Since the beginning, men have bound women to them using symbolic objects tied to the female’s wrists, fingers, or ankles. During primitive times, cavemen were known to have braided grass leaves into bracelets and tied them to their chosen mate’s wrists and ankles. In the 15th century, the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond-studded ring. Since then, engagement rings have always had a diamond set at the center or diamonds covering the ring’s circumference. Too few engagement rings skip the diamonds and go for alternatives, like emeralds or amethyst.
Mass Marketing Diamond Engagement Rings to the World
Rings made of precious stone on precious metals used to be made to order by wealthy patrons or members of the Royal court. Not all women would have the luxury of seeing those sparkly stones on their fingers. However, when DeBeers was founded around 1880 following a huge discovery of diamonds in Cape Colony, South Africa, the world trade in diamonds rose exponentially. This also led to more diamond rings being created for engagements, weddings, anniversaries, or some other purpose.
Six years after, the world-famous Tiffany and Company introduced a six-pronged setting that raised the diamond above the band to better display its luminescence. In the 1890s, the industry was able to sell very affordable engagement and wedding rings with diamond settings through mail-order catalogs, like Sears and Roebuck. This further made diamond engagement rings even more popular to the vast majority of women. In the 1920s, the industry tried to create engagement rings for men, but this idea didn’t take off as expected (of course!).
Different Types of Engagement Rings
The type of engagement ring given to one’s fiancée depends on cultural and personal preferences. In highly conservative societies, such as with the Puritans previously and now with the Amish, rings made from gold and set with precious stones seem so extravagant, which makes them a no-no to couples in these communities. As an alternative, men would give the women silver thimble to express the couple’s decision to make a lifelong commitment to each through marriage. In contrast, contemporary societies in highly urban areas look at the size and brilliance of the stone on an engagement ring as representative of the man’s love and commitment towards the woman until the matrimonial ceremony happens and the ring is paired with a real wedding ring.
Some couples prefer to wear an Eternity ring that binds them together for all eternity because of the continuous setting of diamonds of equal shape and size around the ring’s circumference. Other couples like the Trinity Ring, which consists of three hoops made from precious metals – pink gold for love, white gold for friendship, and yellow gold for fidelity. According to a “History of Engagement Rings” article written for the Reader’s Digest by Kelly Bare of YourTango.com, Cartier made this kind of ring for Jean Cocteau who presented it to his lover, Raymond Radiguet, as a symbol of their undying love for each other. To this day, the Trinity Ring remains a popular engagement and wedding ring in France.