The tradition of giving an engagement ring (and in most cases, a diamond engagement ring) from a man to a woman has been around seemingly forever – or at least, a really long time – but is it truly an age-old custom? And exactly how did the diamond engagement ring trend begin? Keep reading to get the answers to these burning questions!
The Early Years
The beginning of the modern-day diamond engagement ring is a bit over 500 years old – 539 years, to be exact. So in the grand scheme of (bejeweled) things, the tradition of giving and receiving a diamond engagement ring for betrothal isn’t all that old. It’s believed that in 1477, Mary of Burgundy was the first woman to receive a diamond ring from a man, in her case, Maximilian I of Austria. This set the trend for members of the upper socioeconomic class to give and receive diamond rings to signify engagement. However, diamonds were in short supply until 1869 when South Africa emerged as the site of prolific mines.
The Modern-Day Trend
It was only after World War II that diamonds gained acceptance as the ultimate symbol of marriage and commitment for all members of society when N.W. Ayer & Son, the advertising firm commissioned by De Beers, the largest source of rough diamonds in the world, coined what has become the most popular advertising slogan to date – “a diamond is forever.” The series of ads set in motion the idea that a diamond ring was the pinnacle of every couple’s relationship. At the time, it was suggested that a man should spend two months’ salary on a diamond engagement ring for his lady love. Although the budgetary guideline in the modern age has more or less climbed to three months’ salary, the practice of giving and receiving a diamond engagement ring to mark the momentous occasion of impending marriage endures to this very day.