The Engagement Ring
The Engagement Ring – All of us have seen a female friend being all happy and gloomy about her sweetheart having proposed to her. One particular (must do) when announcing one’s engagement these days is to show of the Engagement Ring a girl has received from her future husband! More often than not the size of the diamond on the engagement ring is taken as a measurement on how much the groom to be is loving his future wife! I have my biggest doubt that love can be measured in carat. But let us have a look into where this “old tradition’ of giving an engagement ring actually comes from;
Although, it may not have been the first Diamond Ring used to once love, the first recorded Diamond engagement ring was given from Maximilian the Archduke of Austria in 1477 to his spouse Mary of Burgundy. The ring consisted of a gold ring with flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an M.
However, the tradition of rings can be dated back to the 3nd century BC (5000 years ago) to the Egyptians, which used braided rings made of reeds that where worn on the left-hand ring finger as it was believe that this finger had a vein (vena amoris (vein of love)) that run strait to the heart.
Fast-forward to the 2nd century B.C., when the ancient Romans are believed to have started the tradition of betrothal rings in lieu of giving the bride money or a valuable object. But its symbolism wasn’t so much about love as it was ownership. According to Pliny the Elder, the groom first gave the bride a gold ring to wear during the betrothal ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home, signifying her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her.
During the middle ages in Europe, following Maximilian’s example, it was common for the nobility in Europe to use more and more pompous rings with all different kinds of gemstones. It was also not uncommon to inscribe romantic poems and sayings into the rings.
However, most common where “fede rings” made of gold or iron that had two hands clasped together.
As we can see so far, Diamond rings haven’t played a huge role in engagements and weddings so far. But that started to change in 1888 when Cecil Rhodes founded a company named De Beers! De Beers was a mining company in South Africa which at the time of its founding own every single diamond mine in South Africa. While holding a monopoly on the entire diamond marked throughout the 20st century, today, De Beers is still responsible for approximately 35% of all rough diamond production. But let’s go back to the early 20st century; the first word war had ended and poverty was common among the middle class, this became even worse during the great depression at the end of the 1920’s when the stock markets in America fell and unemployment became a huge problem. During this time, De Beers faced difficult times as the sales of diamonds plunged and the company was having troubles to sell their high-quality diamonds for jewelry.
It was then in 1938, when De Beers hired a marketing company (N. W. Ayer & Son), to push the sales of diamond engagement rings that seemed to go out of fashion. The marketing campaign was a huge success and the sales of diamond engagement rings soared. De Beers was able to establish the rule that a man should spend the worth of about 2 months of his salary for a ring. The campaign was supported with numerous Hollywood and Broadway stars. In 1947 Frances Gerety created the slogan “Diamonds are Forever” which is still today used by De Beers for advertising. Soon after that, Marilyn Monroe made it a must for every Gentleman to buy his beloved girl a diamond ring when she sang the song “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” in the 1953 movie “Gentleman Prefer Blondes”.
I know, all that talk is not very romantic and it is kind of sad that we need to thank a company which sole purpose is selling diamonds for this symbol of love.
However, it has been a huge success story for De Beers, what started of as a market of about 20 million US$ per year in the 1930’s, is a close to 15 billion US$ market today!
Ohh… before I forget; Please do not take the slogan “Diamonds are forever” literally! Although, it is the hardest substance known, Diamonds are extremely fragile and can be smashed to pieces with a hammer, they really don’t like falling on a stone floor and since they are made of carbon… they can vanish in a beautiful but expensive flame!