History of Engagement Rings

history of engagement ringsWhen or how did we start using engagement rings? Here’s a short history on how the diamond engagement ring came into existence.

The very first recorded use of a diamond engagement ring was Archduke Maximilian of Austria’s proposal to Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M.”

We can however, trace this mark-your-territory wedding trend way, way back, eons before Max and his wife. Below, you will see how our love affair with the diamonds slowly evolved into what it is today.

Pre-History: Caveman would tie cords made of braided grass around his chosen mate’s wrists, ankles, and waist, to bring her spirit under his control.

Circa 2800 BC: Egyptians are buried wearing rings made of a single silver or gold wire on the third finger of their left hands, believed to be connected directly to the heart by the vena amoris.

2nd Century BC: Grooms begin to give brides a gold ring to wear during the ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home, signifying her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her.

1st Century BC: Puzzle rings first appear in Asia, where sultans and sheiks use them to tag each of their wives.

1217: Bishop of Salisbury ends the popular practice of seducing girls into mock marriage with rings made of rushes. His solution? Declaring a marriage with a rush-ring legally binding.

1456: Gutenberg bible is published and surprisingly, there is no mention of betrothal or marriage rings in this or any other edition of the bible.

1477: First recorded use of a diamond engagement ring, Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposes to Mary of Burgundy with a ring that is set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M.”

1700s: Silver “poesy rings” engraved with flowery sayings are in vogue in Europe. Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Puritans give their betrotheds useful thimbles instead of rings, however, many thimbles eventually get their tops sliced off and are worn as rings anyway.

1800s:Victorians make jewelry from human hair, and use gemstones to spell out names or endearments, such as a D-E-A-R-E-S-T ring set with a sequence of diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, etc.

1867: Diamonds are discovered in the Cape Colony (now a province in South Africa), the beginning of a huge increase in the diamond supply.

1880: Cecil Rhodes, who came to South Africa in 1873, founds the DeBeers Mining Company with other investors. Before 1880, they control 90 percent of the world’s diamond production.

Author: Shawn

Indiana University Alumni GIA Graduate Gemologist Student

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