We are surrounded and inundated with a plethora of laws and regulations that predate our very existence. Yet we seldom pause to evaluate the majority of the traditions that we immediately accept as the standard in our everyday lives.
For some reason, certain objects in this world have become symbols. A diamond ring is by far the most visible and significant symbol of engagement and marriage. Even toddlers understand the gleaming diamond ring as a symbol of engagement. What is the cause of this, and when did it begin? More significantly, why are diamonds used only in engagement rings? Let’s take a look at this widespread behavior, how it started, and where it is now.
History of Diamonds
Many people are unaware that diamonds were not always used in jewelry. They were employed as ornaments and talismans to ward off evil spirits when they were found thousands of years ago in India. Later, they were thought to “cure” illnesses. Diamonds were only utilized in jewelry for the first time over a thousand years ago. The first guy proposed with a diamond ring 400 years later. Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy as his wife. Thus came the practice of proposing with diamond rings, which was mostly reserved for the higher class.
While this was the earliest known instance of a diamond engagement ring, it was far from the first engagement ring. That custom dates back to ancient Egypt when reed bands were placed on each other’s ring fingers to represent their betrothal. The ring finger was chosen because it was thought to have a vein directly linked to the heart, signifying love.
Engagement rings used to be considerably less romantic than they are today. Historically, they were a sign of ownership. Wives were given gold rings and metal rings to wear at home to indicate that they belonged to their husbands. This custom has grown over time and is now associated with love and mutual commitment.
The Engagement Stone
Diamonds were the first gemstones used in engagement rings, and when they were discovered in abundance in South Africa, the diamond business advertised them as the engagement stone that everyone should have. The Great Depression slowed things down a little, but as the economy recovered, it resumed up just where it left off.
Diamond engagement rings may now be seen in almost every culture. However, as time passes, individuals are drifting away from traditional values and embracing a new world of individualism.
Engagement rings used to represent ownership, but now they represent collaboration and commitment. It is natural for tradition to evolve in a culture that celebrates all types of love. Fancy color diamonds are an excellent substitute for the classic white diamond engagement ring.
With so many different colors, shapes, and sizes to pick from, it’s no wonder that more and more couples are using color to express their love.
A Diamond is Forever
Fast forward to 1948, when a famous tagline was born. The firm De Beers developed the ever-popular phrase “A Diamond is Forever.” This campaign was a huge success, resulting in a high number of purchases. This phrase was not only snappy and appealing, but it also had other connotations that contributed to diamonds’ rising popularity. The concept of a diamond being “forever” conveyed the reality of how durable the stones are, while also imprinting in the minds of Americans the idea that marriage is an everlasting commitment. This was declared the “slogan of the century” by Advertising Age in 1999.
This tagline was created by a firm that tried to make diamonds more accessible by riding the coattails of the 1930s when demand for diamonds in America dropped owing to economic troubles. Diamond sales had been declining for years before the Great Depression since it was commonly assumed that these stones were a luxury saved mainly for the rich. Along with coining this still-popular phrase, De Beers used gorgeous movie stars in their ads, who were richly decked with magnificent diamonds. Within three years of the campaign’s launch, diamond sales had climbed by a whopping 50%.
Perhaps a large part of the campaign’s popularity stemmed from the commercials’ emphasis on equating the everlasting beauty of a diamond with the same long-lasting pleasure and love that marriage is intended to contain. Images of honeymooning couples or even advertisements likening the acquisition of a diamond to the building of a city were widely distributed with stress on permanence and timelessness.
The custom of diamond engagement rings was created and took off in society thanks to De Beers’ promotional campaign. Even as early as the 1940s, De Beers’ annual reports frequently mentioned the “engagement diamond tradition,” even though it had not yet caught fire. However, when additional advertisements focused on that notion, the public began to carry on the custom. Eight out of every ten American brides received a diamond engagement ring in 1951. That figure has been fairly constant since then.