Historic Curiosities: Origin and Meaning of the Engagement Ring

The real protagonist of the long-awaited marriage proposal is the engagement ring, but where does its tradition come from? Let’s pause a moment for a historical report.

Since ancient times the engagement ― or the mutual declaration of the intention of marriage ― included the exchange of objects as a pledge.

Back then some precious rings were already considered as symbol of eternal love, yet they were more correctly to be ascribed to the tradition of wedding rings (don’t worry we will write a historical article on that too!)

The first documented engagement ring with a precious stone dates back in 1477 when the Archduke Maximilian I of Austria gave his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, a golden ring topped with a diamond as a promise of marriage.

In the early twentieth century, the diamond engagement ring experienced a severe crisis, mainly due to the financial situation of postwar Europe and U.S., until 1974 when the company De Beers (world leader in the diamond exploration, diamond mining, diamond retail,diamond trading and industrial diamond manufacturing sectors) created a highly successful advertising “a diamond is forever”  that increased considerably the sales of diamonds in the field of engagement rings: from 10% in 1939 to 80% in 1990.

Today the diamond ring is considered a real evergreen. Three are the most classical styles: the Solitaire ring with one single diamond (also called the Tiffany Setting because it was popularised by the jewellery brand Tiffany & Co.), the Riviera setting with small diamonds and side-stones, and the famous Trilogy (or Trinity), consisting of three matching diamonds set horizontally in a row with the bigger stone placed in the centre and symbolising the eternal love bonding couples: “yesterday, today and tomorrow together.”

But diamonds aren’t the only stones used for promising eternal love, each gemstone has its own interesting meaning: diamond represents the strength of a relationship, ruby that of burning love; while emerald means hope and sapphire fidelity. Other less-used stones have a meaning just as beautiful: beryl symbolises the strength of the love bond, aquamarine the happiness of a lasting marriage, and opal sincere love.

So, what will be your gemstone?

Marion for the Wedding Fairies