It was in the times of the Roman Empire that the earliest examples of 'Engagement Rings' have been recorded. The vast majority were cast in Iron but others were also made from materials such as Ivory and Bone. There are findings of Gold rings from this time; however, these were only received by the wealthiest of people. The tradition of wearing an Engagement Ring on your left hand and specifically on the fourth finger, known as your 'ring finger' was created through the Ancient Romans belief that it had a vein that ran directly to the heart.
Before the tradition started where Engagement Rings were given as a sign of love. They were mostly a symbol of ownership, and a sign of a woman being bound to their future husband.
Fortunately, times changed and developed into what we know as the Engagement Ring today, - a proposition of marriage to your loved one.
It was Pope Nicholas who made Engagement Rings recognised as an official declaration of intent to marry and that the choice of metal should be Gold. Of course; this obviously wasn't accessible to all and other metals and materials were sometimes used instead and still are to this day.
The first Diamond Engagement Ring to be recorded was in 1477 when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a personalised Diamond Ring, which was the first of it's kind. It was this bespoke design and detailed craftmanship that made the ring so popular and iconic as a part of history today. A Diamond was used to represent eternal love and due to the durability of the stone it was chosen due to it's everlasting qualities.
Throughout history many gemstones have been used within Engagement Rings and it wasn't until the 19th Century that Diamonds were the most popular gemstone to be used.
Perhaps Diamonds took time to become a popular choice for Engagement Rings due to the hardness of the stone and how difficult this would have made the cutting and faceting process. Diamonds are rated at 10 on the Moh's scale (The scale used to represent the hardness of minerals, 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest and most resistant to scratching by other minerals) meaning they are a perfect stone to be using for a piece of jewellery; as well as of course their ability to sparkle. Durability is a very important attribute for engagement rings as they are designed to be worn so frequently.
It was from the 1870's that Diamond Engagement Rings really took off as the Diamonds were more accessible for people, in turn becoming increasingly more fashionable and sought after; this is a trend that has continued through the years and up to the present day. The popularity of Diamonds in Engagement Rings soared when several hugely successful advertising campaigns were released, the main one most famously being De Beers and their 'A Diamond Is Forever' marketing campaign. More advertisements included statements such as an Engagement Ring should be purchased at the equivalent price of a months wage, which was later upped to three months; this then in turn increased sales of more expensive items of jewellery.
It was around this time that the 6 claw setting became prevalent and the first Diamond Solitaire rings were created. Enabling the Diamond to be shown off in all it's glory whilst ensuring the stone was protected and safe within the setting at the same time.
Over the years as trends have changed other gemstones have taken the spotlight for use in Engagement Rings. Alternating between Diamonds and coloured Gemstones with constantly evolving fashion choices. Sapphires have been a popular choice often complimented by a diamond surround. Lady Diana's engagement ring to, the then, Prince Charles was a large oval Sapphire surrounded by diamonds, which encouraged the popularity of the design. Sapphire's are also a durable stone so work well within a ring which is worn frequently.
Emeralds have developed in popularity over time due to their vivid green tones, they are however a more fragile stone and can be brittle. The setting choice and size of the stone needs to be more carefully considered when looking to wear regularly.
Fancy yellow Diamond rings have become more popular due to the scarcity of the stone and how unique they make the piece of jewellery.
As well as the the gemstones changing, the styles and settings that surround the stones have also varied through the ages. The Solitaire Ring design still remains a very popular choice to this day. Sapphire and Diamond Clusters took centre stage when princess Diana's engagement ring was famously showcased and then again when it was received by Kate Middleton from a proposal by Prince William. Diamond clusters have increased in popularity over time as people have wanted a larger ring without having to source and purchase a single large stone.
A big part of the conversation for the younger generations today is the ethical impacts around what they are buying. This is leading them to prioritise the sustainability behind the jewellery that they are buying and the impact that it has on the people crafting the pieces. Other important considerations include how sustainably the piece is made and it's impacts on the environment. This is leading increasing interest in the route of buying Lab Grown Diamonds & gemstones or Fairtrade Gold. Having bespoke jewellery made that has been handcrafted from a small scale business is also increasing in popularity.
As an independent, family jewellers we have a passion for providing a personal shopping experience, especially for engagement rings. If you are thinking of popping the question or would like advise on engagement rings, please contact us or take a look at a selection of our engagement rings..
Ultimately, the decision to ask someone to marry you is deeply personal and if you choose to give an engagement ring to celebrate the moment, then the ring should be equally as personal, to you both.