History of Engagement Rings – “A Diamond is Forever”
“A Diamond is Forever”. This phrase breaks the barriers of culture to conjure sentimental images of a couple making the ultimate commitment, promising to love and honour each other for eternity. The diamond is a symbol of this eternal and unshakable devotion. But where did this tradition originate?
The ritual of engagement rings dates back to Roman times – the ancient Romans called their engagement rings betrothal, or truth, rings. They were the first to wear a ring on the third finger of their left hand, following the Egyptian belief that the main vein in this finger leads straight to the heart. The Romans were also the first to inscribe and engrave their rings. It is generally believed that the adornment of engagement rings with diamonds started amongst the European royalty and aristocracy in 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond betrothal ring. The diamond’s special properties were widely regarded at the time and it came to symbolize the unwavering union between a man and a woman joined in holy wedlock. Of course, diamonds were a rarity even back then and only the very wealthy could afford such a luxurious item. Commoners gave Fede (faith) rings which are akin to the modern Claddaugh ring with the clasped hands and heart motif.
Giving a diamond as a marriage token did not become common practice until after the Second World War when De Beers launched a massive marketing campaign after the discovery of several large diamond mines in South Africa. This is when the slogan “A Diamond is Forever”, was born. Today, it is estimated that 78% of all engagement rings are adorned with diamonds
How much should a gentleman be prepared to spend?
The answer to this question is ultimately up to the purchaser. Traditionally, the price paid for a diamond engagement ring is between two to three months of personal wages.
The most traditional ring given is a round diamond solitaire of at least a carat. A good quality one-carat round diamond will start at around $5,000. Note that round diamonds are usually priced higher than other shapes due to higher demand. Expect other shapes to be five to ten percent lower.