How Engagement Rings Have Changed Over Time

The Ancient Egyptians saw circles as a symbol of eternity, so newly wedded couples would create rings out of braided reeds to exchange as a token of commitment. In 2nd Century B.C., the Ancient Romans are believed to have started the use of betrothal rings as an offering to the bride instead of money or other valuables. The woman would wear a gold ring during the wedding ceremony and while attending other significant events. Then, while as home, the woman would wear an iron ring as a reminder of her binding legal agreement i.e. that she has agreed to be owned by her husband.

When did diamonds and other glitz come into the equation? Diamonds didn’t come into play until many centuries later, as late as 1477, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a ring that had flat pieces of diamonds spelling out the letter “M”. After this, the rest of the European nobility had to follow suit and began adding more extravagant jewels as a way to show their prowess. There are also documented used of romantic rings in the Middle Ages called “posey rings”. These rings had romantic poems engraved on them and would be exchanged between couples.

The use of diamonds became widespread after 1880, following the DeBeers Mining Company’s exploits in South Africa. The company adopted the slogan “A diamond is forever”, and told men they should spend two months wages on a ring. Somehow, this advertising venture this became embedded into our culture, and by the 1940s it was widely accepted in Western Culture that you had to propose with a diamond. Nowadays we are flooded with wonderful engagement ring options, such as Tiffany engagement rings.

Before Tiffany engagement rings arrived in 1886, engagement rings were traditionally diamonds set in a bezel so only the crown was visible, so that the edge was surrounded by the metal. Charles Lewis Tiffany set about finding a way to show off more of the diamond, wanting to show more of the diamond’s surface as well as adding more lustre. So, together with expert gemologists, they invented a raised claw to securely hold the diamond visibly on top of a ring band. Thus the Tiffany setting was born. The blueprints specified a particular number of prongs, a very specific collet (the base that grips the diamond), meticulous engineering methods and drastically less metal covering the diamond.

The design was incredibly successful, so much so that the term Tiffany Setting is a cultural icon. It is used throughout the jewellery industry to describe a multi-pronged solitaire setting regardless of if it is strictly Tiffany or not. It has become the most popular and sought after engagement ring style. For many, an engagement ring IS a Tiffany ring, and any other style won’t do.

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