A diamond is forever. Or is it?
Many young couples simply aren’t as into buying new diamonds as their parents, opting instead for non-traditional rings, colored gemstones and estate jewelry. Millennial brides want something unique, a beautiful, on-trend piece they can relate to but that no one else has. Something chosen just for them with story they can retell for generations.
In this interview with DIY, the estate jewelry experts at Van Atkins Jewelers share their advice, tips and favorite engagement stories. When it comes to settling down, today’s brides are making different choices but that doesn’t mean they are settling for less.
Beautiful examples of estate jewelry that could be chosen as non-traditional engagement rings
Van Atkins Jewelry is a premiere jewelry store in New Albany, Mississippi known for its large collection of estate jewelry. IDY asked the experts at Van Atkins Jewelry what couples need to know before purchasing estate pieces.
IDY: What is estate jewelry and how is it different from antique and vintage jewelry?
VA: Estate jewelry is often acquired from estates but also includes pre-owned or “pre-loved” jewelry that is less than 100 years old. Antique jewelry is 100 or more years old. And vintage jewelry describes pre-owned jewelry produced at least 20 years ago.
IDY: What makes estate jewelry special?
VA: All estate jewelry has history: If this piece could talk, what would it say, where has it been and who has it seen? When we get them, we restore them and now they are all ready to start a whole new life. It was beautiful then. It’s beautiful now.
Estate pieces also make special wedding day gifts for the bride.
IDY: When considering an engagement ring, why might someone opt for estate jewelry?
VA: These pieces were hand made, not mass-produced, which means they are one of a kind. Many have unique accents, intricate filigree and tiny color stones in all different shapes. That special touch is exactly what some brides are looking for.
Art Deco Engagement Ring
IDY: A quick scroll through wedding boards on Pinterest indicate that art deco engagement rings and opals are enjoying renewed appreciation. How do current trends influence what brides are looking for in estate jewelry?
VA: Mainly the color of gold. During the “cash for gold” era a lot of yellow and rose gold jewelry was melted. So now they are rare and in high demand. Art deco rings have also regained popularity. These pieces are timeless and classic. They will always be classic. Young girls remember what their grandmothers wore and they are drawn to pieces that look similar.
Rare Yellow Gold Estate Engagement Ring
IDY: What are some of the things new buyers should be aware of when purchasing estate jewelry?
VA: First of all, you have to know and trust your jeweler. We love old diamond-cut diamonds in an estate mounting. If you ask a jeweler who doesn’t understand estate jewelry, he may say new cuts are superior. Old cut diamonds are rare and in demand. Old European-cut diamonds have an extra facet at the bottom called a culet that gives the diamond more sparkle. We stock a lot of these diamonds. There is always something special about an old cut diamond in a estate mounting.
Estate Engagement Ring With Old European-cut Diamond
Secondly, don’t be intimidated. Even if someone doesn’t know anything about jewelry, Van Atkins can help them find the perfect piece. Kyle knew Natalie wanted at canary diamond from Van Atkins Jewelers. Otherwise, he says, he was clueless. She ended up getting her dream home and her dream ring on the same day. Watch their Van Atkins Engagement story below:
Also, be wary of jewelers who try to pass off or mistake replicas as estate jewelry. When possible we try to find out as much history about the ring as we can. This helps us authenticate the piece. And who doesn’t love a good story!
IDY: What are some of your favorite stories?
VA: We were helping a man pick out a ring, and his sweetheart had an eight-year-old daughter, so he decided he needed two rings. On the day he proposed, he turned to the daughter first and asked her if she would allow him into their lives and presented her with a ring that was just for her. It was so memorable and special.
We also have a series of videos of couples sharing their stories on our YouTube channel. One of our favorites is Smitty and Louise Harris’ love story. They’ve been married for 57 years. He was a POW for eight years after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War. Smitty commissioned a special piece from Van Atkins for Louise. You will want to get tissues before watching the story of their marriage.
IDY: What special services does Van Atkins offer brides and grooms?
VA: We have three in-house jewelers. Often, we can do custom changes and have them ready the same day. If a ring needs to be sized we can usually do it while the customer waits. We also offer a free cleaning and rhodium dip to new brides so the jewelry will shine as bright as they do on their wedding day.
We also offer custom jewelry design services. Someone may come in with a drawing or an inspiration piece or a story that is especially meaningful. With the help of our jewelers, he or she can incorporate those features to design a piece that is truly unique and made specifically for that special someone. There is not another one like it in the world.
Find out more about how this process works below as Jacob explains how he designed a custom engagement ring for his wife Erin:
IDY: Are you available to work with brides from across the country?
VA: Yes, we do it every week. We also work with deployed military and can even design a custom ring while they are away. One time, one of our staff members slipped onto a military plane so the soldier could give the ring to his sweetheart the moment he stepped off the plane.
IDY: How far in advance should customers get in touch with Van Atkins Jewelers about estate and custom jewelry?
Ideally it is nice to have about three to four weeks for a custom ring but we definitely do everything we can to accommodate all situations. We are also fortunate to have over 1,000 rings in stock.
Estate rings at Van Atkins Jewelers
IDY: What is the best way to reach Van Atkins Jewelers?
IDY: What do you like most about what you do?
VA: We all love working with couples, and here we are lucky to work with couples of all ages and different stages of life. They are all so in love and we can’t help but ask them all their stories. We love, love.