Rings have been evolving since they were first invented. Their origin is also a fascinating one.
Using a ring to form a bond with another goes back 3,000 years. The first diamond wedding ring that has been recorded up to date dates back to 1417.
But why are rings, especially diamond rings, the ultimate symbol of romance?
In this article, our dedicated team of passionate jewelry experts at LaCkore Couture will cover the history of engagement rings and how they have evolved through the epochs of time. Get ready to find fascinating facts that you would have never imagined.
Also, if you’d like to access even more information on great topics related to all things fashion and jewelry, please consider browsing through our wide selection of expertly written educational resources. Our blog features articles on many topics, including jewelry cleaning guides, instructions on navigating the four C’s of diamonds, and much more.
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The History of Engagement Rings
Rings, in ancient times, were a symbol or mark of owning another person (think of it as property). That doesn't sound that romantic, right?
Fortunately, times have changed.
Today, engagement rings are no longer a symbol of owning another person. Instead, engagement rings are now seen as a symbol of love and affection.
The Romans believed that a thin vein from your left ring finger, the "vena amoris," or in English the "vein of love," ran directly from your finger to your heart.
Romans thought adorning this finger was a guaranteed method of preserving "that loving feeling."
As time progressed, gems, precious stones, diamonds, and the like, were embedded in the ring to make it look nicer.
Popular trends that have endured through time are gold rings, silver rings, a mix of the two, and of course, adding a diamond on top to make it look flashy and fancy.
With engagement season officially upon us, it's not a bad idea to dive into the different popular engagement rings that have always captured lovers' attention.
Engagement Rings Throughout History
From the late 1400s to the present, below are the most popular trends from different centuries and decades.
850 A.D. THE BEGINNING OF ENGAGEMENT RINGS
Jewelry historians can trace the beginning of the engagement ring trend back to 850 A.D., when Pope Nicholas I declared that an engagement ring would henceforth signify a man’s intent to marry a woman.
Initially known as a betrothal ring, a man would present the jewelry to represent a financial sacrifice and his dedication to support his future wife, generally with a simple piece made of gold.
1470S ENGAGEMENT RINGS
In ancient Rome, rings were given to women to affirm mutual love and obedience or to signify a specific business contract.
These rings were typically made from copper, iron, flint, ivory, or bone and were relatively simple compared to the exquisite and detailed engagement rings we’re used to in the 21st century.
However, things started to change back in 1477, according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
That year, Archduke Maximilian of Austria commissioned the first diamond ring for his bride, Mary of Burgundy.
While time would continue to see massive changes to the styles and settings of engagement rings, we essentially have this Austrian Archduke to thank for the world’s proud history of diamond engagement ring evolution.
1500S GIMMEL ENGAGEMENT RINGS
In the early 1500s, couples typically utilize Gimmel rings during their engagement to symbolize their love, commitment, and unity in marriage.
Gimmel rings typically feature two or three individual hoops that fit together in an ornate design to form a single ring.
At the start of an engagement, a couple would divide the ring, and each person would wear one part until their wedding when the hoops would be reconnected and given to the bride to wear as a wedding band.
The tradition for these unique engagement rings is thought to have started in France before spreading throughout many other parts of Europe over several decades.
ENGAGEMENT RING CHANGES AND CONFLICTS IN THE 1600S
During the early 1600s, silver and gold posy rings became popular throughout much of Europe and were even frequently mentioned in the works of Shakespeare.
Posy rings featured detailed engravings inside the band and sometimes even included short ballads or love poems.
During the 1650s, however, many people in the English commonwealth abandoned the tradition of wedding rings, believing it endorsed an unwanted association with the clergy. Engagement rings wouldn’t regain universal popularity for several years.
1800S ENGAGEMENT RINGS
In the 1800s, Europe and America saw the widespread adoption of engagement rings utilizing gold and various gemstones, particularly diamonds.
This century also saw the adoption of unique ring styles, adornments, and embellishments, like filigree and other delicate engravings of different sizes and shapes, to make each ring as unique as possible.
During this period, it also became common for diamond engagement rings to feature “table cut” or “rose cut” gemstones with a closed foiled back to help maximize the stones’ brilliance.
ENGAGEMENT RINGS IN THE 20TH CENTURY
During the 20th century, engagement rings snowballed in popularity, especially throughout America.
Now that we’re getting into the height of engagement ring usage within history, we can start breaking down our analysis to talk about the key trends and styles that rapidly changed throughout the decades of the past 100 years.
1920's Diamond Engagement Rings
Geometrically shaped engagement rings with sharp lines were popular in the 1920s because there were coinciding with the popular art and fashion movement in Paris, called: The Art Deco Period.
White gold and platinum were craved desperately for couples. White metal with millegrain accents was one of the most fashionable things for couples at the time.
As technology got more advanced, new gem-cutting techniques introduced calibré cut gemstones and diamond baguettes to the jewelry designers of the day.
Engagement rings that had some form of diamond-shaped halo were also pretty popular. (Especially the emerald-cut and Asscher diamonds). They were striking, extravagant, and were accentuated with diamond halos.
1930's Engagement Rings
In the 1930s, engagement rings from this era often featured bold geometric designs with a larger stone set in the center of a border comprised of round and baguette-cut diamonds or colored gemstones.
Rings in this period were trying to move on from the "Art Deco" period, and craftsmen started using ribbon-shaped designs to decorate rings.
Even after nearly 100 years, rings from this era are some of the most recognizable and sought after by couples.
1940's Engagement Rings
After WWII, jewelry production began to ramp up again without restrictions. Round-cut diamonds then became a trendy thing in the 1940s.
In 1947, round stones rose in popularity at a tremendous rate due to the ingenious advertising of De Beers. They ran the slogan, 'a diamond is forever' campaign.
The ad campaign was so successful that diamonds became the engagement ring stone for everyone. Featuring a modestly-sized ring gemstone, people wanted to get a hold of one.
1950's Engagement Rings
In the 1950s, the "pear-shaped" diamond was gaining rapid popularity.
Wedding sets were beginning to be sought after. It was common to coordinate a wedding ring with an 18 carat (white or gold) ring.
Platinum also was prevalent in this decade. The 1950s were returning to larger principal diamonds that were often embellished with accent stones.
Couples who had the means to buy these rings often opted for white gold illusion settings with large claws.
Thanks to their Art Deco ancestors, rings from this era often featured millegrain details.
1960's Engagement Rings
Famous celebrities had a fair amount of influence on the engagement ring style in this decade.
Jackie Kennedy, the wife of John F. Kennedy, is one of them.
Her engagement ring featured emeralds in addition to diamonds, which also made colored gemstones a popular choice for couples. The Asscher-cut diamonds were especially trendy in the 1960s.
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1970's Engagement Rings
In the 1970s, emerald-cut diamonds continued to be a popular choice by lovers.
In this decade, in particular, brides began matching their wedding bands with their engagement rings. The common or peculiar color of choice was rose-gold or yellow.
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1980's Engagement Rings
Round-cut diamonds and yellow-gold bands were still trendy in the '80s.
This decade brought one of the most famous engagement rings of all time, the oval-shaped sapphire and diamond ring given from Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
It was a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire stone set with 14 solitaire diamonds and a white gold band. The ring originally cost £30,000 and is estimated to be worth almost £400,000 today.
This engagement ring style started the immediate trend towards similarly-set engagement rings featuring a variety of colored gemstones and a return to white gold and platinum settings.
The royal ring was so popular that many replicas were made.
Modern Day Engagement Rings
Thanks to the advancements in gem cutting technology, couples now nearly have virtually an infinite amount of choices for their engagement ring.
Due to 3D programs that allow jewelers to design rings, the sky is the limit. Now, you only need a drawing and your dream wedding ring for it to become a reality.
Related: Read our story
We at LaCkore Couture pride ourselves on helping our customers find the right ring for their special occasion. Regardless of what ring style you're looking for, our wide catalog will sure offer you something valuable to add to your collection.
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