You may not know this, but the holidays are the peak season for engagement ring purchases. Maybe it’s the Christmas bonus, maybe it’s looking around at a table of loved ones over a festive dinner, maybe it’s the champagne. Whatever the reason, in the winter a young man’s fancy turns to diamonds.
So what does this mean for you, the wide-eyed chap clutching his credit card in front of the jewelry store? It means that you are buying a ring, a symbol of hope and love and commitment and romance… in the middle of the busiest time of frenzied consumerism all year. Great.
As you can imagine, the odds are pretty low that the jewelry store will put the emotional significance of your purchase above their need to beat last year’s sales numbers for that week. Educate yourself before you walk up to the diamond display case. That can be a tall order in this age of information overload, especially when you are navigating a field with far more advertising than fact, but start with the basics.
The best part of a proposal is that it marks a pivotal moment in life that neither person will forget. Plan your proposal moment as if you are painting a memory for you and your fiancée to look back on when you are retired and sitting together, hand-in-hand on your front porch.
Let's start with the background. Do you two feel drawn to glittering nighttime cityscapes? Many fancy downtown hotels have rooftop gardens with amazing views of the city at night. Or a stunning forested vista? Camping is always a great excuse to get away from it all and be alone together. Would you prefer a crowd of people cheering when she says yes or the quiet sweetness of a private moment?
You're lying in bed, but you're still flying high off that pour over you thought was a good idea at 3pm. You have a long car ride ahead of you and you've already listened to all of the recent The Moth podcasts. You're hanging in the park just kicking back and acro-yoga just isn't your thing. The next time you have some alone time with your partner and want to pick their brain re: engagement rings, we've got you covered.
1. How do you feel about your friends who have gotten engaged? What’s the gossip? Do any of your friends secretly not like their rings?
teaching new brides old tricks... everything you need to know about: OLD MINE & OLD EUROPEAN CUT DIAMONDS
This post was republished with permission from Corey Egan. Corey Egan is a San Francisco based Jeweler, Designer and Small Business Owner.
Holding a piece of jewelry that contains an antique diamond feels like you’re handling ancient treasure. And for good reason! While modern diamonds are mined and cut by the millions each year, a limited number of Old Mine and Old European Cut diamonds exist in the market today.
These precursors to our modern day round brilliant cuts offer a distinct visual experience from the way their hand cut facets play with light. The facets are wider and more geometric, resulting in pops of sparkle instead of the disco ball dazzle we see in modern diamonds. They’re perfectly imperfect, and that’s what gives them their charm.
Old Mine and Old European Cut diamonds are the most common of the antique diamond cuts. Today we’ll dive into each and to share their origins and point out their visual characteristics. With any luck, you’ll be able to spot the difference between the two in no time!
Old Mine Cut (Left) Old European Cut (Center) and Modern Round Brilliant Diamond (Right)
DIAMONDS FROM THE OLD MINES
The antique Old Mine and Old European cut diamonds are commonly found in jewelry from the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco Eras which spanned from the 1700’s through the late 1800’s. Diamonds of this era were cut by hand. The bruting machines used to cut modern diamonds were not invented until the 1900’s.
The diamond rough for these gems originated in the literal “old mines” of Brazil and India. The African mines that supply the whitest rough were not yet discovered. So these diamonds tended to be of lower color and in more limited numbers than what we see today.
Diamond cutters of this time were inventive. They assessed each diamond individually and cut it to bring out the best color and sparkle for that stone. They were meant to dazzle under candles, gas lamps and lower light conditions. Since each one was hand cut to please the eye, no two would ever be identical.
Though they come from the same humble origins and reigned in overlapping eras, the Old Mine Cut and Old European Cut Diamonds have distinct visual differences. Let’s dive deeper into how you can distinguish between the two.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds
OLD MINE CUT
Old Mine cut diamonds were most commonly used during the Georgian and Victorian eras from the 1700’s through the 1800’s.
The first characteristics that will jump out when viewing an Old Mine Cut diamond are the open culet (the round facet on the very bottom of the stone) and its squared off “cushion” shape. Diamond cutters of the day would follow the gem’s natural octahedral shape as a guide. The girdle, the widest part of the diamond held in the tweezers above, was often the unpolished edge of the natural diamond crystal.
The very top facet, known as the table, is very small. Old Mine Cuts also feature a high crown and a large pavilion. Like our modern round brilliants, the Old Mine Cut has 58 facets, but they are chunkier and more geometric than the facets of modern gems.
Old European Cut Diamonds
OLD EUROPEAN CUT
Advances in diamond cutting technology led to the development of the Old European Cut diamond in the late 1800’s. This meant that the diamond shapes could be rounder, tables a bit larger, and the facets became more elongated.
Old European cut diamonds were a precursor to our modern brilliant diamonds and were popular during the Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco eras.
Similar to the Old Mine Cut Diamond, the culet is still present in Old European Cut diamonds but it is often smaller. Old Europeans have a rounder shape, although many are still imperfect because they were cut by eye and not by machine. Like the Old Mine Cuts before them and Modern Brilliants after, Old European Cuts have 58 facets.
CHOOSING AN OLD MINE OR OLD EUROPEAN CUT DIAMOND
It’s worth remembering that the hand cut nature of antique diamonds is what gives them a palpable charm and beauty. However, this same character is what makes it near impossible to compare them to our modern day grading standards. I believe these antique gems are best observed and appreciated one by one. These antique diamonds are all about character.
The beauty standards we judge modern diamonds against were not defined for gem cutters of this era. The evolution of diamond cutting technology now allows for repeatable processes and standardized angles that were designed for maximum brilliance. As a result, modern diamond grading reports have a hard time reconciling these antique cuts. They should receive “poor” cutting grades because they don’t follow the cookie-cutter dimensions of today’s modern brilliants, yet they are still immensely beautiful gemstones.
Old Mine Cut Diamonds
The lower color of antique diamonds also is hard to judge against our present day scales. During their day, many of these lower color diamonds — the J, K, L, M’s that might scare off a modern shopper — were some of the best on the market. Diamond cutters in this period cut each diamond to enhance its color. So while the letter grade may rank low, remember that to the naked eye they will “face up” whiter.
Old European Cut Diamonds
Lighting conditions greatly affect the look of an antique diamond. Since these cuts were meant to dazzle under lower lighting conditions, they have a more interesting sparkle throughout our day-to-day. I encourage you to view them in as many lighting conditions as possible— daylight, fluorescent, incandescent, even candlelight— before you buy. The right gem for you is the one you have a visceral reaction to.
If a rare and unique diamond is truly what you seek, you can’t get much better than an Antique Diamond.
You can find the original post by Corey Egan here.
Engagement Ring = Diamond + Ring Setting
In order to offer the best possible support for the engagement ring shoppers, Little Bird maintains a wide network of experts and insiders in all parts of the diamond industry. One of our FAVORITE experts is Marilyn Weiss, a national estate and antique ring specialist. Marilyn buys and sells vintage, estate and antique diamond engagement rings. Some samples of her current collection are shown here. At any time, she will have close to 100 completely unique pieces. She doesn’t generally sell them directly to retail customers, but she’s always happy to meet privately with Little Bird clients. Her clients include some of the finest retailers in the US known for antique fine jewelry. Let’s just say it’s good to have a friend like Marilyn.
Little Bird: So you’ve specialized in all sorts of jewelry over your many years in the industry, from semi-precious to precious. When did you get into antique and estate fine jewelry?
Marilyn Weiss: About 13 years ago I walked into a used bookstore,,,
I need an engagement ring within 1 week from now!
Antique Engagement Rings - Super romantic. Antique pieces make for fantastic engagement rings. Art Deco, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Retro... the styles and options are practically endless and you're sure to find something that fits the style and budget you're aiming for.
Favorites: Erstwhile, Lang Antiques, Trumpet & Horn and Victor Barboné
Favorites: Catbird, Shibumi Studio & Gallery, Esqueleto and Trabert Goldsmiths
Pro tip: There's always the "temp setting" option. It's fabulous for nailing a tight timeline once you've found the perfect diamond. This is a blackbelt move, so feel free to buzz us for some free advice on how to tackle this option.
I need an engagement ring in 2 weeks from now!
There is a 1-2 weeks lead time for standard design engagement rings. What does that mean? Well, when a designer or a jeweler offers a standard design then they are able to produce that ring to your exact specifications within about 2 weeks. Think of it this way, if there's a style number or style name associated with the piece, then it's likely part of that jeweler's "standard collection" and therefore they have all the design parameters already laid out and ready. You just have to pick the center diamond or gemstone, a specific ring size and metal type (platinum, white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, etc). There are fantastic in-store and online jewelers who offer fabulous, unique and well-made standard collections.
Pro tip: if you're going this route, be sure to confirm that you have a return and exchange policy. It's customary to offer this option for standard collection pieces.
I need an engagement ring in the next 1-3 months!
Need some personalized ring wisdom in regards to your timeline? We are happy to chat with you about the best strategies based on your schedule. And it's free!
The holiday season presents the annual family check-in time. For many folks, it goes something like this:
You might not be shocked to hear that 100% of people who reach out to Little Bird are, in fact, planning to get engaged (winky face). Yikes! Well, now it's crunch time. Believe it or not, it can take 4-6 weeks to educate yourself in the field, find the right jeweler, put together the perfect ring and then have it made. If you want to get engaged by New Year’s, you better find that perfect ring ASAP. The problem with this: EVERYONE else is also looking for the perfect ring AND it's the busiest shopping season of the year. Stores hire uninformed holiday help, the lines at the cash registers are almost as big as the bottom line sales goals. It's the most difficult time to receive impeccable service and in the meantime all the coveted inventory is being snatched up. If you're in the market for a specific type of ring, such as a Canadian diamond engagement ring, an oval sapphire halo ring, or maybe a custom opal engagement ring, the least you can do is be prepared.
We are offering our 30 minute Expert Engagement Ring Consultation to help get folks ready for what will be a huge purchasing decision. If future marriage has been on your mind as of late, as the leaves start to turn and the family events start stacking up on the calendar, contact us to schedule AND/OR refer a friend and you both get an early holiday present from Little Bird...check it out here.
Little Bird loves to hear from guys in the real world. Sometimes it can be hard for experts in a field to remember what the situation looks like to non-experts. We are constantly optimizing our services to be as awesome and helpful as possible. Brent Rose is a regular contributor for a variety of guy-tailored blogs, so he has a unique vantage point to see consumer trends in the man-universe. Brent is a rare gem in his ability to cut through pretense and ego, and answer questions with the kind of unfiltered honesty that would make most bros run for the hills. His insights were invaluable and really got us thinking...
Little Bird: So Brent, how would you start your engagement ring search?
Brent: I have no idea. Like most guys I would probably start with the internet - because that is where you look for everything these days. I would Google “diamond ring” or “engagement ring” or even search for “how to pick the right ring”.
I might look at places like Zales, the Diamond Center or Jared to try and get an idea of the baseline market. If I did ask any friends, I would try to talk to guy friends that make the same sort of salary as I do and are already engaged or married. If you ask rich friends, you’re opening the door to soul-crushing despair.
Little Bird: Good point. Within every group of friends some are reasonable about budget, and some just spend… unbelievable amounts. So how would you go about calculating your engagement ring budget? Do you think this is how most guys these days come up with a number?
Little Bird: Yeah, the two months salary deal was from a really different era. It seems like life is just SO much more expensive today. As a guy, what are your top priorities when looking for a ring?
Brent: Well the first phase is usually the budget phase. Then comes the depression phase when you start seeing some of the diamonds that are out there. Closely followed by the panic and anorexia phase [maybe I can't afford food this month]. And then the realistic budgeting and financial planning phase. Next you’d probably go through her jewelry and look at her taste - does she like simple and low profile or BLAM? You are trying to find a design that matches her personality. For some girls a decadent ring might be totally wrong style-wise.
The problem then is that guys don’t know the search terms because most guys have never had to think about them. Even if they had a picture of a ring in their mind, they have no idea what to call the thing they are looking for. It would be great to be able to talk to her, but they don’t want to ruin the surprise. The vast expanse of options is overwhelming.
And then there’s sizing. Even if she has other rings, you never know the right size for her ring finger because women generally don’t wear rings on that finger. You can try to be sneaky, but it almost never works.
(Side Note: Brent is absolutely right about this. Being sneaky about determining a ring size almost never works. Stay tuned for the upcoming blog “Macgyvering her ring size.” with all sorts of 007-worthy ring sizing tricks that actually work.)
Little Bird: What about ethical origins of diamonds and metals? Is that important to you?
Brent: Most guys know to think about ethical origin - but they can’t tell how to actually avoid bad diamonds. Some of the industry terms get really confusing.
Little Bird: You are absolutely right. The definition of “conflict free” the Kimberley Process is very different from what you and I would consider to be “ethical origin.” Luckily for me, our Little Bird Co-Founder, Danielle, is a super-expert on this subject, so I can just ask her.
Little Bird: How much time do you think the average guy is willing to spend learning about diamond grading and the industry?
Brent: It would be great if someone could explain diamonds in simple human terms. If I had to guess... hmm, very little. I mean some people go totally OCD, but most people are willing to go as far as whatever gets a ring that their girl will like. Most guys will try to do some preliminary research, but it gets overwhelming really fast. Someone once mentioned Etsy, but when you start searching around you realize how little you know and you start to doubt your own taste.
Little Bird: You’re the expert on guy shopping, what do you think is another one of the nuanced purchases that guys make? How do they get help? What works?
Brent: I guess the best comparison is a new car. For some people a ring can be just as much. There are a lot of variables when you are buying a car, but you can get a lot of objective information from the internet or magazines. That being said, you are buying a car for yourself and a ring is a gift so you can’t just pick whatever you would like to wear. This is a guessing game with a lot riding on it.
There is this element of judgment with rings. You picture a bunch of girls squealing over a ring because you have seen it on every TV show and in movies. It seems so cliché, but then you see it over and over again in the real world! It shouldn’t matter at all but you worry that it is going to matter to her. You don’t want the ring to be an object of ridicule. There is a lot of stigma for cubic zirconia or other non-gems, so it can be a stressful calculation. You want to get her something that is worthy of her, and of your love.
(Side Note: There is certainly a stigma around cubic zirconia because it is considered a badly done fake, HOWEVER some alternative gemstones - like sapphire - are awesome and should definitely be considered. Check out our post on
How to Get a Celebrity Worthy Engagement Ring at a Fraction of the Cost on Ringspotters for more information on alternative gemstones.)
Little Bird: When guys are uncertain about any part of the engagement ring process, who do they go to for help or advice? Married buddies? Parents or relatives? Her friends? Internet? Is this something that guys talk about amongst themselves?
Brent: Maybe one of her friends that you trusted to keep a secret. Maybe. Ideally one of my own female friends that knows both of us. When you ask a friend you have to trust they would give you an honest response and not spare your feelings. Guys don’t know who to talk with to ask questions, in case something changes or someone gives it away...
Little Bird: Of your guy friends that are married, do you know what their ring shopping experience was like? Have they said anything that sticks in your mind?
Brent: Truth is, guys don’t talk in too much detail. Some have inherited rings, which is not an option for everyone. I know some couples shop together... but that kind of wrecks the surprise. Actually, I think guys don’t talk about this much at all... which is probably why there is so much confusion. Guys want to appear smart and in control and not scared.
If you are worried about rent, you have no idea how you are going to pull this off. It is incredibly stressful. Buying a ring is such a major thing in life and it becomes representative and emblematic of the greater turmoil around asking someone to marry you.
Little Bird: I have to admit, I am a little surprised because I have thought of ring shopping as being so much more fun!
Brent: No. Most guys don’t see this as fun. Guys that are worried about money are not having such a good time.
Guys are really afraid they are getting ripped off. An expert in your corner would give you major peace of mind. You are about to drop onto one knee and you are already freaking out - this is one less thing to worry about.
Check out some of Brent’s remarkable and almost uncanny acting talent, or his Friday booze column for Gizmodo, Happy Hour, OR his pretty awesome twitter feed, all of which are hilarious and fascinating.
Guys: we want to hear from you too! If you have a totally different answer, or a totally similar answer, or a funny story about any of these issues, please get in touch with us. We are dedicated to making this process more fun and less stressful for you.
-orignally posted November, 2013
Well that didn't go according to the plan...
Cue the sad love songs. Sometimes life does not happen the way we planned. If you or someone you know bought an engagement ring and things didn’t work out, Little Bird can offer some advice.
Option 1: Return
Before you do anything drastic, call the store where you bought the ring. Request a manager to review the specifics of your ring purchase. Some stores have one month return policies, some give you three months. Some stores will SAY that there is a one month policy, but if the ring hasn’t been worn they are more willing to negotiate. Be prepared, some stores charge a restocking fee of 10-20%. If the ring has been worn, some stores will still take it back, minus a refurbishing fee. It may seem like a lose/lose, but it is better than losing 50% if you try to resell it yourself. If this isn’t an option, check our Option 2.
Alternative Engagement Rings
Bay Area Jewelers
Celebrity Engagement Ring
Ethical Origin Engagement Rings
Lab Created Diamonds
My Engagement Ring Story
New York Jewelers
Precious Metal Education
Press & Media Mentions