The History of the Diamond in Jewelry Design and Engagement Rings

A person may have a thought at some point as to why diamond rings became the most popular way to symbolize engagement, especially since they can be costly. There are indeed many alternatives to this classic ring, however, the diamond engagement ring is still the standard and most deeply rooted choice. From 2800 BC onwards, it was tradition to symbolize a union between two people, as even before the modern day there was an instinct to find a symbol for this. Diamond engagement rings did not become the standard until somewhat recently, surprisingly, even with the history surrounding tokens with symbolic value.

The first recorded appearance of this ring was during the Renaissance. During ancient times before this point, the standard was two rings to symbolize marriage, a gold ring for the public, and an iron ring for more private areas, like the house. The practice continued as it became more customary until it was challenged as a tradition during the Middle Ages, where it was declared that there was to be a waiting period between receiving the ring and marriage. An idea of giving one special engagement ring, and then a second ring during the ceremony began to catch on. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a ring inset with diamonds that formed an “M” shape, which was the first time this had been done. It then began to be used more often by people with higher social class.

Until the discovery of diamond mines in Southern Africa, the demand for this ring was terrible due to lacking in resources. The demand naturally increased exponentially with this discovery, and huge amounts of diamonds began being produced per year. However, this did not mean that they became cheaper. Diamond engagement rings were almost unattainable for those with financial hardship or limits, and this only became even more apparent after the Great Depression began. Their popularity quickly shrunk after they became unaffordable.

It only looked bleaker when research began suggesting that they were going out of style with younger people. Excess diamonds weren’t in use and the mines themselves were on the verge of shutdown. But in 1938, the diamond cartel De Beers created a marketing campaign that would forever change the public’s view of diamonds and diamond rings. Before this campaign, the demand was still abysmal. Their goal was to show that diamond engagement rings were affordable and some of the best choices for an engagement ring. This campaign began with making the 4 Cs of diamonds, cut, carats, color, and clarity, abundantly clear to people. Due to actions they took, diamond engagement rings became ever-present in media, and thus could be seen for their high value more often. This was precisely what they wanted, and by 1947, they introduced the phrase “A Diamond is Forever,” and the demand for diamond rings skyrocketed. By 1990, 80% of all engagement rings had diamonds in them. It may be surprising to note that they were standardized recently, and by a single company, as these rings are so intertwined with the modern societal culture at this point that they will forever remain the symbol that they have grown to be. Diamonds may be forever tied to special occasions, especially engagement rings and custom jewelry design.

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