When you think of wedding proposals, do you picture diamond rings? You’re not alone. A diamond engagement ring has symbolized eternal love in American culture for decades.
But engagement rings didn’t always feature diamonds, and they didn’t even always symbolize love. The idea of presenting engagement and wedding rings goes back thousands of years to the early Egyptians and has changed over time.
Read on to learn about the history of engagement rings.
Ancient Egyptians wore wedding rings of braided reeds as a symbol of the eternal nature of a marriage. They wore the rings on the fourth finger of the left hand, believing that was the location of the “vein of love.”
Greece and Rome
Greeks and Romans wore betrothal and wedding rings made of leather, bone, ivory, flint, copper, and iron.
Eventually, wealthy women in Rome wore an iron ring at home and a gold ring on social occasions. These rings could demonstrate love, or they might show that the wife was the property of her husband.
In the middle ages, rings began to be engraved with figures of the engaged couples. Other rings were engraved with romantic phrases or verses to show affection.
The history of diamond engagement rings starts in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria ordered a diamond ring for his fiancee, Mary of Burgundy. This ring featured narrow diamonds set in the shape of an “M.”
In the early 1900s, engagement rings became more popular, and the history of engagement ring styles saw changes. Some rings featured tiny diamonds set around a larger, round diamond. When the 1920s brought Art Deco fashion, rings featured angled lines, colored stones, and square-cut gems.
1940s Diamond Ad Campaign
The history of engagement rings in America took a turn during the Great Depression when diamond prices and sales were falling. The de Beers diamond company launched an astonishingly successful ad campaign to promote diamond engagement rings and diamond facts.
Their marketing agency ran newspaper ads showing movie stars with fancy diamond bands. They even sent lecturers to high schools to teach that engagement should start with a diamond ring. Their new slogan, “A diamond is forever,” portrayed the diamond as a symbol of eternal love and commitment.
The campaign worked–diamond sales reached 2.1 billion dollars in 1979.
Over 80 percent of American brides now get diamond engagement rings, and sales of diamond rings are growing in India, China, and Japan. But couples are also looking for ways to create new traditions or express themselves with creative ring designs and colored stones. Some, like Meghan Markle, wear stacking rings and add bands on for special occasions or anniversaries.
Enjoy the History of Engagement Rings
When you learn the history of engagement rings, you might appreciate your ring as a symbol thousands of years old. Or you may decide to create your own traditions using ring new designs, stones, and materials. Whatever ring you choose, make it a symbol that can last a lifetime!
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