Buying that special ring to pop the question to your partner can take much of your time, because you want things to be just perfect for them. The most popular choices in engagement rings are of course diamonds, most obviously a girl's best friend. Many women will not deny that obtaining a nice diamond ring will evoke feelings of oneness and satisfaction. This may seem superficial, but who can argue that a diamond ring for an engagement proposal is not the way to woman's heart?
The First Recorded Rings
Historically marriage and engagement rings have been a symbol of unity for many years and came in the form of a simple iron hoop. Some years later this was followed by gold band rings. The symbol of the ring and its eternal circular shape was the main significance of the engagement ring, corresponding to the unification of a couple for a lifelong period.
It is believed that the ancient Greeks had begun this trend for rings in marriage, as earlier studies have shown that marriages were arranged and drawn up from a contract, known as the dowry. However, whether the ring was used as a symbol of unity or bribe is yet to be proven. The Greeks had used the ring before marriage and was known as a betrothal ring. Nowadays this can be interpreted as a promise ring.
The Celtic culture may have used the hair as a symbol of marital unity, in which the hair was braided together after marriage. However, other historical recordings have discovered that this may have been in the form of hair bracelets braided together. The middle ages saw the creation of the 'gimmel', which were comprised of two or three hoops attached at the base of the ring. When placed together it gave the appearance of just one ring.
The ring did not become a symbol of marriage until the 12th century, by Pope Innocent III order( the same Pope had decreed that weddings be held in churches), who instigated and initiated that wedding rings be incorporated in wedding ceremonies. This followed a widespread trend of using rings in marriages.
The First Diamond Rings
Diamonds were not discovered until around 800BC in India, whereby this precious gem was believed to have possessed magical powers. Societies were more impressed by its strength and hardness; hence its name was derived from the Greek 'adamas' meaning unconquerable. This made it the best choice in engagement rings; however, they were not as widely available back then as they are now.
The first recorded engagement ring to be given to a woman was to Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke of Maximilian of Hamburg in 1477. Prior to this, it was relatively unheard of to give diamond rings as a symbol of engagement. The renaissance era had seen single set diamond rings in its natural form set on gold ring bands. It was not until the eighteenth century of when diamonds had made its way to Brazil, which made it more available.
The diamond ring became a fashion accessory with many of the wealthy elite wearing them in balls and dinners. The Victorian ages saw more widespread of diamond rings, upon the discovering diamond mines in Africa. Rings in the Victorian ages were much more romantic in style, decorated with flowers, birthstones, love letters and multiple diamonds set in rosettes.
The engagement ring very quickly became a subject of fashion, wealth and love. Those who were able to afford the diamond ring were usually regarded as well established upper class individuals. Many of the middle class generation kept to the tradition of using birthstones set on gold rings, diamonds were still a luxury and a privilege for many.
Throughout the years, as the diamond has become available worldwide, they have become larger and creative in style. Many of the contemporary Hollywood celebrities have been famously seen to be sporting 'bling' fest diamond encrusted rings. Most famous of them all is Elizabeth Taylor who is often seen with numerous diamond engagement rings, one of which weighing at nearly 30 carats.
On average, seventy-eight percent of engagement ring purchases are diamond, further proving this a strong and lucrative business even for today.
Anna Stenning is an expert on engagement rings, having researched on diamonds and the first wedding ring.