While engagement rings have become a staple of our modern culture, the origin of the symbol of love is widely believed to have roots all the way back to ancient Egyptian culture. Many Egyptians have been found to be buried with either wire or hemp around their ring finger as many as 6,000 years ago. The thought was that the finger was connected directly to their heart through a vein called the Vena amoris.
The first diamond engagement ring
A fast-forward from ancient Egypt to 1477 brings the first example in modern history of a diamond being used in an engagement ring. Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned a wedding ring to be made for his soon to be bride, Mary of Burgundy. The ring was made of gold and used flat diamond pieces to spell out the letter “M”.
This gesture became popular among other European nobles, and eventually gave way to the middle class adapting their own engagement rings. Because diamonds were not affordable to the middle class at this time, many alternative stones such as a sapphire and rubies were used instead.
The engagement ring that we know now evolved during the Victorian era, which was centralized around the idea of romance due to Queen Victoria’s love of her husband Albert. At the time, marriages were arranged solely for political reasons.
The Queen’s rare love for her husband added extra sentiment to engagement rings of the time. The rings of the Victorian era were often intricate and filled with imagery of animals and flowers. Diamonds became one of the main features of an engagement ring at the end of this era.
DeBeers and Tiffany
In the late 1800’s, DeBeers production of diamonds in South Africa made the availability of diamonds explode. The use of diamonds in engagement rings skyrocketed. However, the economic slowdown of the 1930’s greatly reduced the demand for diamonds. In an attempt to boost diamond sales, DeBeers began using movie starts such as Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly to advertise their diamonds.
In 1947 the popular phrase “A Diamond is Forever” was coined. This phrase had a great effect on diamond sales, and solidified the diamond as the symbol for everlasting love between a couple. Shortly after by 1965, 80% of all new brides in the US owned a diamond engagement ring.
During this era, Tiffany created the “Tiffany Setting”, which brought the center diamond over the band. This is the style that continues to be popular in today’s engagement ring market.
Custom is the future
There have been several changes to engagement ring trends as a whole over the past 100 years. Different diamond cuts have fallen in and out of popularity (the cushion cut is making a strong comeback right now). But the biggest trend that we are seeing is the move to a custom engagement ring.
With advances in technology and the overuse of cookie-cutter designs by the big name designers, many brides and grooms have moved in the custom market. At Jonathan’s Fine Jewelers, we are able to create any ring built around the diamond of your choice for a fraction of the price of larger retailers!
Take a look at our engagement ring page to find out more about the current custom design trend in engagement rings.