Perhaps you’re only interested in the history of one diamond engagement ring: your own. A history that is steeped in a thousand moments, big and small, all of which have come together as one, all-consuming romantic love story. A story which ended with a sparkling ring on your finger which, in turn, signifies the beginning of another story: your life together, your happily-ever-after.
The history of your own personal love story, how it led to the diamond ring on your finger, and how said ring was chosen and placed on your finger is always going to be one of your favorite tales. And every diamond engagement ring is unique in that each love story is unique. But there is one love story which stands above the others in the realms of the engagement ring, because it is the story which started the whole tradition of diamond engagement rings…
The first diamond engagement ring
The tradition of the diamond engagement ring as we know it, given to a partner as a symbol of commitment, marriage to come, and love ever after, was started by Maximilian the 1st of Austria when he gifted a diamond ring to his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, back in 1477.
Anthropologists believe that the tradition of a ring worn as a symbol of commitment was actually created long before then, with the exchange of a simple wedding band dating much further back to the 1200s*. But it is widely believed that Archduke Maximillian commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record. And the rest, as they say, is history.
(*Side note: the first rings given as part of a marriage or betrothal pact were more about ownership than love, but that’s not a story that belongs on a page with the sparkly hope of diamonds. Yuck.)
Diamond engagement rings go mainstream
Of course, just because Archduke Maximillian could lavish his love with a diamond ring as a symbol of his commitment, didn’t mean everyone could. For the longest time, the giving of diamonds, rings or otherwise, was limited to the moneyed European aristocracy. They were hardly the go-to for engagement rings they are today.
While today over 80% of betrothed couples choose diamonds as the center stone for their engagement ring (according to Ringspo 2021 Engagement Ring Survey), up to as late as the 1930s, less than 10 percent of engagement rings used diamonds.
So, when and how did diamonds go mainstream and become overwhelmingly the most popular choice for engagement rings?
The when was 1947, and the how was a diamond company with a clever slogan.
In 1947, De Beers launched its iconic, still-quoted slogan, “A Diamond is Forever”, cleverly referencing both the durability and longevity of the stone itself, and the implied meaning that a marriage sealed with a diamond ring would last forever too!
While we’d like to think the copywriter responsible for this stroke of diamond-advertising genius was a romantic at heart (a guy by the name of Frances Gerety at Philadelphia agency NW Ayer), the truth of the matter is that it all boiled down to money. The sales of diamonds had fallen dramatically during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and by 1947 diamond company De Beers was desperate to boost sales once again. And boy did this campaign ever do the trick, helped along by Hollywood stars slathered in diamonds and star power!
The thing is, though, Frances, his agency, and De Beers weren’t wrong. Ranking a 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, diamonds are almost indestructible, and quite literally might last forever. What’s more this does make them the perfect symbol for marriage, love everlasting, an unbreakable commitment to last a lifetime. Clever advertising or no, no lies were told! And soon the popularity of diamonds, and diamond engagement rings in particular, skyrocketed.
Why diamond engagement rings continue to remain the go-to symbol of commitment
So, now that we know that advertising did it – advertising was behind the most romantic ring most of us will ever receive – why do we continue to prize and covet diamond engagement rings above all others? Let us count the reasons!
- Because they’re gorgeous – diamonds are breathtaking in all sizes, colors, cuts, carats and clarities.
- Because they are almost unbreakable, being the hardest of all natural substances.
- Because nothing beats the sparkle of a diamond ring on your fourth finger, or any finger, to cheer you up on a gray day.
- Because they go with everything.
- Because they sparkle, and shine, and spark joy in every form. And that, friends and fellow diamond lovers, is the sign of something worth having, advertising or no advertising.
At Keezing Kreations we have decades of experience choosing only the best quality diamonds that showcase the sparkle, brilliance, and shimmer that life’s biggest moments deserve! With the finest quality diamonds in Boston, in all shapes and sizes at very competitive prices, and 40 years’ experience creating custom jewelry items designed to spark both sparkle and joy, you can trust our jewelers to help you both find the diamond and design the diamond engagement ring of her dreams.