Tag Archive | engagement ring

The origins of the engagement ring….history or mystery?

We’ve all heard the rumour about engagement rings being worn on the third picture of the left hand because this was thought to be a direct connection to the heart; but where does the tradition really come from?  We thought with the number of engagements which traditionally take place today, Valentines day would be a great opportunity to have another look at my wedding photos a look at the history of the engagement ring:  

Wedding rings 

It is widely accepted that the concept of the engagement ring dates back to the Egyptians, around 2800BC.  As part of their burial customs they were often buried wearing rings, of a single strand of gold or silver wire on the third finger on their left hands, which was believed to be symbolic and a direction connection to the heart of the wearer. The history of the engagement ring can only be traced back reliably to ancient Rome; according to Pliny the Elder, in the 1st century AD, the groom gave the bride first a gold ring to wear during the ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home.  The first documented use of an engagement ring goes back to Pope Nicolas I in 866 AD.  Pope Nicolas had an entirely conservative opinion on the intuition of marriage and he wrote that when a man becomes engaged to a woman, he gives her a “ring of faith”.  In these early days ‘rings’ of rushes and grasses were used as they were readily available, however over the centuries rings were made of a variety of materials. Some research shows that during the 19th century, during the Protestant Reformation a bride-to-be sometimes received a sewing thimble.  After the wedding, the man would cut off the cup of the thimble thus symbolizing that the young woman’s sewing was over and any dowry was complete.  The rim was then worn as a ring. Most researchers and historians agree that the first engagement ring, in the form we would be familiar with today, was given by Archduke Maximilian of Austria when he proposed to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. The ring was a simple yellow gold band set with thin flat slices of diamond in the shape of an “M”.  Since then, the designs and the value of the materials used have changed to reflect the times, but other aspects, such as how they are worn, have remained constant. Our tradition vision of a diamond engagement ring dates back primarily to the Victorian era, when diamond mines began producing vast quantities of stones, however, they were still perceived to be the domain of the noble and aristocratic, many still preferring to use simpler bands.   

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In 1938, the diamond cartel De Beers began a marketing campaign that would have a major impact on engagement rings even to the present day. The price of diamonds had collapsed during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and research showed that engagement rings were going out of fashion.  As part of their campaign, De Beers began to ‘educate’ the public about the 4 Cs (cut, carats, colour, and clarity).  And in 1947 the slogan “a diamond is forever” was introduced.  They wanted to persuade consumers that only a diamond set ring should be used for something as important as an engagement ring and that it would last a lifetime.  Their campaign was hugely successful, when they began only a small percent of engagement rings had diamonds – today, well, only a very small percentage do not!   We’ve ‘ahem’ suggested some of our favourites below, tell us about your engagement ring!  Please also do have a look at the Pretty Thrifty Budget Wedding blog which has some great suggestions for alternatives to the traditional diamond.

We say when it comes to engagement rings never be afraid to go for something unusual like this stunning cluster from Jewellerywebsite.co.uk, as well as bridal sets they have a great selection of unusual rings

We say when it comes to engagement rings never be afraid to go for something unusual like this stunning cluster from Jewellerywebsite.co.uk, as well as bridal sets they have a great selection of unusual rings

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Speaking of non-diamond engagement rings we’re so delighted to find this stunning collection from Pamela Dickinson with matching sculpted wedding band. If you like the look of this do check out her work as there’s a fantastic variety, and you can also find it featured in the Ringleaders collection at http://www.pyramidgallery.com/ the Pyramid Gallery in York

If anyone has a spare $56,500 I wouldn’t mind this landing under my Christmas tree either!  Tiffany is a classic for engagement rings.

Does it have to be a diamond…?

Whilst there are many different colours of diamonds (which we’ll come onto in a different post) we’re going to look specifically at alternatives to the colourless diamond.  Common replicas include Cubic Zirconia, Moissanite, Petalite, Zircon and Topaz.  For even cheaper prices clear glass or acrylic is often used in high street jewellery.  These can all be found in incredibly clear and brilliant examples, they’re cheaper, many look similar, so how can you tell what is real?  Take the well known crystal brand Swarovski, this beautiful necklace (below) is stunning in many different lights, can you really tell that it’s not diamond; Wedding necklace and if you can does it matter?  In the cases of white Zircon, Topaz and Petalite, among others, you’re still getting a real gemstone, similar mining processes and cutting, but paying nowhere near the price of a diamond.  In any event to be fair can anyone really tell whether the rock around your neck is actually synthetic crystal or diamond anyway. Disadvantages of the alternatives So the obvious disadvantage of anything that isn’t diamond or one of the other really desirable gems is that it is likely to lose value, a real diamond is more likely (but not guaranteed) to gain in value over time, particularly good quality gems which are well looked after.  However, turning this on its head of course you probably won’t have paid anywhere near as much for a moissanite or CZ so does it really matter, to each their own. The other obvious disadvantage is that unless you’re wearing a diamond you are not wearing one of the hardest gems known to man…this could make your item easier to scratch or damage…you might not be able to use it to carve your name onto furniture… On a serious note each gem (real or synthetic) has different refractive/fluorescence and brilliance or sparkle.  This is where the real trick lies in trying to distinguish real from fake but in reality without close examination it’s unlikely that even an accredited jewellery professional is going to argue if you tell them your CZ is a diamond. There are also advantages to none diamond pieces, unless you’re particularly precious about your precious gems, synthetic or less pricy gems means you can afford either bigger pieces, or more items than you might be able to with real diamonds.  They can look just as stunning (I wore CZ on my wedding day so no arguments please, but cue an opportunity to flash some wedding bling!) Wedding bracelet and chances are most people you pass in the street won’t be able to tell.  After all how many of us have spent our journey to work staring at someone’s engagement ring wondering whether that giant rock is real or not…?! Ooh more importantly this means it’s more difficult to tell if that rock he got for you is real…hmmm that’s when it’s good to know a gemologist 😉