More than a simple piece of jewelry, an engagement ring is a symbol of a promise, a vow to marry and a pledge of eternal love. The ring has been used for thousands of years to signify the betrothal between a man and woman.
The Egyptian Pharaohs are believed to be the first to use a ring to signify eternity. With no beginning and no end, the circular ring was meant to reminder the wearer of the neverending nature of the circle of life and love.
Ancient Romans used the ring to symbolize betrothal, and the ring stood as a type of marriage contract. While the earliest rings were fashioned from iron, gold engagement rings became the norm amongst Romans by the 2nd century, and the practice was soon taken up by Christians.
Over time, gems were added to the rings and by Medieval Times it was common practice for betrothal rings to be set with rubies, sapphires or other gems. One of the first recorded diamond engagement rings was given in 1477 by Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Mary of Burgundy, with the wedding ceremony taking place just 24 hours after the engagement ceremony.
At that time, jewelers did not know how to properly cut a diamond, the hardest known gem, so they were used in their natural crystal shape. By the end of the 1400s the first facet was cut into a diamond.
In the 1700s a rich vein of diamonds was discovered in Brazil, making diamond jewelry easier to obtain. It became the fashion for wealthy women to go to balls and galas literally dripping in diamonds.
During the industrial revolution, people who had never had much disposable income found themselves rolling in dough, resulting in more and more people purchasing costly jewelry. In 1870 a rich supply of diamonds was discovered in Africa, and the stone became more accessible than ever before.
In the 20th century Tiffany Jewelers rocked the jewelry world with an innovation in diamond settings. Until that point, diamonds were usually set into the rings, so that only the top of the stone showed. Tiffany set the diamond so that it was raised above the surface of the ring and held in place with six prongs. This allowed the stone to better catch and reflect light, maximizing the diamond’s sparkle, and giving a better view of the entire diamond. The practice was quickly adopted by other jewelers, and today this is the standard setting for diamond solitaire engagement rings.