A Brief History of the Diamond Engagement Ring

Est. Reading: 3 minutes
April 20, 2023
black white photo man putting engagement ring on woman's hands
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The diamond engagement rings of today are an unmistakable representation of love, devotion and commitment. In many cultures around the world, they also stand as an outward sign of the inward love for the spouse-to-be – regardless of gender.

This hasn’t always been the way though.

In this article, we take a brief look at the history of the diamond engagement ring, how engagement customs have changed over time, and how you can design your own diamond engagement ring – read on!

The Origin of The Engagement Ring

Similar to many wedding-related customs, the wearing of an engagement ring is believed to have originated with the ancient Romans. Surprisingly though, what we view as a symbol of love and a promise of commitment today, was actually viewed by the Romans as very little more than a sign of ownership!

At the time, a Roman husband-to-be would present a ring to his partner as a way to signify a business contract or to affirm obedience. In very early Roman times these engagement rings, or ‘betrothal rings’, were rarely made of gold however – instead, they were fashioned using ivory, flint, bone, copper, or iron.

According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), it wasn’t until 850 AD that engagement rings were given an official standing by the Catholic church.

This came via a declaration from Pope Nicholas I where he stated that an engagement ring represented a man’s intent to marry. As a stipulation though, the ring was meant to represent a ‘financial sacrifice’, with gold being the most popular material for rings at the time.

Why Do We Use Diamonds for Engagement Rings?

The very first recorded appearance of diamonds appearing in an engagement ring was in 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy. This majestic engagement ring was reportedly set with long, narrow diamonds, mounted into the shape of an ‘M’.

It wasn’t until the 1940s that diamonds eventually became synonymous with engagement rings made for the ‘everyday’ person. This change came due to a strategic (and very effective) advertising campaign launched by the diamond mining corporation De Beers in 1947.

Aided by a whole host of Hollywood stars wearing diamond engagement rings onscreen and offscreen – as well as the now immortal tagline, “A Diamond is Forever” – De Beers caused diamond engagement rings to skyrocket in popularity.

Today, diamond-set rings account for almost 90% of all engagement rings sold around the world.

What About Modern Engagement Rings?

Nowadays, modern materials, tools, and craftmanship have helped to free the diamond from its ‘old-fashioned’ settings.

With precious metals such as platinum, palladium and titanium now being used for engagement rings, diamond settings can be reduced dramatically. This allows many modern engagement rings to now hold a particular focus on the stone itself.

These modern techniques have allowed the creation of exquisite ring examples, such as the world-famous ‘Tension Set Engagement Ring’ – a ring containing a single solitaire diamond, held only by the tension and pressure of its two solid ends.

The ‘technology’ around the modern engagement ring is not the only thing to have evolved however.

Today, ‘man-gagement rings’, or men’s engagement rings, have also become very popular!

Looking To Design a Custom Diamond Engagement Ring?

Why not get your own custom diamond engagement ring created at Martin Gear Jewellers?

As one of the only jewellers in Dublin with an onsite manufacturing workshop, we can produce your own little piece of history that’ll last for generations to come.

Just drop into our store or give us a call on (01) 872 8726.

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