Much of the vintage diamond jewelry on the market today was crafted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Studying the available materials and finishing processes of those times is a history lesson unto itself. The procurement and use of fine jewelry during those years provides another example of how diamonds influence culture and vice versa.
The early diamond jewelry metals were generally silver and yellow gold, with platinum being introduced toward the end of the Victorian era. Platinum preserved the color of silver while eliminating issues of strength and oxidation. A large majority of vintage rings on the market use a platinum setting, showing how ubiquitous the new material had become. In the early 1900s however, wartime restricted the amount of platinum that craftsmen could get, so that gold came back into style.
Along with the choice of materials, the cut of the stones also reflects a vintage ring's place in history. The methods used to cut diamonds during this era were limited by the existing technology and diamonds were all cut and polished entirely by hand. The invention of the bruting machine in 1890, which creates a round girdle, was the first step in trying to mechanize diamond cutting. By mechanizing this part of the process, cutters were able to obtain a more uniform shape to round diamonds (old European cuts). Cushion, old Mine or Rose cuts, which were cut earlier, will never appear completely symmetrical and so will retain that unique character and individuality we love today.
The events throughout history that have influenced and affected how jewelry was created and worn may be complex and varied, but are definitely fascinating to those antique jewelry aficionados who choose to dig a little deeper. While fashion may come and go, antique diamonds will always hold a unique, romantic quality that draws collectors and novice enthusiasts alike.