- Posted August 30, 2014 by
So this happened 537 years ago – a history of diamonds in engagement rings
Diamond engagement rings are all the rage now, and have been for some time. Despite the increasing popularity of alternatives to diamonds – colored gemstones like sapphire and ruby are beginning to see a rise in popularity, a trend set by celebrities like Carrie Underwood and retail outlets like The Gold and Diamond Source – diamonds still remain at the fore when it comes to engagement rings. So here’s a question: how did this all get started?
The year was 1477. The Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond engagement ring, and history was made. The fad caught on among Europe’s elite (unfortunately for the commoner, diamonds were too expensive for their engagement rings), and rings were intricately and elegantly crafted around diamonds. Interestingly, because marriages among Europe’s royalty were often arranged, the smallest diamond engagement ring ever known was owned by the two year old Princess Mary, engaged to the equally young Dauphin of France.
The trend continued and was further fueled during the reign of Louis XVI, the king of France. During this period – the late 1700s – small diamond clusters often adorned the ring’s setting, prescribed in some shape (often an oval).
However, the diamond engagement ring was not yet universal. The everyday bride-to-be wore an engagement ring with a colored gemstone. Nor did all of Europe’s royalty favor the diamond engagement ring. England’s Queen Victoria received an emerald engagement ring from the soon-to-be Prince Albert, after she proposed to him (yes, the ruler of the British Empire proposed to him, and not vice versa).
In 1868, however, a rich diamond deposit was discovered in South Africa – prompting a diamond rush which would cause enough unrest to spill into open war, the First Boer War. The discovery of these diamond mines increased the popularity of diamond engagement ring for the common folk in Europe, and in 1888, De Beers was founded by Cecil Rhodes, consolidating the diamond trade and making the purchase of diamonds more accessible for the average person.
Still, a wholehearted diamond fever had not yet begun. This would have to wait until 1947, when De Beers launched a landmark advertising campaign, proclaiming that “A Diamond is Forever.” As a consequence of De Beers’s hard-hitting advertising, the diamond engagement ring entered the home of the everyday citizen once and for all.
Celebrities quickly adopted the diamond engagement ring, too. Elizabeth Taylor sported a prominent diamond engagement ring during her betrothal to the movie producer Michael Todd (decades later, Paris Hilton would wear an equally-impressive diamond ring). In more recent times, famous stars like Madonna would adopt the diamond engagement ring, too (her ring had three diamonds, going against the grain of the more traditional solitaire setting).
And finally, Hollywood’s “most notable couple” – Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – only recently tied the knot. Angelina Jolie’s engagement ring? Yes, it was bedecked with a diamond.
So if you’re aiming for a timeless, classy diamond engagement ring that will make her swoon – you can’t go wrong with diamond.