The intrigueing history of engagement rings

A proposal from your love with a beautiful ring is such a romantic and special occasion, but have you ever wondered where the tradition of engagement rings originated? 

Well, we did and this is what we found out!

Engagement rings are tradition that is documented to have begun in Ancient Rome, where it has been found that rings of ivory, bone, flint, iron and copper were worn by women. These original rings signified the affirmation of mutual love and obedience through a business contract, which transferred the woman from the ownership of her father's house, to that of her husband. Hardly sounds very romantic.

The discovery of gold rings and other Jewellery found in the ruins of Pompeii, suggests that the popular yellow metal was the material of choice in the era. 

In 850AD Pope Nicholas I declared the engagement ring to represent a man's intent to marry a woman, giving an engagement ring official meaning. Although now acknowledged by the catholic church, engagement (or betrothal) rings were not commonly exchanged until much later. Gold bands were too expensive for all but royalty and aristocracy to afford - although there is a lot of evidence to suggest that rings made of other materials were still frequently used in lieu of gold for a marriage ceremony. 

Archduke Maximilian of Austria is credited by the Cape Town Diamond Museum as being the first person to propose with a diamond ring, which he presented to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. Before this a plain gold band was the common practice and stones were only set in the rings of the most wealthy lovers. In some countries it was considered illegal to own certain precious stones as they were all decreed to belong to the crown. Possessing one could lead to a charge of treason and a death sentence, a strong deterrent for including one in your forever love's ring! 

When precious stones did become a more popular addition to an engagement ring, coloured stones were more frequently used. Rubies, Sapphires and Emeralds were popular choices for their symbolic meanings and the belief that these stones guarded against various ailments and evils as well as promoting fertility and prosperity for the couple. Diamonds were a stone of royalty in the west and was often only allowed to adorn nobility and royalty. 

It wasn't until the mid 20th century that the engagement ring as we know it became a common phenomenon. This is largely thanks to an advertising campaign by the De Beers Group who campaigned that "A diamond is forever", investing heavily in Hollywood partnerships and music recording company collaborations to get the word out. By the end of the 1950's, "if it wasn't said with a diamond, it simply wasn't love". 

More recently however, there has been a change in the norm. Although diamonds are still the most popular choice for engagement rings, couples are more frequently opting for coloured stones or rings constructed of unique materials. Sapphires, Emeralds, Rubies are all popular options today, and the use of white gold and platinum has also become a popular alternative to yellow gold. Multiple stones, variations in stone cut and colour, as well as increasingly intricate designs, mean that not only are modern rings breathtaking, but in many cases completely bespoke. Use of laboratory grown stones have also become commonplace as newly engaged couples carefully consider their consumption impact on the environment.

Today engagement rings are as much a statement of the unique beauty of your love story as they are a sign of commitment and betrothal, and we love the invigorating rush of excitement of incorporating these love stories in the design of a forever piece!

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