There is historical proof of the practice of giving and receiving engagement rings dating as far back as ancient Rome. They rightly believed that a vein on the fourth finger on the left hand led directly to the heart, and for them this was as good a symbol as any that someone was in an important relationship.
By the Middle Ages, the use of simple iron and gold rings was widespread. and expanding trade meant that more materials were available. These new materials – namely jewels – were exclusively used by the wealthiest members of society to adorn their rings. Mary of Burgundy was the first to wear a diamond engagement ring, presented to her by her future husband Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477.
The first large deposit of diamonds was discovered in 1867 in South Africa. Five short years later, in 1872, the rate of diamond mining had exploded to over one million carats per year. Then, in 1886 Tiffany introduces the ‘tiffany setting’, otherwise known as the still extremely popular six-prong setting for round brilliant cut diamonds. However, diamond engagement rings were still seen as the reign of the upper classes only.
That was, until diamond traders DeBeers kick-started a hugely successful marketing campaign in 1938, with the catchphrase, ‘A Diamond Is Forever’, and from that point on, diamond engagement rings became a standard gift for all brides to receive when their other half proposed marriage.