The diamond is considered the ultimate and universal symbol of love. Diamond, being the hardest stone, is a perfect choice. Most likely the tradition of the engagement ring originated in 1477. This is when Archduke Maximillian gave a diamond to Mary of Burgundy.
For the next few centuries only the wealthy and famous gave engagement rings. In 1870 several diamond mines were found and diamonds became more available and affordable for the average person. The tradition of wearing an engagement and wedding ring on the left ring finger most likely originated in Greece. They believed that the vein in this finger had a direct line to the heart.
Before the tradition of giving an engagement ring to the woman you intended to marry, it was said that men used to wear it tied to their hats until they found their intended bride.
During the middle ages, the rings were called “posey” rings sentimentally inscribed with love poems and special sayings. This tradition lasted until the 1800s.
During the Renaissance, “gimmel” rings were worn by the future bride and groom. They were then joined on the wedding day. Two hands separated were then clasped into one ring.
The smallest diamond engagement ring ever recorded was given to Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII when she was betrothed to Dauphin of France when she was two years old. She was given a tiny diamond set into a small gold ring.
During the 1700s and 1800s, colored stones such as rubies and emeralds were popular in engagement rings. Today you can still find Victorian rings with the words “Dearest” (diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and turquoise) or “Regard” (ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, and diamond). Hearts were favored during the 17th and 18th century, many rings used colored stones such as rubies (a symbol of love) and diamonds (a symbol of eternity).
Serpents, the symbol of eternity and good luck, were also used as engagement rings. Queen Victoria had been given a ring with a snake and the tradition was then made popular. Solitaires were not popular until the late 1800s- early 1900s. Platinum was the metal of choice. It was then replaced by gold during WWII when platinum was restricted for military use.
Some famous engagement rings include a 2ct diamond with emerald accents given to Jacqueline Kennedy by John.
A 12ct emerald cut diamond given to Grace Kelly by Prince Ranier.
A 33.19ct asscher cut was the 1st engagement ring from Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor in 1968, followed by a 69.42ct D color, Flawless. It was sold in 1978 by Elizabeth to build a hospital in Botswana.
Kate Middleton now wears Princess Diana’s oval 18ct sapphire encircled by 14 diamonds.
And last, but not least, a 16.5ct emerald cut with two side diamonds equal to 2 carats each for Kim Kardashian.
Engagement rings are still the perfect symbol of lasting love.