A Short History of the Classic Diamond Engagement Rings

It is common practice in Singapore and many countries around the world to propose to your partner with a gemstone engagement ring. Although gemstones come in many forms such as rubies, emeralds, moissanites and more, often a diamond is what comes to mind when most people think of engagement rings. How did the practice of proposing with a ring come about? And why are diamonds embedded in our cultural consciousness as the go-to gemstone for engagement rings? And most importantly, do diamonds really mean forever? This blog will provide a short history of the classic diamond engagement ring and investigate how consumers of today can approach shopping for an engagement ring.

The Ancient Origins of a Modern Custom

Like many modern customs, the act of proposing with a ring actually dates to ancient times. According to the Gemological Institute of America, evidence suggests that Roman women wore rings to signify having entered a contract, or, as a sign of “mutual love and obedience”. While these rings were made from a variety of materials including copper, flint and bone, gold had become the standard choice for Roman women by the 2nd century CE.

The First Diamond Ring in History

The first diamond ring appeared on the scene in 1477. Archduke Maximillian of Austria proposed to the Duchess Mary of Burgundy with a ring featuring not one diamond, but multiple diamonds arranged into the letter “M”. While Mary of Burgundy can claim to be the owner of the world’s first “diamond ring”, the practice of gifting your bride-to-be with a sparkling solitaire diamond did not become widespread until the mid 1900s. The practice of proposing with what we traditionally have in mind when we think of a classic diamond ring originates with the story of a particularly successful marketing campaign and decades of tearing through the South African landscape through diamond mining.

Are Diamond Engagement Rings Really Forever? 

In 1974, British company De Beers launched a marketing campaign with the now ubiquitous slogan “A Diamond Is Forever”. As the main player in the operation of diamond mines in South Africa, De Beers managed to gain monopoly over the diamond industry and marketed a diamond, and only a diamond engagement ring as an everlasting symbol of love and devotion. To help promote the idea of diamonds as the only viable gemstone, De Beers even contracted the likes of Hollywood stars to glamorise a diamond engagement ring as the most desirable object every woman should have. This resulted in an inflated demand for solitaire diamond rings, and the subsequent sky-high price tags attached to these gems. 

Are Diamond Rings for Me? 

After knowing the history of human rights abuses, environmental destruction, and price inflation associated with this gemstone, many might hesitate before emptying their wallets for a diamond engagement ring. While we now know that good marketing lies behind the covetable status possessed by diamonds, no one can deny the beauty of a diamond and the significance of proposing with an engagement ring for a couple on their journey towards marriage and a future together. Afterall, engagement rings have long been used to signify attachment for more than a millennium before De Beers’ marketing campaign came along. 

Better than Diamonds: Moissanite Engagement Rings

If you’re looking to purchase a classic engagement ring featuring a gemstone that’s optically similar to a diamond, the lab-grown moissanite gems created by Princess Gem make a good choice. We are committed to providing 100% conflict free moissanite engagement rings at affordable price points with beauty to rival the classic diamond ring. Each Princess Gem engagement ring proudly features a 1-carat solitaire moissanite certified for excellence under the traditional 4Cs of diamond quality. A beautiful engagement ring doesn’t have to cost a fortune. 

To view our collection of rings in person, pay us a visit at our outlet in Singapore’s Citylink Mall.