One of the earliest recorded uses of an engagement ring was in 1477 when Austria’s Archduke Maxmillian proposed marriage to Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds. The ring was in the shape of an “M”. It is believed by many that this sparked a trend for diamond engagement rings.
In many countries, engagement rings are traditionally placed on the ring finger of the left hand. At one time it was believed that this finger contained a vein (the vena amoris) that led to the heart. This idea was popularized by Henry Swinburne in A treatise of Spousals, or Matrimonial Contracts(1686). The story seems to have its origin in the ancient Roman book Attic Nights by Aulus Gellius.
The engagement ring and wedding ring share the same origin. Rings have been used as a symbolic token for centuries and getting into the history of engagement rings can make a couple understand how significant the tradition is. The majority of betrothal rings used in the past were simple bands. Most of us know that wedding rings in the middle ages contained gemstones but many cannot be identified as true betrothal or wedding rings unless they are inscribed or otherwise identified as such. Some gemstones like rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds were all used in these symbolic rings. Some of these gemstone rings resemble our modern-day engagement rings.
The Victorians popularized ornate engagement ring designs; they mixed diamonds with other gemstones and precious metals. These rings were often crafted in the shapes of flowers and were dubbed “posey rings”. During the Edwardian era the tradition of pairing diamond rings with other jewels continued.
Diamonds were so rare in early centuries they were used only by extremely wealthy people. This royal tradition gained popularity over time around the world. The designs of engagement rings evolved from goldsmiths’ craft setting to modern designs that illustrated advanced cutting techniques of diamonds.
Following the African discoveries during the 1870s, diamonds were more accessible. The opening of De Beers’ mines in Africa made diamonds more accessible and affordable. In the 1930s, demand for diamond rings declined in the US during hard economic times. So, De Beers began an aggressive marketing campaign by using photographs of movie stars.
After that, within three years they recorded 50 percent increase in the sales of diamonds. De Beers then launched its classic slogan in 1947 “A Diamond is Forever”. This campaign encouraged more sales. Basically, the durability of a diamond conveyed the meaning that marriage is forever.
Diamonds are now available in more cuts and more styles. Popular cuts are emerald cut, princess cut and oval cut.
A diamond is internationally recognized as a symbol of love. And, according to a survey conducted by DeBeers, four out of five brides receive a diamond engagement ring. Engagement rings are symbolic of everything that defines love and relationships. And, of course, wedding rings are symbolic of a never-ending union between two souls.