Vintage Engagement Rings – Get a Steal

Last week I told you the story of the deal I got on Tracy’s incredible antique engagement ring. Part of the reason that I was able to find such a beautiful ring at a great price was that I spent a lot of time researching diamond values and was able to bargain because I was so well-informed. So my first tip for getting a great deal on a vintage or antique engagement ring is to know the formula for finding the true value of a diamond ring. <!–more–>

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Let’s take this beautiful antique cut vintage diamond engagement ring, being sold by a reputable jeweler for $5,700, as our example. If I were interested in this ring, the first thing I would do is go to Union Diamond, an insider’s secret website where anybody can access real wholesale diamond prices at any time. Why is this information valuable? Because it can give you an idea of the true value of any diamond, the most valuable part of any engagement ring. Once you know the value of the diamond in a ring you’re eyeing, you can use my basic formula for determining a ring’s true value, and use it to bargain with the seller.

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Using Union Diamond is easy — just use the search tool to enter information about the diamond you’re interested in. Above, you can see that I entered the shape, size, color, and more information about the emerald cut engagement ring I found.

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After telling Union Diamond all I knew about the diamond, I’m directed to a page that shows me similar diamonds that are for sale right now, at their wholesale prices. There were 7 near-identical diamonds being sold for anywhere from $2,452 to $3,323. Now these prices are much, much lower than the price of the ring, and that’s to be expected. After all, the ring has a setting made of platinum, and additional small diamonds in the setting, and has required the workmanship of everyone from the diamond cutter to the ring manufacturer to the salesperson who works in the jewelry store. But this is one of the reasons that an antique or vintage ring can actually be more affordable than a newly made one. All of the labor and manufacturing happened long ago, and was paid for by the ring’s original owner. You’re left with only the cost of the ring’s materials, and a reasonable markup for the retailer or seller to make a profit.

Now we need to understand the value of the setting. With a basic setting like this one, the value of the metal can be calculated by its weight — just use any popular search engine to find the current value of gold or platinum, and multiply it by the amount of metal in the ring. This ring has approximately $950 of platinum in it. The small pave diamonds add a nominal extra cost of a few hundred dollars. All in all, the materials in this setting are worth about $1200.

So back to our example emerald-cut 1.01 carat diamond ring. The jeweler’s price is $5,700. The value of the center stone is about $2,900, and the setting is worth $1,200. How low can you expect the jeweler to go on the ring’s price? Use my simple formula to find out: Value of diamond + value of setting + 10% to 15% seller markup = fair value for a vintage or antique engagement ring. This formula isn’t exact, and varies with the size of the center stone. A ring that’s 1.5 carats or less will folIow this formula, but for any ring over 1.5 carats you can count on the markup being slightly lower, anywhere from 7% to 10%.

In this case of our emerald cut diamond ring, a fair price is $4,510 t0 $4,715. Which means that I can save over $1,000, or 20% of the ring’s cost, by bargaining the seller down to a price that I know he or she will be likely to accept. So how do I manage to bargain politely and confidently, in a way that makes the seller want to give me a great deal? Stay tuned…I’ll be filling you in on that next week!

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3 Comments

  1. Engagement rings are traditionally worn only by women, and rings can feature gemstones. In other cultures men and women usually wear matching rings, which can be plain. In some cultures, engagement rings are also used as wedding rings.

  2. Hi Lauren. You’re absolutely right: Cut quality, depth, table %, and all of the other factors you mentioned are very important. And more so with an emerald cut stone than any other kind. I was trying to give our readers, who are generally not diamond experts, a basic starting point for understanding the wholesale value of a stone. But this additional information is very valuable, and I hope that those who are interested in knowing more will read it. Thanks for contributing!

  3. Robert – great post, but I believe you’re missing the most important aspect of the 4 Cs that figure in greatly to your price comparison; Cut – and I’m not talking about “cut” in terms of shape – I’m talking about cut quality and how it factors into performance. Being a lover of technical and analytical discussions about diamonds, it’s THE most important factor that ultimately influences price and given your choices among Union Diamonds virtual selection, looks like most of those diamonds are of mediocre ilk.

    Specifically with emerald cuts, the cut quality, and how the depth & table%, crown and pavilion angles all figure into light performance are completely absent from your comparison. It’s important to compare like for like, and if you’re buying “new”, I’m still of the belief that the best “deals” on diamonds can be found online.

    You can’t really just select any 1.00 ct. H VS2 emerald to compare price because all emerald cuts, and diamonds for that matter, are not created equal. An emerald cut diamond that is cut too shallow could look overly dark and “leak liight”. Too deep, and with low crown angles, it could look glassy. Definitely to buy with your eyes, but when it comes to negotiating price, the price comparison tools can only take you so far.

    For reference, Pricescope is a great tool that can help set guidelines to look for and qualify out whether you’re buying vintage or new. In reference to the emerald cut in your post, here are some guidelines that can help with the price negotiation – http://www.pricescope.com/wiki/diamonds/emerald-cut-diamond/

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