Monday, June 15, 2015

History of the Diamond Engagement Ring

Even before engagement rings as we know them today rose to popularity, couples have been exchanging tokens to signify their love and commitment to one another for centuries. While not always under the most romantic circumstances, especially in ancient times when marriages were more about ownership and power than anything else, an engagement ring would speak volumes about your relationship status, signifying an unbreakable promise to your betrothed.
The history of the engagement ring dates back all the way to pre-history times when cavemen would tie cords of braided grass around their mate to claim their spirit and bring it under their control. While the chosen token may have evolved over the years, the tradition of wearing an engagement ring, much like love, has stood the test of time.
Ancient times around 2800 B.C. – Egyptians are some of the earliest people that we can attribute to wearing rings to symbolize love. They have been found buried with simple silver or gold bands around the third finger of their left hand, which was believed to be connected to the heart by way of the “vena amoris.” Similarly, Ancient Roman culture placed particular emphasis on the fact that a ring symbolized eternity – no end and no beginning – and wore it as a sign of dedication to a person.
1477 – The first ever recorded instance of a more traditional version of an engagement ring was when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a band of flat diamonds. Diamonds were hard to come by at the time, but it was believed that they held magical powers relating to some key characteristics of marriage – love, fidelity, and purity.
The diamond encrusted ring from the Archduke did spark interest among royals and the nobility, and once they were discovered in larger deposits throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, access to them became more widespread, but only to those few that could afford them.
1700s – Poesy rings, simple gold or silver bands with poetry or love messages engraved on the inside, became increasingly popular in Europe throughout the 18th century. Puritans also echoed this simple taste in lieu of more ostentatious and expensive diamonds, instead choosing to give thimbles because they were deemed more useful. The tops would eventually be cut off and would be worn as more traditional rings.
1880s – Following the discovery of a large diamond deposit in South Africa, diamonds become more commonplace during the Victorian era, appearing much more frequently on engagement rings.
1900s – With the Industrial Revolution in full swing and people enjoying increasing prosperity, engagement rings become much more of a social norm across America and Europe. Rings were typically lacy and ornate to reflect the Edwardian era, but with the rise of the art deco movement of the 1920s, rings became more geometric in design and were often set with diamonds and other colorful stones, like sapphires.
Following World War II, Hollywood put engagement rings front and center. Audrey Hepburn received engagement rings in both yellow and rose gold so she could match them to any of her outfits, and Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor a colossal 33 carat diamond in 1963.
Present – With so much history behind us and having the access to do research on engagement rings like never before, a wide range of trends are available and no one style has reigned supreme. However, the traditional look remains the same – a band with a beautiful sparkling diamond.

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