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A ring can be seen as a mark that someone ‘belongs’ to someone else; this is a tradition that has been around since the dawn of man. Early man is known to have wrapped cord around their female’s wrist, although it is thought that this was to bring their spirit under control.

The birth of the engagement ring is thought to stem from ancient Egyptian tiles when rings were first associated with the circle of love; the space in the middle of the ring represented the empty future; full of possibilities. The Roman Empire is also known to have used rings when married. Usually there was a dress ring and a ring for when doing chores.

Pope Nicolas I

In 860 Pope Nicolas declared that a groom should present his bride with a ring made from gold. It was mentioned in a letter which stated the differences between the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox practice.

Archduke Maximilian of Austria

In 1477 the Archduke presented his bride to be with a golden ring; it had the letter ‘M’ spelt out in diamonds. It was this act that made the giving of bejeweled rings popular amongst those with wealth and power.

Posie Rings

In the 1700’s this type of ring became very popular. It was a simple band of gold with a short inscription in the inside of it. This inscription was usually very romantic and symbolic. Although these rings were not used exclusively as engagement rings, many were. In contrast the Puritans of this period saw these rings as frivolous and ostentatious. Instead they chose to give their brides a thimble! This was not about being romantic, it was about being practical.  Unfortunately for the Puritans their wives generally sliced the ends of the thimbles and used them as rings anyway!

Dearest Rings

This trend emerged in the 1800’s and has been attributed to Queen Victoria, who was deeply in love with Prince Albert. The dearest ring has several different precious stones set side by side across the upper side if the ring. The most extravagant examples had diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, sapphire and topaz. The 19th century is also the time that diamonds were discovered in South Africa. This discovery led to an increase in the availability of diamonds and made them more affordable to the middle classes.  During this period the engraved signet ring became incredibly popular too. Men wore signet to exude power and social rank; the ring had a crest or engraving, and it was usually made of silver and gold.

It was during this century that Tiffany and Co introduced the Tiffany setting; they used six prongs to hold the diamond and lift it away from the band, making it more prominent, a style that is commonly purchased today. The 19th century was also the time that the DeBeers Mining Company was formed.  It was created by Cecil Rhodes and a few other investors who arrived in South Africa in 1873, the company was formed in 1880 and within a decade this company was able to control ninety percent of the world’s diamond production.

20th century

In 1918 Cartier created the Trinity ring, a ring made from three different colors, usually yellow gold, white gold and rose gold.  Each color represents a specific trait.  Yellow is fidelity, pink is love and white is friendship.  This type of ring is still very popular in France today. The First World War and the subsequent Great depression meant a decline in the consumption if diamonds. To combat the slump in sales the De Beer’s started a new marketing campaign in 1938.  The slogan which was used then remains famous today; ‘a diamond is forever’.  It has been recognized as one of the most successful campaigns of all time.

It was this campaign that recommended men should spend one month’s salary on a ring, an amount which was changed to two months in the 1980’s. The last part of the twentieth century has seen bigger and more expensive engagement rings become the norm, especially as many celebrity couples are seen to exchange them. The most valuable celebrity engagement ring is currently valued at 5.8 million US$ and was given by Jay-Z to Beyonce.  Perhaps the most famous ring of all time is the 12 carat sapphire ring, surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds which belonged to Princess Diana.

There are many cheaper options available on the market today to, cover all budgets and tastes, no matter what the future, the engagement ring will be part of it in some form!