History of the Engagement Ring

Traditions of the Engagement Ring date to classical times, from early usage reportedly referring to the fourth finger of the left hand as containing the vena amoris or "vein of love". The earliest records of the engagement ring show that the Archduke Maximillian of Hamburg may have started the trend among the wealthy and royalty of giving diamond engagement rings, when in 1477 he gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond betrothal ring. The ancient Romans called their engagement ring the betrothal (truth) ring.  The Romans were the first people to wear the engagement ring on the third finger of the left hand.  In the middle ages engagement rings with emeralds, sapphires and rubies would have been worn by those who could afford them.  Because diamond is the hardest and strongest mineral on earth it came to symbolise the union between woman and man in wedlock.    It was very popular with the wealthy and royalty to give diamond engagement rings. In South Africa in 1870 a huge diamond region was discovered, which on mining, flooded the market thus making the diamond not as rare and bringing the prices down. Within 10 years the famous De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd was formed by the Englishman Cecil John Rhodes to control the sale of diamonds throughout the world.  Today De Beers still control a considerable percentage of the world's diamond trade. During the 20th Century, platinum was banned for all but war use during WWII, and so the antique platinum diamond engagement ring became rare.  In 1947 De Beers launched a marketing programme with the slogan “Diamonds are For Ever”.  This convinced families to hold onto their diamonds as family heirlooms and less came back onto the market for resale.  This in turn created the diamond demand that De Beers were seeking.  De Beers also unofficially educated jewellers to instruct men that two or three months personal wages was the ideal price to pay for the diamond engagement ring. During the 21st Century the history of the engagement ring moved on but the demand for platinum and diamonds is still high.  An estimated 78% of all engagement rings sold every year are diamond. The purchase of an antique engagement ring today is not only an offer of love but a true investment.