The engagement ring has changed forms throughout the ages, but what has remained the same is the indication of a special betrothal, vow, partnership and bond.
While early engagement rings were simple gold, iron, bronze or silver bands, as gemstones and precious metals become more accessible to the masses, the engagement ring evolved.
Today, the most popular engagement ring style of all is the solitaire diamond engagement ring. But how did this particular style suddenly become the standard, traditional engagement ring design after centuries of various gemstone and metal designs?
You might be surprised to learn that the solitaire diamond engagement ring with the six prong setting we have all come to love is a rather modern invention. In fact, while diamond and gemstone engagement rings had been growing in popularity since the late 1400s, they were typically quite extravagant, with intricate metal work and multiple gemstones.
It was only in the late 1800s that the solitaire diamond engagement ring came into its own. In the 1870s, new and plentiful diamond deposits were discovered in South Africa. This large quantity of rough stones coupled with the new technology generated by the Industrial Revolution lead to huge leaps in diamond cutting technology and made the solitaire diamond ring more appealing and more accessible.
It was in 1886 that Tiffany introduced the six-pronged platinum setting, now known as the Tiffany setting. It was this setting that brought the solitaire diamond engagement ring into the spotlight and it was this setting that kept it there.
Today, diamonds and diamond engagement rings seem synonymous with marriage. But, monogamous relationship and the institution of marriage have been around for thousands of years – ages before the first diamond engagement ring appeared on the scene.
In fact the engagement ring, or the betrothal ring, is believed to date back to ancient Egypt, or possibly earlier. However, some believe that these early rings were rudimentary and made out of crude materials such as grass, wood, iron and bronze.
It wasn’t until the 15th century that any mention of a diamond engagement ring was recorded in the books. This monumental diamond ring which was to go down in history was gifted by Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg to Mary of Burgandy in honor of their engagement.
While this was the first instance of a diamond engagement ring, this gift certainly didn’t begin the diamond engagement rings trend. Diamond and gemstones were only available to the extremely rich or the royal until quite recently.
Only in the late 19th century were diamond mines discovered in South Africa. New industrial technology allowed for the plethora of discovered diamond deposits to be mined, manufactured and distributed quickly and efficiently all over the world. The combination of the discovery of these deposits and technology made diamonds and gemstones more affordable and more accessible.
But the real diamond engagement ring boost came over fifty years later when De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. began looking for ways to help increase the declining sale of diamonds brought about by the Great Depression. In 1947 the company launched running their now famous advertising campaign “A Diamond is Forever”. It was this campaign that transformed the diamond from what was once an exclusive luxury item to the essential component of a suitable engagement.