A History of Engagement Rings

A History of Engagement Rings

A History of Engagement Rings

Elisabeth Taylor didn’t know that she would become a fundamental part of popular culture and change forever the lives of her future husbands and other brides-to-be when her third husband, Mike Todd, offered her a giant 29.4-carat emerald cut solitaire. Taylor’s giant ring soon became famous and was the object of desire of the women of the time. Emerald cut diamonds monopolized the market of solitaire diamonds and have stayed for good. Taylor didn’t hesitate to show her ring to the paparazzi who followed her every moment: it was as if she were living today’s “I said yes!” stories each time she was in front of the cameras. She was truly a woman of love, she adored receiving precious jewels from her husbands and to transform them into new jewelry with different designs.

When she remarried in 1968, she was wearing a 39.19-carat Asscher cut diamond known as the Krupp Diamond on her finger. With the priceless rings she received from her eight marriages, she adorned the marriage institution with the glamor of Hollywood and the sparkle of diamonds.

Elisabeth Taylor may be solitaire-rich but the only jewelry most people have and wear throughout their lives are engagement rings and solitaires. Owning a precious stone ring is not just about registering your love and having the pleasure of buying the biggest stone you can afford; the important thing is to find the right jewelry that will represent a new chapter of life and all that is to come.

History is full of women who, like Taylor, wear solitaire rings as a power shield, a talisman - maybe you are one of them. But engagement rings with stones weren’t always popular. In ancient cultures, marriage was often seen as a trade, a business deal. As the ages progressed, the perspective on culture, art, relationships between woman and man, and most importantly,notions of love and affection changed, as the most precious stones of the world began to be used in amorous reunions, with romantic words attached to it.

Taking a look at how today’s solitaire trends are shaped can help us understand how diamonds turned into the most important element of our happiest day.

Will you shake hands with me?

Like most traditions that we still carry in our modern day life, we can trace the custom of jewelry-wearing as a symbol of devotion in matrimony all the way back to the Roman Empire. Flint, ivory, copper, iron… Strange when we think of marriage, isn’t it? It wasn’t the case in Ancient Rome. However, rings made of these materials often found their place on the fingers of Romans uniting their lives. It would be absurd to expect wedding rings to be romantic in Rome, where women were often married in exchange for business negotiations and their place in society was considered to perpetuate family lineage. The ancient Romans marrying in ceremonies were called sponsalia, the father was delivering his daughter to the groom, and the groom placed a ring called annulus pronubis, or a wedding ring, on his fiancée's finger. Then, instead of “You can kiss the bride”, the words “You can shake hands with the bride” were heard. Throughout history, people who agreed to shake hands would also agree to spend their lives together when they married and to certify this, they wore rings called fede, which had handshaking figures on them. Roman women wore rings made of precious metals in public and less precious ones at home, and this was how they showed the social status and existence of their husbands.

Gold was not used much, but gold wedding rings have been found in the ruins of Pompeii. This is what was expected of the most self-indulgent and fun-loving people of the empire, before they were buried under the lava of Mount Vesuvius and faced their terrible end.

Pope Nicolas I, on duty in the year 850, possessed and shared the foresight of the people of Pompeii by saying wearing a gold ring in marriage was a symbol of devotion. After the Pope made things official, couples of this period began to turn towards gold rings. In the Byzantine period, Christianity became prevalent and marriage was seen as a union bestowed and necessarily approved by God. Engravings of men and women on the rings of couples blessed by God were often accompanied by Jesus or a cross.

Romantic whispers

French musicians who travelled to Europe in the Middle Ages laid the foundations of today's classical wedding rings with their romantic songsdescribing stories of heroism. Romantic lovers adorned the rings made of precious metals with words of love and flower engravings. These rings, called posy, named after short love poems in French, continued to be used until the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The diamond solitaire recorded for the first time in the world was presented by Archduke

Maximilian of Austria to his fiancée Mary of Burgundy in 1477.

Although the European aristocracy were quick to attempt to imitate this gesture, Mary's solitaire was soon forgotten. Still, diamonds were very valuable and attracted people's attention. They were also used in abundance in many royal women's necklaces, brooches and bracelets, which are now breaking sales records at auctions. But when Victorian times came, the romance of precious stones began to fascinate couples. The posy rings of ancient Europe were still whispering words of love but now they also includeddiamonds and semiprecious stones at their center. Flowers made of different stones were also very appreciated. By the early 1900s, bands of the rings were thicker and their large stones were surrounded by tiny diamonds like lace.

Although the flower ring trend continued well intothe Edwardian era, it hasn’t endured, and we have recently come across remarkable examples from this era on the fingers of famous women.The heart cut diamond ring Lady Gaga received from her ex-fiancé Taylor Kinney had the letters "T heart S" in pave diamonds on the back of the band of the ring.

Orlando Bloom gave Katy Perry a flower ring with a giant ruby in the center and its petals were made of diamonds. In point of fact, Bloom had given an all-diamond flower ring to his first wife, Miranda Kerr!

Discovery of diamond

The brave atmosphere of the 1920s was combined with the Art Deco movement saw women wanting to see colorful precious stones with modern designs and angles on their fingers. Art Deco had changed aesthetic perception forever and brought about the creation of different stone cuts. The rich-looking Asscher cut and emerald cut diamonds got popular. Asscher cut stones were surrounded by diamond frames called halos and the stones were mostly colorful.

By the 1930s, an American jewelry brand couldn’t sell large number of diamonds extracted from mines in South Africa and found the solution of promoting advertising campaigns in which famous Hollywood stars wore diamonds. Before persuading Americans to buy diamonds, these gave them the chance to covet the glittering lives and stunning jewelry of their favorite stars. But that wasn't the only good idea they came up with.

The brand's advertising campaign “A Diamond Is Forever” launched in 1947 has convinced Americans that a diamond ring was the only symbol of devotion. This campaign, created by a woman, established the quintessence of the engraving of the diamond-marriage-eternity triangle in the mind of modern-day brides and thereby compelled men to buy solitaire diamond rings for their future spouses (their catch line "only for two salaries" were referring to how accessible and valuable the diamond was) and convinced women that they can’t marry without a diamond.

The flawless-looking round brilliant cut with its 58 surfaces was very popular. It was followed by princess, emerald, oval and cushioncuts. This order hasn't changed today: isn’t it a proof that diamonds are truly eternal?

Celebrities on stage

In the 1950s, the norm was to give a diamond ring when proposing and jewelry houses tried many different ways to make their solitaire designs unforgettable. With the use of multiple stones and cuts, different band sizes and their coverings, and ever-growing number of stones, we started to see the most daring and impressive solitaires on the fingers of celebrities. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that our taste for solitaires was shaped by the famous women we adored until the 2000s. When Jackie Kennedy received an emerald and diamond ring from her future husband, we realized that we can’t settle for just one stone! The emerald cut diamond and emerald in Jackie's ring were surrounded by diamond leaves.

When Audrey Hepburn received a marriage proposal from Mel Ferrer, bands of solitaire rings were evolving. Audrey Hepburn received three different rings that were supposed to be used with different pairings but she loved to wear all three at the same time. Hepburn inspired women to be bolder and combine engagement rings with other rings.

The most famous of the emerald cut diamonds, which is still preferred by today's celebrities, was the ring Grace Kelly never took off during her marriage to Rainier, Prince of Monaco. The prince had originally proposed with a more modest ring, but when he saw that all the Hollywood stars were walking around with huge stones, he ordered a 10.47-carat emerald cut diamond ring for his princess. The platinum band of the ring revealed how forward-looking the prince was. His move to a bigger ring motivated all the men in the world to buy better and bigger rings for women they love.

Names such as Beyoncé, Amal Clooney, Jennifer Lawrence, Demi Lovato show that the emerald cut is timeless. Remember that of the five rings Jennifer Lopez received from herfiancés, those she put on her finger in 2001 and 2019 were emerald cut diamond rings proof that this cut never goes out of fashion, even after years.

Towards the end of the 1980s, women began to match the band of their solitaire with their engagement rings and discovered different metals. In the 1960s and 70s, there wasn’t a single woman who didn’t own an Asscher or emerald cut ring. Until the royal wedding.

Despite Queen Elizabeth's displeasure, Princess Diana ordered her ring, a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds, from a jewelry company's catalog. It was as if Diana, with this single choice of opting for a ring that anyone could buy (at that time, royal members only wore custom-made jewelry or jewelry that belonged to the throne), was telling women that they should listen to their hearts when choosing their rings. This ring, named Marguerite, which she wore during her engagement in 1982, brought colored stones back to the scene.

About 30 years later, when her son Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with the same ring, sapphire rings in the world faced danger of extinction!

Which ring is you?

The minimalist lifestyle trend that started in the mid-1990s also affected the choices of diamonds. Until the 2010s, round cut rings and diamond covered bands were reigning. In these years when tabloid culture was rising, celebrities’ rings adorning the covers of tabloid magazines once again shaped trends.

Think back on how in an episode of Sex and the City from 2001, Carrie went crazy when she realized that her boyfriend was going to propose to her with a yellow gold ring, asking "How can I marry a guy who doesn't know which ring is me?". Carrie accepted his proposal only after she received an Asscher cut diamond. Many women at the time thought like Carrie. White gold and platinum rings had taken over the market in the 1990s. The minimalist atmosphere of the period, the wardrobes full of soft colors in the 2000s, natural make-up and haircuts no longer matched glitzy yellow gold.

Marquise cut diamonds had become the most wanted rings after round and emerald cut. This cut, which was also preferred by Victoria Beckham, made fingers look longer and added glamor to the simple dressing style of the period. Princess cuts, which were reinterpreted with inspiration from the 1960s were also in vogue. Cushion cut stones with diamond halos captured the market in the 2010s.

Now, the only way to reach diamonds is not just in bloody mines; lab grown diamonds, diamond-looking semi-precious stones, fair trade certified stones, diamonds used more than once for sustainability have enabled us to both meet the interest in this elegant stone and create different designs and uses according to different needs.

So, what's next? The 2020s show signs that every cut will find equal footing in the making of rings. According to experts, the round cut will forever remain the most popular choice. The oval (remember Hailey Bieber's gorgeous oval solitaire) and the princess cut will also be among the favorites. Colored stones, which have been very popular lately, may not be seen for a while as supply problems may occur.

At the end of the day, what matters isn’t what the experts say, it's what you want. No matter what the trend is, no matter who wears it, no one knows better than you and your future husband which stone will suit you the most and which will match your feelings.

If you don’t know what kind of ring you want or if you want to renew it, you can take a look at the Ferko's Engagement Rings collection.

Ferko's Engagement Rings collection

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