Why do engagement rings have diamonds?

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A brief history of why engagment rings have diamonds and a look to the future

A brief history of why engagment rings have diamonds and a look to the future

Some girls dream of it for years ? the perfect ring their prince charming would adoringly give them. While many of these dreams involve gems of every size, shape and color, usually they dream of diamonds. But why is this?

The History

The earliest known engagement rings were used by the Romans, when prospective wives accepted marriage proposals. After the ceremony, the ladies then attached a key to their ring, indicating ownership by their husbands. The first diamond engagement ring was given in 1477 when Archduke Maximillian of Austria bestowed his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, with such a ring. The ring itself was metal inlaid with flat pieces of diamond in the shape of an ?M.?

The idea of diamonds set in engagement rings was quiet for several centuries after that. In the 1700?s, the Victorians popularized the ?posey ring?, an ornate ring that mixed diamonds and other gemstones set to look like flowers. The Edwardians continued the tradition, by setting diamonds, combined with other jewels, in filigree settings. At this point in time, diamonds were still very rare and hard to come by, making those who received such treasures feel very cherished.

In the 1870?s miners started to find huge veins of diamonds in South Africa. Diamonds flooded the market and were easier to acquire and give as engagement rings. Recognizing the potential for profit, diamond miners merged together to form De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. This merger allowed mine owners to control the flow of diamonds onto world markets, thereby regulating the prices. Interestingly, this control created even more demand for the stones, especially for engagement rings.


Marketing changed everything

The economic crash in the late ?20s and into the ?30s led to a decline in diamond sales, as people simply couldn?t afford such a luxury. To improve sales, De Beers executed a brilliant marketing scheme in the late 1930?s. To change the way Americans looked at diamonds, they swathed Hollywood?s biggest and brightest stars with diamonds. Leading fashion designers were encouraged to accessorize with diamonds. 

The plan worked better than the company could have hoped for ? with over a 50 percent increase in sales in the first three years. De Beers continued this marketing trend and in 1947, copywriter Frances Gerety gave birth to the slogan ?A Diamond is Forever.? This elegant and effective line is so enduring that De Beers still uses it more than 70 years later.

De Beers also played upon the strength of the diamond as a symbol of marital durability. The impenetrability of the diamond reinforced the symbol of love and therefore, marriage. As a result, diamond engagement rings sales over the course of 20 years soared to new highs, with 80 percent of American brides wearing the gem. 

Now and into the future

Many jewelers have entire pages dedicated to informing people about the 4 C?s (carat, color, cut, and clarity) of diamonds. Readers are led through definitions and desirability of each characteristic of the diamond. This helps buyers feel more in control of the stone they are purchasing and gives them more satisfaction after the selection has been made. The digital age has only helped to boost diamond sales, as jewelers educate prospective buyers on the finer points of buying a diamond.

Also gaining in popularity is the idea of couples designing their own engagement ring. Gone are the days of finding the perfect stone and not liking the setting. Or, finding the perfect setting, only to discover that the stone is either inferior or far out of the price range. Perhaps the customer loves the antique, filigree settings the Edwardians made so popular and they want a modern stone in the setting. Then they can add a contemporary cushion or asscher cut diamond, creating a ring that is as unique as their love. By designing their own ring, the perfect setting and gems can be had.

Without a doubt, diamonds remain the most popular stone for engagement rings. Pairing the stone with other gems in a unique setting creates a custom look with a story that can be told for years to come.