Within the past two centuries, the matter of the diamond engagement ring has gnawed at us every time we think of marriage.
The ladies wonder if they are going to get one and the men are concerned that the price tag is impossible. How and when did diamond engagement rings become so popular?
If one is to dedicate their hard-earned cash on a traditional notion that seems a bit contrived, it is important to understand the background information that supports it. By understanding the history of a subject, you are able to make a sound and informed decision today.
When Was the First Diamond Ring Invented?
1477 is the iconic year that introduced the diamond engagement ring to the public. The ring was a thing of beauty given the time it was crafted. It featured flat diamonds lined into a letter M that referenced the first name initial that this admirable couple had in common.
The gentleman we have to thank for this culture of diamond ring propositions is Archduke Macmillan of Austria who proposed and declared marriage intentions for Mary of Burgundy. Macmillan’s bold fashion of proposal spread across the empire and soon every European nobleman and woman had a twist to add to the original version.
Did you know that the most expensive engagement ever recorded in history was the 33-carat Asscher cut Krupp Diamond that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor on the night of their engagement. This was back in 1969 and the ring cost a whopping 8.8 million dollars.
When Did Diamond Engagement Rings Become Popular?
In the year 850, Pope Nicholas 1 made a declaration that gave the engagement ring its current official status as a symbol indicating a man’s ambition to marry a lady. Back then, gold was the most popular material used in the making of proposal rings.
Engagement rings or a form of them was in existence in the times of the ancient Egyptians who revered circles viewing them as a sign of eternity. Braided reeds were the preferred ring design at the time and they were exchanged at the wedding ceremony. They were slipped on the forth left finger which they believe had a direct vein to the heart. This is the origin of the “ring finger” as we know it.
Later in the Roman Empire, it is believed that they began betrothing each other with rings but it was not as romantically intended gesture as it is today. Back then men did that to claim ownership of the woman. The groom presented his bride with two separate rings. A gold one for public appearances and special occasions and the other, an iron ring, was meant to only be worn indoors.
In the 1880s things got even more exciting with the discovery of diamond ore in South Africa. The De Beers Mining Company was started then by Cecil Rhodes in collaboration with other investors and partners.
It didn’t take them long to dominate the entire world with their incessant diamond campaigns that emphasized the slogan that diamonds are forever and also encouraged people to take up two months of their monthly salary to afford the high-value crystal.
When Did Engagement Rings Start in America?
That’s how the expensive diamond found its way to the front line of almost every leading departmental store by 1940.
De Beers came into the market with a very powerful strategy to control the production and supply of diamonds to maintain their position of monopoly. This had a negative effect on their American markets which dropped by almost 70% in value and demand.
Not one to quit, they focused on streamlining the demand for diamonds. That’s how they settled on the engagement ring niche, marketing it as hard as they could and ensuring that public perception on the diamond shifted from just a luxury but as a necessity that had to be satisfied.
De Beers didn’t stop there, they went on to campaign for diamonds in every possible way they could to get to their clientele. In doing this, De Beers featured their diamonds in movies, photoshoots, fashion trends, and lastly, the phrase of the century “Diamonds are Forever” helped seal the sweet diamond deals.
While De Beers and other diamond jewelers who have since cut themselves a slice of the diamond pie are still in business, they’re in a growing and strong undercurrent that threatens to destabilize their controlled market.
This is perpetuated by the new generation referred to as Millennials. This young and large population of young adults has come into the scene with a mind of their own. Traditions are a no-go zone for most of them unless it is really meaningful.
These guys believe that no amount of money can represent the love that blossoms between a couple. This ideology drives them in the opposite direction of diamond engagement rings choosing instead simplistic, thoughtful, and very sentimental rings that match their personality or character.
According to the National Jeweler, the current figure averaging couple’s spending on diamond rings is at 3,200 dollars which is lower than about 7 years ago in 2012 when the average was 4,000 dollars.
These numbers indicate a decline in diamond ring sales which reflects the changing perception evident in the present generation.
With this decrease in diamond sales and demand coupled with the attitude brought on board by the millennials, we will have to keep an eye on how things transform in the next decade.