The Fascinating History of Women's Engagement Rings (2023)

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by Suzanne Sachs  5 min read

Antique Engagement Ring


Engagement rings are a time-honored, romantic custom, especially when a beloved vintage engagement ring is passed down through the generations, adding new chapters to its unique love story with every “will you” and “I do” it is part of. But how did the tradition of women's engagement rings begin?


In this guide, we will explain the following:

  • History of engagement rings
  • The first women's engagement ring
  • Women's Engagement rings in the 1800's
  • 20th century engagement rings
  • The DeBeers Corporation?
  • Engagement rings today

History of Engagement Rings

Engagement rings have been noted in ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Roman cultures in different ways. In ancient Egypt, the circlet of a ring was associated with eternity, symbolizing the enduring bond between a couple. In ancient Rome, the rings signified the ownership of women as property, and an iron ring was worn at home while doing household work, while a gold or silver ring was worn in public. Bone and copper rings were also common. Other ancient cultures often used braided reeds or other materials to create rings that could be associated with engagements, marriage, or other relationship bonds, though the exact intention and meanings behind many of those rings is unclear or has been lost to history.


The First Women's Engagement Ring

While different societies and cultures have long had variations on engagement rings, it wasn’t until the fifteenth century that the first diamond engagement ring was recorded. When Archduke Maximilian of Austria was betrothed to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy in Vienna in 1477, he presented her with an elaborate ring featuring diamonds forming an M shape. This expensive gift and the royal status of the couple strongly influenced jewelry trends of the era. Diamond engagement rings quickly became more popular among royalty, nobility, and other members of high society who could afford such extravagant luxuries.


Engagement Rings in the 1800s

Because diamonds were so rare, valuable, and expensive, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that diamond engagement rings became more popular and widespread. At that time, large diamond deposits were discovered in South Africa, making the gemstones more affordable and more easily attainable. Other gems, including rubies and emeralds, were also featured in engagement rings.


• 20th Century Engagement Rings

After World War I and during the Great Depression, the desire for diamond engagement rings declined drastically because of the stones’ cost. Other engagement ring styles, including art deco rings and other designs featuring colored gemstones and elaborate metalwork, remained popular even as diamonds fell out of favor.


The De Beers Corporation

In the 1940s, however, the diamond company De Beers created an advertising campaign with the catchphrase “a diamond is forever” and took steps to educate the public on the four Cs of diamond quality. This generated great interest in diamond engagement rings and quickly turned these rings into an indispensable part of romantic, committed relationships.


Women's Engagement Rings Today

Today, more than 80 percent of brides-to-be prefer a diamond engagement ring, and there are a wide variety of styles to suit different personal preferences. A growing trend includes engagement rings for men – “mangagement rings” – though it should be noted that men’s engagement rings have long been popular in parts of Europe and South America. Today’s couples are increasingly conscious of the social stories of their engagement rings, and are often favoring vintage engagement rings and antique rings that are not associated with blood diamonds or other unscrupulous practices.


The story of engagement rings is evolving every year, with every newly engaged couple adding to the history of these romantic and meaningful rings. Vintage is here to help you find the next chapter of your romance with the perfect ring to represent your love and commitment, whether that be with a true antique ring, a colored engagement ring, or a special era such as a Victorian engagement ring. No matter which style you choose, you can add a beautiful piece of history to your own personal romance with the right engagement ring.


Vintage Engagement Rings For Everyone:

No matter which era is your favorite, these time-honored rings have a rich history and individualized character and will continue to have a timeless beauty and elegant appeal that is part of a legacy to pass on to future generations.

Find The Perfect Engagement Ring:

Vintage rings are prized not only for their beauty but also for their exquisite attention to detailing and faceting. If you’re looking for a ring with a sense of glamour, sophistication and vintage charm, explore our collection of vintage engagement rings today!


Suzanne Sachs

Suzanne has always believed vintage rings can change lives. She's been in the jewelry industry for over 35 years, working with vintage jewelers, diamond dealers, diamond cutters, and gemologists. Suzanne started Artdecodiamonds in 2000 and understood the demand for vintage rings throughout the world. She ultimately started in 2014, and understands each vintage ring is a reflection of you – your history, your relationships, your style, your elegance and is honored to have the opportunity to help you showcase your flair in a unique and exquisite way.


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Art Deco Emerald Ring


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