Engagement rings aren't just any piece of jewelry, they're a heartfelt symbol of devotion and love. A long history of engagement rings has brought us through an evolution of proposals to today's customs. While a ring technically isn't necessary for proposals or engagement, it has become a time-honored tradition that many people choose to follow. An engagement ring is a physical token of your love and a display of romance that shows your future spouse that you know their style and expectations. Here's a little about how engagement rings came to be and why we still buy them today.
What is the History of the Engagement Ring?
Throughout history, and even today, many cultures and religions have different customs where a promissory token of some sort accompanies a marriage. But, historically, there's not a whole lot of common knowledge or concrete information about the story of engagement rings. Some evidence indicates that engagement rings, made of bone, flint, or copper, date as far back as ancient Romans in the second century B.C. However, between Ancient Rome and the 1400s, there's nothing particularly noteworthy in history about engagement rings specifically.
Supposedly, in 1477, the Archduke of Austria proposed with a gem-studded ring, but the documentation is weak, and at the time many types of jewelry accompanied engagements. Another bit of history suggests Martin Luther and Catherine Bora wore a pair of simple hoops during their engagement. Then, the hoops were fitted together into one band for Catherine when they got married in 1525. There is some data supporting an increase in proposals with gem and diamond rings after Prince Albert proposed to Queen Victoria with an emerald ring in 1840.
For the most part, engagement rings — especially ones with diamonds — were uncommon until the 20th century. Engagement rings gained some traction at the turn of the century, but it really wasn't until the 1940s when today's concept of proposing with a diamond ring become popular, thanks to targeted advertising campaigns by diamond and jewelry companies. One such campaign in 1946 provided detailed descriptions of the diamonds worn by Hollywood stars for publication in over 125 major newspapers. Over several decades, with the help of widespread marketing strategies, engagement rings grew into the custom we currently know and love.
Modern Engagement Ring Evolution
As with all fashion trends and social customs, engagement rings have evolved over time. Here is a description of the most popular styles of engagement rings by decade.
- 1900s: Although uncommon, engagement rings were dainty and detailed with small encrusted diamonds.
- 1910s: Engagement rings emerged with a single old European cut diamond, a hand cut and rounded shape.
- 1920s: A wave of modern fashion brought a mix of gemstones and diamonds, with the center stone often an Asscher cut gemstone, similar to an emerald cut.
- 1930s: Due to the Great Depression, engagement ring styles became simpler and smaller, with platinum as the most common metal.
- 1940s: Less was more during this decade with smaller stone settings and intricate designs, like flowers or hearts, set in yellow gold.
- 1950s: Proposing with diamond engagement rings skyrocketed in popularity, as did solitaire stones with baguette shaped stones on the band. Although large and elaborate styles were also popular.
- 1960s: Engagement rings typically had either emerald cut center stones or pear-shaped center stones with tapered baguettes on the band.
- 1970s: Unique rings with geometric and angular cuts set the trend, like marquise shaped and princess cut diamonds for the center stones. Matching wedding bands grew in popularity.
- 1980s: Yellow gold made a strong comeback and extravagant designs like cluster rings, a large center stone surrounded by smaller stones, sparked the industry.
- 1990s: Minimalist trends and round solitaire diamonds replaced extravagant designs and cooler metals like white gold and platinum were common.
- 2000s: Halo rings were the most popular, a large cushion cut stone surrounded by pavé diamonds, with matching pavé bands. Colored diamonds and double bands also added a little something special.
- 2010s: Radiant cuts, gemstone centers, and cluster rings made a resurgence and mixing metals, vintage styles, and ethically sourced stones became popular.
- 2020s: Thin stackable bands and milestone bands join together with large solitaire stones, especially oval shapes, to create stunning accents that still allow the diamond to be the primary focus.
Current Proposal Trends
Tradition dictates the familiar scene where a man gets on bended knee and, in a grand romantic gesture, asks a woman to marry him while presenting a gorgeous diamond ring. While there's nothing wrong with tradition and many people dream of the moment just described, in today's modern times, there's less pressure for tradition. Proposals have become as unique as the individuals in the relationship with either person popping the question, shopping for the engagement ring together, or using diamond jewelry besides a ring. Regardless of modern changes, nearly 75% of brides wear a diamond engagement ring today.
Current Engagement Ring Trends
If you're looking for an engagement ring, you might be wondering where to start. It's helpful if you know what ring style your future spouse wants or at least have an idea of their personal fashion tastes. If you don't, you might consider the growing trend of proposing without a ring and then taking your fiance to the jewelry store to pick out the ring themselves. Even if you do know what your partner wants, sometimes the details like metal type, cut quality, ring size, and diamond certification can get overwhelming.
Take a little time to visit your local jewelry store, or multiple jewelry stores, to ask questions and learn about your options. Jewelers tend to be very knowledgeable about the latest engagement ring trends and are happy to explain the difference between a J color and D color diamond. You may discover that you can afford that custom designed one-of-kind ring, or you may get some unexpected clarity about your partner's style. Whatever your situation, remember today's biggest trend: Don't get caught up in a trend — be uniquely you.
Well, there you have it, a brief history of engagement rings and why people still propose with them today. We know how important it is to pick the perfect engagement ring here at Martin Busch Jewelers. Whether you know every detail about what the engagement ring should look like or you have no clue where to start, we can help you find the perfect engagement ring. From custom designs to classic looks, Martin Busch Jewelers has the best diamonds and best ring designs. We'd love to help you with your perfect proposal, so give us a call or schedule an appointment.