A Backward Glance at the History of Engagement Rings

Maximilian offers an engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy. Miniature in a medieval manuscript copy of the Excellent Chronicle of Flanders by Anthonis de Roovere. Ca. 1485-1515. (Bruges Public Library Ms. 437)

To many people, engagement rings have a deeper meaning than just jewelry. They are a sign of devotion, love, and commitment. They are an extensive symbol of faithfulness, perfection, and infinity. They are also a profound representation of two people uniting to embark on a beautiful journey of spending their entire life together.

Traditional Meaning of Engagement Rings

Engagement rings have a long and fascinating history. Their first mention dates back to historical writings and archeological findings. However, the idea of giving an engagement ring emanated in Ancient Egypt.

Although an engagement ring is a symbol of love and romance, conventionally, it was a sign of ownership. It used to profess mutual love and obedience, with the circular shape symbolizing eternity.

Today, rings are made of gold, diamond, or other luxurious materials. In the past, couples would twist plants into small circles as a representation of a ring. The wealthy and royalty couples used ivory or leather instead of plants. However, with time, gemstones and diamonds became more popular among people.

A Sign of Marriage

As time progressed, engagement rings got an official meaning. Around 850, Pope Nicholas I revealed that the engagement ring exhibited a man’s intent to marry. During this time, gold was the most common material for betrothal rings. After some time, the diamond ring started becoming popular among people.

The History of Diamond Engagement Rings

The first diamond engagement ring was used by Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Maximillian proposed to his lover Mary Burgundy in 1477. The proposal gave rise to a culture that blossomed in elite societies. However, the engagement ring’s popularity didn’t skyrocket among the people until the mid-1900s.

Diamond rings started gaining popularity in 1947 when the British–owned company De Beers came up with a new advertising campaign. The campaign used the slogan “A diamond is forever.” This campaign led to massive popularity in diamond engagement rings.

Part of De Beers’ advertising campaign ‘A Diamond is Forever’

Within three years after the campaign launch, there was a dramatic increase in the sales of diamond engagement rings by 50 percent. Today, 90 percent of couples use diamond engagement rings. The rise in popularity of diamond rings is due to their sparkling characteristic, hardness, and rich history.

The Latest Millennial Trend

Today, there is a significant paradigm shift in engagement ring preferences. Although many lovers wore diamond and yellow gold rings, most brides are now going for colored stones and rings designed with unique materials. In most cases, people buy white gold, platinum, and other precious materials such as sapphire and ruby. 
For instance, Prince William selected a stunning blue sapphire engagement ring. He did so while proposing to his lover Kate Middleton. Also, Ryan Reynolds chose a light pink oval diamond while proposing to his lover, actress Blake Lively. 
However astonishing it may sound, only a few engagement rings are bought without the partner’s knowledge. Today, partners make a decision together on the type of engagement ring to purchase, depending on their budget and preference. With the unplanned proposals, men do not involve their lovers in the selection process.