A Brief History of the Engagement Ring
A diamond is forever, right?
Engagement rings have come into mainstream culture over the last 100 years. But the wedding ring dates back to ancient times.
The first wedding rings were discovered by anthropologists in ancient Egypt. Relics dating back to 6,000 years ago were evidence that braided rings of hemp or reeds were exchanged between spouses.
When it comes to engagement rings, anthropologists believed this tradition originated in a Roman custom. Wives wore rings attached to small keys, indicating their husband’s ownership.
In 1477 Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the first diamond engagement ring for Mary of Burgundy. The Romans were believed to give rings instead of giving a bride money or a valuable object.
Before the 20th century, engagement rings were luxury items. They were rare in society, and almost never contained diamonds.
A Diamond is Forever
In 1939, this all changed when the De Beers diamond company hired ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son. Then in 1947, De Beers launched the classic slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” The technical reason a diamond is forever is because it’s the hardest precious stone, able to endure generations of wear. However the social implications of the diamond are what transformed the engagement ring into a fixture in society.
By the 1940’s, engagement rings were the leading jewelry sold in most department stores and a symbol of love, devotion and committment.
The “Diamond is Forever” campaign coincided with the opening of the De Beers mines in Africa, making diamonds more accessible on a global level.
The Engagement Ring Today
Now, there’s no denying that society puts pressure and high expectations on both men and women to receive a flashy diamond ring as a symbol of love. It’s influenced the way men and women interact with one another because we—the jewelry industry—created it.
As time progresses, some people are choosing to veer from tradition, opting for different gemstones or custom designs for their engagement ring.
Whatever you decide, your engagement ring is you, on your finger. It’s less about the size and amount of money spent on it, and more about choosing something that’s a true reflection of you. Your bridal story is yours to create.