Ruby, the beautiful red variety of the mineral corundum, has been prized for centuries and is the most expensive colored gemstone per carat today. Antique ruby rings, in particular, have a rich history and are highly valued by collectors and jewelry enthusiasts alike.
Today, we will be focusing on antique ruby rings which are considered to be those older than 100 years. Vintage rings are those between 40 and 100 years old. Perhaps you’ve inherited or picked up an antique ruby ring and you’d like to know what it’s worth? Or maybe you want to surprise someone close to you with a stunning antique ruby ring?
Here we will discuss how to identify an antique ruby ring, a guide to antique ruby rings (including their manufacturers, materials, and different varieties to look out for), a guide to the average value of antique ruby rings, the top 6 most valuable antique ruby rings sold so far, and a brief buying and selling guide.
Antique Ruby Rings: Background
Rubies were discovered and began to be coveted by people as early as 2500 B.C. in Myanmar, evidenced by Stone Age tools found at the ancient ruby mining site. The biggest and most precious rubies were given to the ruler of Myanmar.
These precious red gemstones have been used in jewelry for thousands of years, with the first recorded use of rubies dating back to 800 BC in Sri Lanka. In the ancient world, rubies were believed to have mystical powers, with the Chinese and Hindu cultures associating the gemstone with luck, energy, and success. Throughout history, rubies have been associated with wealth and power, and have been used to adorn the crown jewels of many cultures, including the British Crown Jewels.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, antique ruby rings became popular in Europe, especially England and France. During this time, jewelry designers incorporated rubies into ornate designs, and the use of rubies in jewelry reached its peak in the Victorian era. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, antique ruby rings continued to be popular, with the Art Deco movement leading to a more streamlined and geometric design style.
How To Identify An Antique Ruby Ring
If you have a ruby ring and suspect it’s an antique, or would like to purchase an antique ruby ring, it’s important to try and determine whether it’s a real antique or not. Antique ruby rings can be identified by several key features…
Cut and Shape of Ruby
Antique ruby rings often feature oval or cushion cuts, rather than the round cuts that are more common in modern jewelry. Additionally, the facet patterns on antique ruby rings may be different compared modern rings, with antique rings often having fewer facets.
Antique ruby rings are often set in intricate and ornate designs, such as filigree or openwork, that are not seen in modern jewelry. The prongs used to secure the ruby may also be different, with antique prongs often being thicker and more decorative.
Antique ruby rings were often made from 18k or 22k gold, with silver and platinum also being used. Modern ruby rings are typically made from 14k or 18k gold.
Style and Design
Antique ruby rings often feature a unique and distinctive design, with Victorian and Art Deco styles being especially popular. The intricate and ornate designs of antique ruby rings set them apart from the simpler, more modern designs which exemplify today’s jewelry.
Rings were purely hand-made before approximately 1890, during late Victorian times. From here on, craftsmen began to use the lost wax casting process which was a much quicker process and enabled them to produce and sell rings more efficiently. Therefore, handmade rings are likely to have been made before 1890.
Standout features such as engraved shoulders were popular in the Victorian era. Milgrain detailing was favored in the Edwardian and Art Deco styles.
Hallmark and Makers’ Marks
Hallmarks only became compulsory from 1920 onwards, so the majority of rings with a hallmark are likely to be vintage rather than antique. However, makers’ marks were common before this and were a way for the craftsman or manufacturing company to stamp their initials, logo or unique code (digits, letters, or a combination of these) on their rings.
If you find any markings on your ring this is a great sign. Search thoroughly for these marks online to find where and when your ring was made. This can help greatly in finding out how much it is worth.
Certificate of Authenticity
If you are really lucky, your ring will come with a certificate of authenticity which has been validated by a reputable third-party representative of a company or organisation such as The Goldsmiths’ Company. Make sure to research the names and stamps on the certificate to work out whether your ring is an authentic antique or not.
Antique Ruby Rings: Value Guide
Several factors will greatly affect the value of an antique ruby ring including the manufacturer, the size of the ruby, the craftmanship, how rare or unusual the design is, and the value of other materials that have been used such as precious metals and other gemstones. The condition is another important factor – rings in top condition will fetch more than those which are tarnished or have been repaired from their original design.
Some of the most well-known antique ruby ring manufacturers who are known for their high-quality craftsmanship and use of precious materials include:
- Van Cleef & Arpels
- Tiffany & Co.
If your ring has been made by a well-known company, it is likely to cost a lot more than a piece of unknown provenance.
Antique ruby rings can be found in a variety of styles, including:
- Victorian: Victorian ruby rings are often intricate and ornate, featuring filigree or openwork designs.
- Art Deco: Art Deco ruby rings are more streamlined and geometric, often featuring clean lines and bold shapes.
- Edwardian: Edwardian ruby rings are delicate and feminine, with a focus on intricate details.
- Art Nouveau: Art Nouveau ruby rings feature organic and flowing designs, with a focus on nature.
One general rule is that the older the ring, the higher price it will fetch.
When it comes to evaluating rubies, experts judge these gemstones by the 4 C rule:
- Carat weight
Color is considered to be the most important factor here. Rubies cannot range greatly in color but their price will differ depending on the shade of red they possess. The “traditional” pure red rubies are the most desirable and will fetch the highest price. Orange-red, purple-red, and pink-red rubies can also be valuable but tend to value less as they are less recognizable as rubies.
Those rubies which have not been heat-treated are also more valuable, and may hold up to double the value of heat-treated rubies.
1 carat (0.2 grams when talking about gemstones) of ruby is worth at least $1,000 if not more. The larger the ruby, the more value the ring will hold.
Top 6 Most Valuable Antique Ruby Rings
Here, we have accumulated some of the most valuable and expensive antique ruby rings of all time! These prices highlight the high value that antique ruby rings can command at auction. However, it’s important to note that these prices represent the upper end of the market and may not be representative of the average value of antique ruby rings. It is important to undertake your own thorough research to gauge the correct price of any antique jewelry based on size, materials, manufacturer, rarity, design, and condition before buying or selling.
1. Antique Ruby and Diamond Ring, c. 1910
This stunning antique ring features both a ruby and a diamond. The ruby is circular-shaped and weighs 9.20 carats. The diamonds are pear-shaped and sit in the shoulders, while the hoops is plain and the gallery features openwork. It is possible the ruby was originally from a 17th century ancestral jewel and has been set into a new ring.
In 2010, Christie’s Acution House auctioned this ring for more than $2.6 million USD!
2. Antique Ruby Half Hoop Ring, c. late 19th century
This late 19th century ring features 5 cushion-shaped rubies exquisitely interspersed with rose-cut diamonds. Following expert investigation, 4 of the 5 rubies were confirmed to originate from Burma (now Myanmar).
This ring was sold for around $19,200 in 2022!
3. Antique 5 Stone Burma Ruby Ring, c. 1890
This late Victorian ruby ring is accented with tiny diamonds and set on an 18k gold band. In total, the rubies altogether are equal to 3.03 carats. The shoulders are fluted and the mount is carved in an ornate design.
In 2022, this ring sold for $18,500!
4. Antique Lucien Gaillard Burma Ruby Ring, c. 1900
This French antique ring incorporates platinum, diamonds and a centred Burmese ruby. It was crafted by the famous master jeweller Lucien Gaillard and features his engraved signature. The non heat-treated ruby equals 0.5 carats and is described as having a “pigeon’s blood” shade of red.
In 2022, this ring sold for $7,500!
5. Antique Burma Ruby Platinum Wedding Ring
The authenticity certification denotes that this ring was originally worth $40,000 when it was first made. The central ruby has not been heat treated and is from Burma, it weighs 9.65 carats. The band of this ring is made from platinum and the setting is described as heavy, a classic feature of an antique ring.
In 2022, this ring was sold for $6,500!
6. Antique Victorian Memento Mori Skull Ruby Ring, c. 1890
The band of this unique Victorian era ring is 18k gold, and the diamonds which accent the rubies are rose-cut. To either side of the central, larger ruby are ornate “smiling” skulls with intricate ruby eyes. The skull was a popular Victorian motif, representing mortality and the contemplation of eternity.
This unusual ring was sold for $2,550 in 2021!
Buying and Selling Antique Ruby Rings
When buying or selling an antique ruby ring, it’s important to do your research to gauge to correct price for your ring. If buying, make sure you find a reputable dealer and go for listings with plenty of details and close-up photos. Here are some top tips for buying and selling antique ruby rings:
When buying, make sure that the ruby ring is authentic and not a modern reproduction. Look for certificates of authenticity or other proof of the ring’s provenance. If selling, it is a big plus to have the ring authenticated by a professional appraisal service. Although this will cost, it will make the ring more valuable and is likely to boost the price when selling.
Look for signs of wear or damage, as this can affect the value of the ring. Inspect the precious stones, prongs, ornamentations, shoulders and the band (both inside and out). It is likely that the older the ring the more damage it will have obtained through use and transportation. If selling, make sure you include all details of damage and wear, and photos exhibiting these. Transparency is crucial.
3. Selling Platform
Selling through an antiques shop or auction house may be the best way to go if your ring is particularly old and valuable. Buying through these platforms is also advisable for top quality and guaranteed authenticity.
However, online marketplaces can be more accessible for both selling and buying. We recommend:
- eBay – the Antique Ruby Rings section of eBay is excellent. A great range of rings are being sold here, and results can be filtered by brand, condition, price, and more.
- Etsy – a whole range of private sellers are assembled here, and astonishing unique pieces can be found here.
- 1st Dibs – this is a great site for valuable antique jewelry. Results can be filtered by type of ring, period, gemstone type, metal type, and more.