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History of The Diamond as an Engagement Ring

Oct 4, 2021

History of The Diamond as an Engagement Ring

If you’ve ever heard Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” you’re familiar with the refrain, “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.” But where does the idea of putting a ring on it come from exactly? For that, we need to look to the history books.

It’s a fairly recent thing, the idea of being able to marry for love. In many cultures, arranged marriages are still the way to go. In fact, that’s where the ring itself comes in. While there’s evidence dating as far back to Ancient Rome that women wore rings, the meaning of those rings vary. For some, it was meant to signify mutual love and obedience. For others, it referenced a business contract. And what was marriage in those times if not a business contract? 

In 850, Pope Nicholas I identified an engagement ring as a statement of a man’s intent to marry. Gold had been the reigning material for rings since at least the second century CE. Pope Nicholas I declared the betrothal ring was both an intention and a reflection of the financial sacrifice to be made. Yet it wasn’t until about 627 years later that history recorded the use of a diamond being used as part of the betrothal ring. Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 with a ring set with long, narrow diamonds mounted in the shape of an “M.” The Archduke was ahead of his time, as diamonds wouldn’t be a popular stone of choice until the 1700s, when the use of faceted gemstones became fashionable. 

When Queen Victoria took the throne in 1837, the timing coincided with new diamond mine discoveries. She became known for her love of diamonds, along with the love story she and her husband shared. There’s a reason the Victorian period is known for its association with romance and love! Thanks to Victoria’s influence, the discoveries of new diamond mines, and a shift from arranged marriages to marriage for love in Western cultures, diamond solitaire engagement rings became more common choices for betrothal rings.

During the Great Depression, the diamond industry saw a steep decline in sales, like many other industries at the time. However, in a post-war economy flush with cash, diamonds were put front and center again. The slogan, “A diamond is forever,” was launched into the world in 1947 by DeBeers, a British company that mined diamonds in South Africa. With help from Hollywood stars who wore diamond engagement rings onscreen and off, a new trend was started. 

These days, diamonds are still popular choices for engagement rings, though celebrities have opted for colored diamonds in addition to the now classic diamond. Gemstones are also trendy, with many brides choosing to wear a birthstone for their engagement ring. 

If you’re ready to start the next chapter of your love story by putting a ring on it, let Samuelson’s Diamonds help! To schedule your private consultation, you can fill out our online form or give us a call at 410-837-0290. 

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