What You Need to Know About Using Heirloom Engagement Rings

It can be sentimental, but it's not right for everyone.

Heirloom engagement rings are the types of things that seem romantic and sentimental in theory – as well as potentially a way to save money – but in practice they can be the cause of family tension, hurt feelings, and drama. For some, an heirloom engagement ring is a wonderful way to carry on traditions. Yet for others, the token can lead to resentment about not having a ring of one’s own. This is far from a “one size fits all” type of deal, so it’s important to examine your personal situation.

heirloom engagement ring etiquette, when to use an heirloom engagement ring
Photo by Carasco Photography 

First, you have to make sure the person who will wear the ring even wants an heirloom. If that’s you, well, you probably have a pretty good idea. However, many women care deeply about having their own, new ring. This does not necessarily reflect materialism, but just a desire to start her own history. It is also necessary to confirm whether or not the bride-to-be desires a specific heirloom or just likes the idea of wearing an antique. 

The simplest situation is when an heirloom ring is offered to you, particularly if it’s one you already had your eye on. Of course, that won’t always be the case. When approaching someone for their own ring, it’s important to be polite and not pushy. Accept the no, should the family member choose not to give up their precious piece of jewelry. It’s natural to be disappointed, but keep those feelings private and don’t gossip. A person has the right to hold onto a ring that has importance to them.

If you are fortunate enough to be gifted a ring, it is vital to first find out how the original and/or current owner feels about the design being altered. In some situations, it is assumed that you’ll only be using the main diamond or gemstone for the engagement ring. In other cases, you may be expected to keep the ring as is – outside of necessary repairs and resizing. While we’re on the topic of resizing, keep in mind that generally rings can only be resized a difference of two sizes without compromising the design. If the heirloom is significantly too big or small for the new bride, this may not be a feasible option. 

For more advice, learn how to respectfully turn down heirloom items for your wedding and how to design a custom engagement ring.

Authored by: Emily Lasnier