diamond engagement ring history

Engagement rings are common now a days, offering such a special ring is considered to be one of the biggest and most awaited steps in a relationship. In fact, the custom of offering engagement rings is older than you might think, the only difference is diamonds were not the top choice gemstone for this matter.

History of Engagement Rings

Engagement ring history starts from  2nd century  BC, Pliny the Elder notes in his writings that it is custom for the Roman groom to give the bride a gold ring, to be worn at the marriage ceremony and at special events and and iron ring to wear at home. Rings didn’t have a romantic connotation back then, as they were symbols for a woman belonging to a man.

Meanwhile, in Asia, a hundred years later, sultans  and sheiks use puzzle rings to “tag” each of their wives. Just imagine, how many rings a sultan had to buy…

Engagement rings became more and more important over the years, but sadly, just for the women, as it was common practice in Medieval England for men to give girls rings made of rush. Of course, they wouldn’t marry them afterwards, and that’s why the bishop of Salisbury puts an end to this practice by declaring a marriage made with a rush ring as legally-binding.

One of the first recorded uses of a diamond engagement ring dates from 1477, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposes to Mary of Burgundy with a personalized diamond ring. Thin, flat, diamond pieces were set in the shape of the letter M. 2 years earlier, Constanzo Sforza gave his bride, Camilla d’Aragona a diamond ring on their wedding day. Naturally, only royalties and wealthy noblemen were able to afford the luxury of giving diamond rings as engagement presents.

During the Renaissance, engagement rings are becoming more and more important and their design is also part of their charm, aside from the gemstones. Twin rings were very popular back then, as they were composed of two hoops that slid open to reveal love emblems and inscriptions. Twin rings evolved into faith rings, in which two clasped hands holding a diamond heart represented the unity of love. This romantic purpose of engagement rings was something rather common in Europe, but not across the Atlantic Ocean. Puritans gave their wives useful thimbles instead of rings, but the wives had something else in mind and they cut off the thimbles’ tops and wore them as rings anyway.

After the 17th century, there was again a shift to the gemstones as opposed to the setting for engagement rings, and diamonds were a more and more popular choice, as new gemstones were found during minings in South America.

Queen Victoria played an important part in the popularization of diamonds, as she had a real passion for sentimental jewels. She received an enamel band set with a single diamond as a gift of love from Albert and even her engagement ring was a serpent, ,the ancient symbol of protection and eternity. Victorians often used to make jewelry out of flocks of human hair (usually form beloved ones) and gemstones to spell out names or terms of endearment.

After the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1867, there was a sudden increase in diamond supply, and this lead to even more diamond jewelry and engagement rings, from here starts the history of diamond engagement rings .Cutting techniques allowed diamonds to look perfect and shine brightly in necklaces, bracelets, tiaras and rings. Tiffany & Co. introduces in 1886 the Tiffany setting, a special setting dezigned to maximizie the brilliance and the quality of a diamond. Up to now a days, Tiffany & Co. engagement rings are still the first choice for many brides-to be.

In the last decade of the 19th century, diamond rings were finally not only for the wealthiest people of the world, as they even appeared in mail-order catalogs. Of course, these were affordable, and didn’t have high quality standards, but still, brides were able to dream about having a diamond on their finger.

One of the traditional wedding rings in France, even today is the Cartier Trinity Ring, which has pink gold, white gold and yellow gold hoops intertwined.

In 1920, manufacturers and jewelers tried to sell engagement rings for men. This was a big flop, as men don’t seem to eager to wear them. Only in the 1940’s men started to wear wedding rings too, one them being famous actor Humphrey Bogart at his fifth and final wedding to actress Lauren Bacall.

By the 21st century, a more then third of couples buying diamond engagement rings are saving up at least two months’ worth of a salary to spend on them.

Engagement rings have established their position as symbols of love and faith, which gives them a sentimental value along with the financial one, and that’s why it’s important to treat them as a real investment. AGI New York provides a whole range of services, from diamond appraisals, certifications and insurance, so that our clients can benefit from diamond engagement rings on the long term. Scheduling an appointment is easy, you just need to contact us or pay us a visit and our gemologists will take care of the rest.

Photo Credit: Pixbay.com, user: BurningWell