The history of the engagement ring dates back thousands of years ago and is usually worn by the women who’s to be married. Over the years it has been adopted by various cultures and has spread around the entire world. In Western countries is usually worn on the left hand (ring finger) although it can vary through various customs.
The ancient Egyptians have been said to be the ones who invented the engagement ring and it was the ancient Greeks who adopted this tradition. However, historians have no proof that Egyptians were the original founders. The only evidence we have are that the first engagement rings were used by the ancient Romans. It’s believed the reason they wore engagement rings on their ring finger is because of a vein (the vena amoris) that leads directly to the heart.
The origins of this story was from an ancient Roman book “Attic Nights” by Aulus Gellus. In translation of the book it was a popular belief that an engagement ring was a representation that the bride had purchased or ownership of the bride. The means are vague even to scholars today. In the 2nd century BC, ancient Roman brides to be were give 2 rings to wear. A gold ring for the public to see and an iron ring worn only at home while attend to her household duties.
The engagement ring was not always worn by brides. In fact, it was first worn by Roman citizens who served as ambassadors and only later it was a privilege given to public officials, knights and then finally to the freeborn and freedmen. For centuries it was a Roman custom to wear their gold rings in public and iron ones at home. During this period was when women started to wear them to show they were engaged.
The very first well documented use of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in an imperial court of Vienna. It was to signify his betrothal to Mary of Burgundy. It was from this day that purchase of the diamond ring started to influence the higher social class.
In 1866, the very first diamonds were found however it was not until 1867 were they actually identified as diamonds. It became highly sought after shortly after and by 1872 one million carats were being mined yearly. When diamonds became popular and productions increased, more and more people that aren’t from high society joined the movement. The diamond engagement rings in this period and for many years after were only worn by aristocrats and high society and the less privileged wore simple and more traditional engagement bands.
After World War I, the popularity of the engagement ring was declining throughout the United States, and even more after the beginning of the Great Depression. During the 1938 the diamond cartel ‘De Beers’ started a new marketing campaign that started the engagement rings movement again. It was during the Great Depression that the value of diamonds collapsed and everyone saw engagement rings going out of style especially with the younger generation.
A lot of market research was conducted before the first phase of advertising campaign. It started in 1939 and the campaign was to educate the general public about the 4C’s (Cut, Carats, Colours & Calarity). The famous slogan ‘a diamond is forever’ was first introduced in 1947 which was aimed to persuade consumers that engagement rings are indispensable and that a diamond is the only stone to buy to accompany your engagement ring.