You’ve found The One, and you’re about to propose to the love of your life? Most chances you’ll do it with a diamond ring. Today, over 80% of American brides get diamond engagement rings. But why? When was this tradition started, and how has it evolved with the years? A new piece by Reader’s Digest delves into this interesting question.
According to the piece, proposing with a ring dates back to the ancient Egyptians. They believed circles were symbols of eternity, and couples used to exchange rings made out of braided reeds and wear them on the left hand ring finger.
The ancient Romans are believed to have started “the tradition of betrothal rings in lieu of giving the bride money or a valuable object” during the 2nd century B.C, but it was more of a symbol of ownership than of love, as “the groom first gave the bride a gold ring to wear during the betrothal ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home, signifying her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her”.
Diamonds only appeared on engagement rings many centuries later when, in 1477, the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M”. The Austrian lover started the gem-set jewelry trend among the nobility of Europe.
The modern twist of diamond engagement rings was given by mining giant De Beers. The company’s ad agency, N.W. Ayer & Son, launched its famous “A diamond is forever” slogan during the Great Depression, and by the early 1940s, “engagement rings become the leading line of jewelry in most department stores”.