Engagement Ring History

Today we will discuss the most important and trembling topic of all times - LOVE. Since the beginning of time, two different people meet and form a union that is meant to last forever. This union is based on mutual love, respect, and companionship. Although traditions vary through cultures and periods, centuries later this is still true today.

In the 21st century, one of the most iconic symbols of love is the engagement ring. A diamond that will last forever, crafted in smooth precious metals and placed on a wedding ring finger of your loved one. An engagement ring, like we know it today is relatively a new concept.

In this blog post you will learn: 

  • Engagement Ring History
  • Engagement Rings Across Cultures 
  • Historically-valuable Engagement Rings 
  • The Iconic Diamond Solitaire
Antique Vintage Estate Engagement Rings

Engagement Ring History

Ancient Engagement Rings History As with many things in life, engagement rings originated in ancient Rome and were a symbol of ownership. This concept sounds a bit controversial nowadays, but back then it protected a woman from being touched by men other than her husband. Ancient engagement rings didn’t feature diamonds, and according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), they often featured ivory, flint, bone, copper, iron and conveyed “a business contract  to affirm mutual love and obedience”. Archaeological discoveries of Pompeii proved that gold rings were the preferred material for engagement rings since the common era.
The very first diamond engagement ring - made an appearance in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Australia proposed to Mary of Burgundy. GIA states the ring featured long and narrow diamonds that were arranged in the letter “M” for Mary.

In 1901 the engagement ring trend arrived in America and established its popularity. The Edwardian and Art Deco eras feature engagement ring designs that stand out for their feminine, dainty and elaborate designs. These rings had a larger Old Mine or Old European Cut diamond, which was then set in mainly crafted platinum and displayed intricate filigree or engraving metalwork. Here are some outstanding Edwardian and Art Deco Engagement Rings that are available at Jack Weir & Sons. (Click on the image to learn more about the piece).

 Antique English Edwardian Navette Diamond Gold RingArt Deco 5.04 carat Old European Diamond Engagement Ring

Art Deco 1.51 Old Mine Cut Diamond FiligreeEngagement Ring Art Deco Cartier 4.02 carat Old Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring

Engagement Rings Across Cultures 


Chile - Both men and women receive engagement rings which are worn on the right hand before the marriage and move to the left hand during the marriage ceremony. This tradition represents the transition from engagement to marriage. Sounds familiar? That is what we do in the United States during the graduation ceremony, the tassel on the cap is moved from right to left after the diploma is received. 

Japanese engagement rings Japan - The Akoya Japanese saltwater pearls are the rarest and most sought-after pearls in the world. They are so rare, that at some point they became considered non-existent. A new chapter in history began when Kokichi Mikimoto invented that world’s first cultured pearl. For a long time, Japanese engagement rings featured pearls. They were a gift of nature, luxurious, simple, and elegant - everything Japanese women adored.

France - although diamonds are extremely popular in the Western world, the French have been known to often use sapphires, emeralds, or rubies.
England - The British royal family started the Sapphire Cluster ring trend in the U.S. Known as the Princess Diana Cluster, and now owned by Kate Middleton, the classical sapphire diamond cluster engagement ring is very popular and desirable these days.

 

Kenya - instead of traditional engagement rings, couples exchange elaborate jewelry. 

engagement ring history

Hindu Cultures - women wear toe rings to symbolize engagement to a man. These toe rings are called “Bichiya”. There is a belief that toe rings press on nerves that are interconnected with the reproductive system and promote fertility.

Indian Cultures - in some regions of India women wear many elaborate bangle   bracelets instead of a traditional engagement ring. The bangles symbolize a good future and prosperity, which are key to a successful Indian marriage. Moreover, on their wedding day, Indian women are adorned with lavish and elaborate gold jewelry.

Antique Engagement Rings Irish Claddagh Rings - these rings represent friendship, loyalty, and love. The hands are for friendship, the heart symbolizes love and the crown represents loyalty. Here is where it gets fun: Wear the ring on the right hand with the crown facing you to show you are single. Wear on the right hand with the crown facing outward if you are in a relationship. Move to the left hand with the crown facing you to indicate engagement. And finally, wear it on the left hand with the crown facing outward to symbolize marriage.

Historically-valuable Engagement Rings

1. From Napoleon Bonaparte to Joséphine de Beauharnais (1796)Napoleon Bonaparte engagement ring

2. From Prince Albert to Queen Victoria (1840)

Queen Victoria Snake Engagement Ring

This couple was known for their long-lasting, passionate love. The twisting serpent ring was crafted in yellow gold, as a symbol of eternal love, and featured an emerald - Queen Victoria’s birthstone.  

 

3. From John F. Kennedy to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (1953) 

 John F. Kennedy to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier engagement ring

Designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, Jacqueline Kennedy’s ring features 2.88-carat diamond, 2.84-carat emerald, and several tapered baguette diamonds.

 

 

 

4. From Mel Ferrer to Audrey Hepburn (1954)

Audrey Hepburn engagement ring

Audrey Hepburn was the fashion icon of her time. Knowing he was about to marry a 1950s fashionista, Mel Ferrer proposed with three stackable eternity bands in white gold and diamonds, yellow and rose gold. She could switch them out or wear all three, depending on her outfit for that day.

 

 

 

5. From Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer (1981)

Lady Diana princess engagement ring

The soon-to-be princess was only 19 when she was presented with a selection of rings from Garrard, the royal family’s jeweler. She chose the sapphire cluster, which featured a 12 carat Ceylon sapphire, surrounded by 14 diamonds. Diana’s son, Prince William proposed to his future wife, Kate Middleton with this exact ring.

 

The Iconic Diamond Solitaire 

 Solitaire Diamond Engagement Ring The year 1886, became memorable in Tiffany’s history when they introduced the engagement ring as we know it today. Tiffany & Co. invented a setting for diamond solitaire rings, where the diamond was held by 6 invisible prongs, allowing the light to pass through the diamond and reflect more sparkle. 

Diamond engagement rings became the standard engagement ring in1947 when DeBeers, the major diamond miner and supplier, launched an advertising campaign with the slogan: “A diamond is forever." Not only was it one of the centuries most iconic slogans it also skyrocketed the popularity and sale of diamond engagement rings. 

Here are some of our original modern creations that feature antique hand-cut diamonds. (Click on the image to learn more about the piece). 

12 Carat Diamond Engagement Ring expensive diamondART DECO REVIVAL 2 CARAT DIAMOND SAPPHIRE PLATINUM ENGAGEMENT RINGART DECO INSPIRED PRINCESS CUT DIAMOND RUBY PLATINUM ENGAGEMENT RING3.36 carat round brilliant cut diamond engagement ring

The Bottom Line 

When the time comes for you to choose your dream engagement ring, we suggest you browse the internet for ideas to determine must-have characteristics for your engagement ring. Whether you prefer antique, modern or color stone engagement rings, we are here to help you choose the best ring for your special day and provide our expertise! 

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