10 Things You Didn’t Know About the History of the Diamond Engagement Ring
By Ashley Bailey , Tuesday, September 07, 2010
- Diamonds were first discovered in India as far back as 800 B.C.., and wedding bands have been used since ancient Greek times, but diamonds were not used on wedding bands or engagement rings until the fifteenth century.
- The ancient Greeks instituted the practice of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand. They believed that the “vena amoris” or vein of love, ran from that finger directly to the heart.
- The engagement period as we know it today began in 1215, when Pope Innocent III mandated that all couples go through a waiting period between announcing their intention to marry and the wedding itself. He also encouraged the brides to wear simple rings during the engagement period, to make it clear to all that they were betrothed.
- The first diamond engagement ring in recorded history was the ring given to Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke Maxmilian of Hamburg in 1477.
- During the Renaissance, diamond engagement rings became popular among the ruling classes of Europe. Many grooms inscribed the rings with “posies” or short love notes or quotes from famous romantic poems.
- During the seventeenth century, popular European ring styles had great symbolic meaning for the wearers. For example, the “gimmel” ring consisted of two hoops that locked together, much like a couple joined in marriage, and the “fede” ring had a diamond heart nestled in two clasped hands.
- Meanwhile in America, the strictly religious Puritans did not approve of diamond engagement rings, which they viewed as frivolous. Instead, engaged women were given silver thimbles to use while sewing and mending clothes. After the wedding, the thimbles could be converted into a simple wedding band.
- In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil and Africa created much wider accessibility for diamonds and diamond jewelry. For the first time, a diamond engagement ring became a luxury accessible to the middle class, not just a privilege of the upper classes.
- In 1886, Tiffany and Co. introduced the Tiffany diamond engagement ring, a diamond solitaire with a six-prong setting. This ring was seen as sleek and modern in comparison with the ornate, embellished styles available at the time. Tiffany-style rings are the most popular diamond engagement ring style even today
- In the 1920’s, the Art Deco styles popular at the time influenced the design of diamond engagement rings. Many rings from this period feature bold geometric designs and heavy use of colored gemstones such as rubies and emeralds. These antique rings are still considered very valuable.
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