Engagement rings are a common mainstay in modern culture, but the meaning that is associated with an engagement ring has evolved over time. It was only in 1947 that diamond engagement rings became popular thanks to an advertising campaign by N.W. Ayer and De Beers. Despite diamond engagement rings being only as old as the technology that powers today’s microwaves, there is a storied past behind these little tokens of commitment. Read on for a glimpse into the centuries of history that engagement rings carry with them.
Over the centuries, rings would be made out of bone, flint, stone, copper, silver, and then gold to symbolize the union between two partners. At first, only women would wear them in Roman times, but then findings from Pompeii suggested that both partners would sport an iron ring at home which would be swapped for gold in public. Engagement rings would represent more of the financial sacrifice and political agreements of a union. It wasn’t until 1947 that “a diamond is forever” became ubiquitous with engagement.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, sapphires were popular among the royals for their symbolism of love, truth, and commitment. They would fall in and out of popularity for the next several centuries. In the 20th century during the art deco period, sapphires became popular as accent gems in larger diamond-style designs. After Princess Diana selected her oval-cut blue sapphire halo engagement ring from the royal jewelry collection she officially brought the gem back into the public’s desire. Since then, the gem has steadily gained popularity as consumers become more intrigued with their gem options. Sapphire now ranks as the 2nd most popular gem choice for an engagement ring.
These days, couples have been able to further push the tradition of engagement rings into more modern territory. From our expert perspective, we’ve seen clients be innovative and feel the freedom to approach engagement rings with an unconstrained mindset. We’ve seen two men propose to each other with minimal 4mm bands and add a narrower 2mm textured band at their wedding ceremony. We’ve seen a client propose with a necklace, and are thrilled to see the trend of dual proposals - each partner proposing to each other with a ring - starting to take deeper root. You can more about this trend inour blog post about VM couple Josh and Emily.
You can also read more about the history of engagement rings and other historic jewelry pieces inStoned by Aja Raden, which is a recommended read from the VM staff.