WHY DO WE PROPOSE WITH ENGAGEMENT RINGS?
According to the latest Wedding Survey by The Knot, couples spent an average of $5,855 on an engagement ring in 2016. In another survey published in December of 2016, the Diamond Producers Association (2016) found that millennial consumers want to give and receive diamond jewelry as much as any other age group, and that the top category of diamond jewelry women want are diamond earrings and a diamond ring. But when did diamond rings – and more particularly diamond engagement rings – become so popular, and where does this proposal tradition spring from?
According to a recent piece in Reader’s Digest, the tradition of engagement rings dates back to the ancient Egyptians. They believed that circles were symbols of eternity, and wedded couples exchanged rings. No diamonds were present in this ceremony, obviously, since the rings were made out of braided reeds. Both men and women wore their rings on the left hand ring finger – believed to have had a vein that ran directly to the heart.
According to the American Gem Society, the tradition in more modern times (around the 2nd century BC) was kick started by the Romans, and had little to do with romance: the grooms gifted their brides with rings attached to small keys, symbolizing their husbands’ ownership.
The first diamond engagement ring dates back to 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria gifted the first ever diamond engagement ring. His lucky woman, Mary of Burgundy, set a trend for diamond rings for European aristocracy and nobility. In the Victorian era, engagement rings were already set with gemstones other than diamonds, and were often crafted in the shapes of flowers.
Fast forward to the 1930s, with the opening of the DeBeers mines in Africa, and the rising accessibility and affordability of diamonds. De Beers’ famous “A Diamond is Forever” campaign in 1947 opted to promote the prestige and durability of diamonds, and forever linked the idea of a diamond engagement ring to romantic love and commitment. Since then, diamond rings have been the leading diamond jewelry piece sold in jewelry stores worldwide.