The History of the Diamond as an Engagement Ring
Diamonds signify steadfast, enduring love because of their unmatched strength and beauty. The versatile look of diamonds enables them to be worn with any outfit, from an elegant cocktail dress to blue jeans. It’s no wonder diamond engagement rings are the most popular accompaniment to popping the question.
Although the tradition of giving a ring to the woman who has promised to become your bride goes back centuries, diamond engagement rings are a relatively recent innovation. Diamond engagement rings first became popular in the 1930s. By 1965, 80 percent of all new brides in the United States sported one.
What's the most important criterion for the diamond engagement ring? It should be a piece of jewelry that she loves and that fits within his budget. Find the style that best fits her personality with our fun, What Kind of Engagement Ring Should You Buy quiz.
The History of the Diamond Engagement Ring
A man presents his prospective bride with an engagement ring upon acceptance of his marriage proposal. Anthropologists believe this tradition originated from a Roman custom in which wives wore rings attached to small keys, indicating their husbands' ownership. In 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy. This sparked a trend for diamond rings among European aristocracy and nobility.
The sentimental Victorians popularized ornate engagement ring designs that mixed diamonds with other gemstones, precious metals and enamels. Often these rings were crafted in the shapes of flowers and were dubbed “posey rings.” Diamond rings crafted during the Edwardian era continued the tradition of pairing diamonds with other jewels, commonly mounted in filigree settings.
Diamonds were too rare and expensive for those of lesser means to afford until the discovery of African diamond mines in the 1870s. The De Beers Company was the sole owner and operator of these newly discovered mines in South Africa. In the 1930s, when demand for diamond rings declined in the U.S. during hard economic times, the De Beers Company began an aggressive marketing campaign using photographs of glamorous movie stars swathed in diamonds. Within three years, the sales of diamonds had increased by 50 percent.
In 1947, De Beers launched its now classic slogan, "A Diamond is Forever." This spurred even more sales. The implied durability of a diamond conveyed the meaning in the American psyche that marriage is forever. A diamond's purity and sparkle have now become symbols of the depth of a man's commitment to the woman he loves in practically all corners of the world.
In 1992, the average cost of a diamond engagement ring was $1,500. Today, the average cost is closer to $5,000.
Over the years, the most popular cut for diamond engagement rings has always been the round brilliant,consisting of 58 facets that divide the stone into a top and bottom half. Runners up include the princess cut, the emerald cut and the oval cut, with the cushion cut quickly gaining popularity as a recent trend.