result in the rainbow of colors.

Dark red garnets are in fact the most common and plentiful color.  Conversely, green demantoid garnets, first sourced in Russia, are rare and often sought after, particularly those demantoids with inclusions.  Garnets can be found in all sizes, small and large, and are mined from metamorphic rocks on every continent.

Garnet Myths and Symbolism

The root of the word garnet is “granatus”, or “seed” in Latin, believed to refer to the red Pomegranate seed. In Greek mythology, Persephone, the Greek goddess of the underworld and harvest, was made to eat pomegranate seeds by Hades, the god of the underworld.  The fruit was sacred to Hades, and Persephone’s eating of it ensured she would come back to him several times a year – Fall and winter – at which time the green of the Earth went dormant.  In spring and summer, when Persephone was above ground again, the Earth was fertile and fecund.  It’s for this reason that pomegranates, and therefore garnets, are often associated with fecundity, fertility and resurrection.

A long-held talisman for protection, garnet was historically worn by warriors going into battle, and was thought to ward of plague.  Some healers even believed the stone brought healing powers, and it would be used in medicinal practices.

Garnet History

Louvre polish eagle with garnet body

Victorian woman painting wearing garnetsThe history of the gemstone is ancient; Garnet was thought to be one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God. Garnet jewelry dates as far back as the Bronze Age, was popular with the Romans in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and has been found in Egyptian tombs, some dated at over 5,000 years old.  In the course of history, garnets have adorned the crowns of royalty time and again, and at one point represented the most widely traded gem.  In the middle ages, they were the preferred stone of clergy.

Garnets were not always so plentiful; it wasn’t until the 1500’s, with the discovery of a bohemian garnet deposit in Europe, that they gained popularity.  This mining peaked in the 1800’s, which is why you’ll often find bohemian garnets in Victorian jewelry, particularly jewelry of European descent.

Antique garnet double snake rose gold ring
Victorian double headed snake ring with garnets in the Stacey Fay Designs shop
Antique victorian bohemian garnet star cluster earrings
Victorian garnet earrings available at Stacey Fay Designs

Garnet Care

Garnets are a tough stone – a 6.5 to 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale – making them great for all kinds of jewelry, and a perfect everyday stone.  However, unlike diamonds, you want to be sure to avoid blows to your garnets which could damage them.  You can clean your garnets easily with warm, soapy water.

Be sure to visit all of the garnet jewelry in the Stacey Fay Designs Etsy shop, to choose a symbolic piece perfect for you or as a gift!


References and Picture Credits:




Garnet gemstones: By Humanfeather / Michelle Jo (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Garnet in raw quartz: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Antique bird brooch: By Unknown from Kraków / Warsaw (Own work (BurgererSF)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Painting: By Unknown – Olga’s Gallery (original upload), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38979

Philadelphia 1940’s Photoshoot

1940’s Clothing and Jewelry

We adore 1940’s fashion – the muted colors, long full skirts and a-line skirts, the Victory suits, bolero jackets, and high waisted trousers.  In jewelry fashion, the decade saw patriotic and sweetheart jewelry, and new materials like bakelite and vermeil.  Later in the 1940’s in particular, it was full of costume jewelry from Trifari and others that allowed women to adorn themselves on a budget during a time of war.

1940's vintage fashion

Philadelphia Area Photographer, Makeup Artist & Jeweler

We teamed up with the amazing Kylene Cleaver of Leave It To Me Photography to do a 1940’s inspired styled photoshoot in the Philadelphia suburbs.  Makeup was done by Ruthie’s Eyes Studio from Havertown, all clothing was vintage from Kylene’s personal collection, and the Art Deco marcasite earrings were provided by us.  We love the slight sparkle the earrings give to the taupe and black color tones of the outfit!

Vintage Pinup Model

Sarah, the model, is typically known for her vintage pinup photo shoots.  This time, her look is more subdued, but she is just as sexy, in a long velvety cape, a black turtleneck, black tulle skirt, maryjane heels, and a gorgeous pillbox hat.

1920's Art Deco marcasite screwback earrings

1920's Art Deco marcasite earrings

These marcasite screwback earrings in sterling silver which we provided were subtle and perfect.

1940's styled photoshoot with cape, hat, screwback earrings

1940's pinup model in Philadelphia wearing hat and cape

The Philadelphia backdrop with its brick alleyways gave a stark backdrop that allowed Sarah’s beauty and the vintage style to take center stage.

1940's photo shoot in black and white in Philadelphia

The 12 Days Gift Guide – Day 12 – Best of the Best

We’ve made it! It’s the 12th day of our “12 Days of Holiday” gift guide and today we feature the “best of the best” – our most favorite and best pieces from each of the days so far.  This means today you get the following deal on some of the best pieces we’ve got:

12% off any one of these items and free shipping! Contact us for the code.

Day 1: Gifts for Friends

You can’t go wrong with a solid gold antique anchor necklace – so much symbolism, and so much beauty!  Anchors have long-held symbolism around hope and steadfastness, and of course, of something that keeps you steady and grounded amidst a storm.

Vintage gold anchor necklace









Day 2: Gifts for Lovers

Hands down the best earrings in the shop – great for a holiday, great for a wedding, and the type of Audrey Hepburn-esque piece that will be cherished and passed down through the generations.

Pearl and diamond earrings

Day 3: Gifts for the Animal Lover

We’re cheating on this day and picking two of the best – first, our favorite piece from the shop, which is the early 1900’s double headed gold snake garnet ring. It’s incredible.  Then, as a more affordable option, our handmade elephant necklaces which come in silver or brass, and bring good luck!

Antique garnet double snake rose gold ringElephant charm good luck necklace

Day 4: Gifts for Under $100

Cuteness overload!  Any dog lover would adore this Scottish Terrier marcasite brooch, and we’re in love with it.

Vintage Scottish Terrier brooch









Day 5: Gifts for the Southwestern Lover

There are so many pieces from this day that are amazing, but our favorite is this older Native American necklace with turquoise, coral and a great feather motif.  It’s a sure-fire bet for the person who loves this style.

Vintage coral and turquoise feather necklace

Day 6: Gifts for the Spiritual Person

Our favorite from this day would have been the gold and enamel Mezuzah necklace, but that sold! So our second favorite is this classic for Christmas, a simple and dainty gold cross with a lovely diamond in the center.

Gold diamond cross necklace

Day 7: Gifts for the Holiday Bride

It’s the time of year! Lots of weddings, and lots of people getting engaged.  Of all the lovely pieces we featured on this day, my favorite are these precious garnet cluster earrings.  These earrings have been the most well received item in our shop, so we have no doubt they’ll sell before the holiday.

Vintage garnet stud earrings









Day 8: Talismans

With its ancient symbolism and funky design, our favorite from this day is our handmade ball and claw pendant. It’s dainty enough to be an everyday staple, and unique enough to be a statement piece.

Handmade strength necklace ball and claw









Day 9: Silver and Gold

With New Year’s just on the horizon, our pick has to be the H. Stern vintage “sputnik” ring. We’re in love with it’s playfulness and its vibrancy – look at all of those different natural stones on the dome!  We just can’t get over it, we love it so much.

Vintage sputnik multi stone gold ring

Day 10: Gifts for the Art Deco Lover

This is a tough pick, since the Art Deco time period is one of my favorites, but this one rises to the top both for its historical significance (ties to the Titanic!) and its coloring – the Ostby & Barton agate sterling silver ring.

Vintage agate and sterling silver ring









Day 11: Gifts for the Romantic

There’s something about enamel that gets me every time. So my pick from this day is the vintage gold and blue enamel flower ring.  The cobalt blue is just so vibrant and beautiful.

Antique blue enamel flower ring


Enjoy the last of your shopping, and have a wonderful holiday and New Year! We’re grateful for your business, and we look forward to a healthy and beautiful 2017!

The 12 Days Gift Guide – Day 11 – Gifts for the Romantic

Some of us are just born romantics.  We gravitate towards the classic love stories, we swoon over flowers, and we adore Paris.  Romantics love jewelry of any kind, but today we highlight those pieces that are particularly swoon-worthy.

Today’s deal is 15% off any of the items featured below – contact us for the code!

Antique blue enamel flower ringVintage flower eternity wedding band

More and more, wedding bands are being worn as “stack rings” – rings which can be coupled with others in your wardrobe, and stacked on the finger in a stylish way.  Here we have two amazing vintage rings from the shop – a blue enamel flower ring with intricate engraving, and a white and yellow gold flower cluster band. Swoon!

Vintage cameo brooch necklaceVintage gold dogwood flower pinky ring

Cameos are always romantic, and typically feature a woman in profile.  In this case, we have a super feminine cameo that is both a pin and pendant, featuring a woman with cascading hair, long earrings and a pearl necklace.  In a more subtle style, we have a dainty midi or pinky ring featuring tiny dogwood flowers.

Vintage gold and ruby ringAntique rose gold toi et moi emerald ring

Rubies signify romance perhaps more than any other stone, and in this case we have a simple and classic ruby ring in a signet style.  To the right we have a “toi et moi” ring – “you and me” – with synthetic emeralds and seed pearls, in a warm rosy gold.  Toi et moi styles have been popular for centuries as a symbol of love and togetherness.

Vintage Wedgwood sterling silver goddess ring

Another cameo, this time a vintage Wedgwood piece featuring a goddess and flowers.  We have a second Wedgwood goddess cameo ring in the shop, set in gold and much older.


Handmade rose wax seal necklaceForget me not wax seal earrings

And of course, many pieces in our handmade wax seal jewelry collection are love or romance themed.  The classic rose necklace is a bestseller, and the forget-me-not earrings are a dainty everyday wardrobe staple.

A letter soothes the pain of absence wax seal necklaceTwo hearts together forever wax seal necklace

On the sappy side, we have a seal which reads “A letter soothes the pain of absence” and a seal featuring two hearts and the words “For Ever.” This seal isn’t yet listed; contact us to purchase.  Any of these and others in our shop would make for lovely gifts.

The 12 Days Gift Guide – Day 10- Gifts for the Art Deco Lover

The roaring 20’s – a time of the Great Gatsby, flappers and outfits draped with jewels.  It’s a time of the Art Deco (short for Arts Décoratifs) movement, growing out of the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris in 1925.  Art Deco style was characterized by a modernist flair and rich materials – a time of exuberance and prosperity post WWI.  Often Art Deco jewelry contains geometric and architectural lines -an ode to modernism and technology – as well as innovative cuts of gems, and large rings with a prominent center stone.  Filigree, made popular in the Edwardian period (1890-1920), continued through the Deco period and is often associated with jewelry of the time.

Enjoy the beauties below, and today’s deal is 15% off any of these. Contact us for the code!

Antique amethyst and gold ring

Antique ruby, diamond and gold ring


An example of the bold center stone – in this case a gorgeous cabochon cut amethyst ring.  This piece also has the geometric lines in the ring’s silhouette and cutouts.  Then we have a ring showcasing innovative stone cuts, modern lines, and some filigree – a stunning ruby and diamond ring.


Antique white gold lapis lazuli ringAntique gold filled and opal bracelet


One of my favorite rings in the shop is this octagonal lapis lazuli ring, set in white gold with intricate filigree work.  The picture doesn’t do this ring one bit of justice; the lapis lazuli has gorgeous inclusions and variations in color, and its shape is completely unique.  Sweeping and simple lines make for a must-have bridal accessory in this gold filled opal bracelet.  We love the layers and dimensionality to this piece.

Antique marcasite and carnelian flower broochVintage black agate ring


Classic deco in the form of a marcasite and carnelian brooch (marcasite jewelry was common in the 20’s), and a black agate ring with geometric shoulders.


Vintage carnelian bead necklaceVintage vermeil carnelian ring


Neither of these pieces are technically Art Deco – they were made many years later – but both have a Deco feel.  A flapper style carnelian beaded necklace from the 1960’s hangs long like the necklaces of the 20’s, and brings a vibrant pop of color.  The carnelian filigree ring in gold over sterling silver has the Deco-esque elements of a prominent center stone and intricate filigree work.

Vintage tiger's eye cameo ringAntique white sapphire and pearl gold lavalier necklace


A masculine ring with feminine flair, a 1930’s tiger’s eye and diamond cameo ring featuring a soldier.  This would have likely once been a gentlemen’s piece, but we think it’s perfect no matter your gender.  Any bride would be thrilled to wear this 1930’s lavalier necklace, featuring a white sapphire and pearl in a gorgeous filigree design.

Vintage agate and sterling silver ring Vintage agate and sterling silver ring

The famed Titanic went down in 1912, and among the first class passengers was Ostby of the jewelry company Ostby & Barton. The company was formed in the late 1800’s and ceased production of jewelry in 1950, but today any Ostby & Barton pieces are considered historic collectibles given the Titanic link.  These two agate rings – one with a black and white agate and one with an orange-hued agate – were made after Ostby’s death in the 1920’s.  Their signet style and awesome architectural shoulders make these classic Art Deco pieces. Among our favorites in the shop!