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Both Sides of the Aisle: Should you Buy an Heirloom Ring?

  • Groom Duties

If you have access to one, an heirloom ring could be a great option.  See below our take on the best way to navigate a few different scenarios. And if you're wondering what she's thinking, head over to The Knot for the bride's point of view.

If you’re currently stressing out about coughing up a ridiculous amount of money on a flashy new engagement ring, we may have some good news for you. There is an option that could both save you money and make a huge positive impression on your girl. We’re talking about the heirloom ring, homey. An heirloom ring can be an antique that’s been in the family for generations, a new ring that incorporates a stone or setting from a family heirloom, or just an antique that you’ve purchased from someone else.


When deployed correctly, the heirloom ring is the perfect deal closer, the ultimate romantic gesture. But this option is not without risk, and there are certain pitfalls you must avoid if you don’t want to land in a world of trouble.

Here are three different scenarios that highlight the pros and cons of proposing with an heirloom ring. 

1)  The heirloom comes from her family

Pros: 

  • It’s already in her family, so she might have a preference for keeping it that way. Has she dreamed of wearing it ever since she was a little girl? That’s a win for you.

  • If she wants to alter the ring -- reset the stone, say, or add some modern design elements -- she will be the one initiating it. Even if there are some offended relatives, they won’t blame you for the updates.

  • It’s free and you don’t have to go ring shopping

Cons: 

  • Saving two months salary may leave you as happy as a clam, but don’t gloat. You should probably make some sort of gesture, so spend some cash on a suitable gift for when you pop the question.

  • Also, keep in mind that there may be some family dynamics you’re missing. If one of her sisters had her eye on the ring, for example, there’s bound to be some resentment there. You may find yourself in the middle of an all-out sibling war, either now, or years down the line. Obviously, you’ll be expected to take your wife’s side.

2)  The heirloom comes from your side of the family

Pros: 

  • Give your girlfriend an engagement ring that’s been in the family for years and you’ve made the ultimate gesture of welcome and acceptance. There’s no clearer way of saying “You’re part of our family now.”

  • It’s a heady honor to be entrusted with someone else’s prized heirloom, and will go a long way towards making your proposal super special in her eyes.

  • As always, there’s the immense cost savings for you.

Cons: 

  • First off, make sure that none of your siblings had their eye on the ring. People start sizing up what they want to inherit pretty early in life, so you may be ruining someone else’s fantasy with your proposal ring power grab. Did your brother have plans to give that ring to his future girlfriend? Did your aunt always resent that it went to your mother, and has been waiting for decades to get her hands on it? You need to make your claim and get it locked down.

  • Next, make sure the ring fits in with your potential wife’s tastes in jewelry. This is the most important present of her life: she shouldn’t have to pretend to like it. The truth will eventually come out, someone’s feelings will get hurt, and you will ultimately be blamed.

  • Will she want to completely redesign the ring? Make sure that won’t send your relatives over the edge. If you think she’ll want to completely alter the family heirloom, you might be better off working with her to pick out a new ring. Tiffany’s won’t care if she wants alterations, and the extra cost will be worth it to avoid the stress of dealing with pissed off relatives.

3)  You buy an antique heirloom ring from a stranger

Pros: 

  • There’s a thriving online market for antique rings, so you may find a bargain.

  • There’s an old fashioned romance to giving a woman a ring with a history, a storybook quality that evokes chivalry, knights in shining armor and legendary lovers.

  • An heirloom ring was once worn and loved and cherished by someone else. You can make a point of saying how, by giving this ring, you are symbolically passing on that love and cherishing. Corny, but it could be charming.

Cons: 

  • An heirloom ring is representative of the past, but is that what she wants?  Maybe she’s the type who wants her engagement ring to tell the story of your relationship. Maybe she wants a new ring to symbolize how you are setting aside your old attachments to create new ones with her.  Either way, it's easier than ever to know exactly what she wants with The Knot Hint.  Check it out if you're still not 100% sure.

  • Sure, someone else wore the ring for years: a complete stranger. What if that person was awful? Who knows where that ring has been? If you think she’ll be weirded out by any potential bad vibes, you should probably bite the bullet and buy a ring that’s shiny and new.