Knowledge Centre > Engagement Rings

Why is a Diamond the Stone of Choice for Engagement Rings?


Renaissance diamond ring, circa 16th century. Hatton Garden
Renaissance diamond ring, circa 16th century.
Ref: 26425

Why are diamonds used for engagement rings? A question perhaps gracing many of our lips. These precious stones, known for their unmatched hardness and breathtaking brilliance, have captured hearts and signified matrimonial intentions for centuries. From the artistry of antique diamond rings to the timeless elegance of Art Deco engagement rings, the journey of the diamond as the archetypical engagement stone is a fascinating one.

 

Whilst vintage sapphire engagement rings, antique emerald engagement rings and more are becoming more of a popular choice, there is no denying diamonds remain the gemstone most associated with engagements. 

Join us as we explore the history of engagement rings, highlighting how diamonds emerged as the premier choice for popping that special question. 

The History of Diamond Engagement Rings: From Ancient Traditions to Contemporary Choices

The history of diamond engagement rings begins with jewellery from Ancient Rome, where simple gold bands were occasionally adorned with uncut diamonds. This period marked the earliest use of diamonds in betrothal, setting the foundation for the deep-rooted tradition of why diamonds are used for engagement rings today.

Maximilian and Mary's meeting in Ghent, 1477, by Anton Petter

Archduke Maximilian of Austria’s proposal to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 with a diamond ring was a pivotal moment in history. This influenced the widespread adoption of diamonds, embedding them in the narrative of love and commitment.

Our collection actually features a remarkable 15th-century piece, a testament to the early history of engagement rings and the enduring appeal of diamonds as significant tokens of affection.

Tudor Table Cut Diamond Ring Circa 1485-1603

Explore our stunning collections, from classic diamond engagement rings to unique Victorian engagement rings, each piece telling its own story of romance and commitment.

The Evolution of Engagement Ring Gemstone Choices

The evolution of gemstone choices in engagement rings takes us on a fascinating journey through history, culture, and fashion. Originally, engagement rings didn't always showcase diamonds as they commonly do today…

The Pre-Diamond Era

So, what stones were used in engagement rings before diamonds? In the Victorian era, engagement rings often featured birthstones, each imbued with unique symbolism. Queen Victoria herself chose a serpent ring set with her birthstone, an emerald, symbolising the eternal love between her and Albert. During this era, people valued the personalisation and sentimentality of using varied gemstones in engagement rings.

Victorian Colombian emerald three stone ring, circa 1890.

Then during the Edwardian era, pearls gained popularity in engagement rings. Their soft lustre and elegance complemented the period's preference for refined and graceful designs, often featuring pearls alongside other gemstones and detailed metalwork.

The Transition to Diamonds

The shift towards using a diamond for an engagement ring was gradual. A significant catalyst was the late 19th-century discovery of vast diamond mines in South Africa, making diamonds more accessible. However, the most influential factor was De Beers' "A Diamond is Forever" campaign in 1947. 

Old cut diamond solitaire ring, circa 1910.

This marketing strategy effectively linked diamonds with eternal love and commitment, positioning them as a symbol of marriage proposals. The campaign's success made diamonds almost synonymous with engagement rings, intertwining the idea of an unbreakable bond with the durability and beauty of diamonds.

The Modern Perspective

Today, while diamonds remain the predominant choice, there's a renewed interest in other gemstones, reminiscent of the variety seen in past eras. This trend towards diverse gemstone choices is driven by a desire for individuality and the recognition of unique love stories.

Victorian Burmese ruby and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1900.

The choice of gemstones in engagement rings mirrors shifts in cultural values, fashion trends, and economic factors over time. From the personalised birthstones of the Victorian era to the pearls of the Edwardian era and the eventual dominance of diamonds.

Why Are Diamonds Traditionally Used for Proposals?

So, how did diamonds become the engagement stone? The traditional use of diamonds in proposals is deeply rooted in their symbolism and the sentiments they evoke. Diamonds, known for their extraordinary hardness, are often seen as metaphors for unbreakable bonds and enduring relationships, a key reason why diamonds are used for proposals. Their durability makes them an ideal emblem of a commitment that is meant to last a lifetime.

Beyond their physical attributes, diamonds possess a unique brilliance and clarity that is often likened to the depth and transparency of true love. This visual representation of purity and sparkle is thought to reflect the intense, radiant emotions shared between partners, further justifying why diamonds are used for proposals.

Additionally, the rarity of diamonds contributes to their appeal in engagement settings. This scarcity symbolises the uniqueness of each love story, making the choice of a diamond ring a deeply personal and significant decision.

Golconda type IIa diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1950.

One of the many reasons to choose antique engagement rings over modern, is the high quality and uniqueness of the diamonds used in them. The antique diamond rings in our collection, particularly the renowned Golconda diamonds, showcase the enduring allure of these gemstones. The Golconda diamonds, famed for their history and exceptional quality, exemplify the timeless charm and profound symbolism that diamonds bring to engagement rings, cementing their status as the quintessential choice for proposals.

Do Engagement Rings Have to Be Diamond? Embracing Diversity in Modern Choices 

In contemporary times, the answer to whether engagement rings have to be diamond is changing. While diamonds have been the traditional choice, modern couples are increasingly exploring other options that resonate more closely with their personal stories and style.

What Other Stones are Used in Engagement Rings?

You might be wondering, do you have to have a diamond engagement ring? Prior to the dominance of diamonds, other stones such as pearls, renowned for their classic elegance, and various birthstones, each with unique meanings, were widely used. These historical choices are re-emerging as popular alternatives today. 

Bright Emeralds, for instance, are sought-after for their rich, green hues, symbolising new beginnings and growth. Sapphires, in their various colours, offer depth and a connection to royalty, whilst antique ruby engagement rings are also rising in popularity, being selected for their passionate red tones, representing love and vitality.

Ceylon sapphire and diamond ring, French, circa 1920. 

This shift towards alternative gemstones reflects a broader trend in betrothal jewellery, where the focus is on the uniqueness of the relationship and the personal significance of the chosen stone.

We offer a wide variety of jewellery options, from traditional diamond engagement rings to unique vintage rings featuring other precious stones. This variety caters to the diverse tastes and stories of couples, acknowledging that while diamonds remain a popular choice, they are certainly not the only option for a meaningful engagement ring.

If you are starting to think about how to choose an engagement ring, book an appointment to visit our experts in our Hatton Garden store, who will be able to guide you through the rich history of our engagement ring collection, to help you choose the perfect vintage or antique piece for your proposal. 

Early diamond solitaire ring 'I am a token of love', circa 16th century. Hatton Garden
Early diamond solitaire ring 'I am a token of love', circa 16th century.
Ref: 26421
Georgian diamond memorial ring berganza hatton garden
Georgian diamond memorial ring, English, circa 1820.
Ref: 24101
Georgian diamond cluster ring, circa 1770 hatton garden
Georgian diamond cluster ring, circa 1770.
Ref: 28096
Victorian old mine diamond solitaire ring, circa 1900 hatton garden
Victorian old mine diamond solitaire ring, circa 1900.
Ref: 28122
Victorian diamond three stone ring, circa 1890 hatton garden
Victorian diamond three stone ring, circa 1890.
Ref: 28108
front view antique pearl diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Belle Époque pearl and diamond cluster ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 26037
Pearl and diamond crossover ring berganza hatton garden
Natural Saltwater Pearl and diamond crossover ring, French, circa 1910.
Ref: 16982
Old mine diamond ring, circa 1905. hatton garden.
Old mine diamond ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 28506
Old cut diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1920 hatton garden
Old cut diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1920.
Ref: 28488
drop shape diamond solitaire ring, circa 1905. hatton garden.
Drop shape diamond solitaire ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 28081
Edwardian diamond three stone ring, circa 1905 hatton garden
Edwardian diamond three stone ring, circa 1905.
Ref: 28545
Art Deco diamond cluster ring circa 1930 hatton garden
Art Deco diamond cluster ring, American, circa 1930.
Ref: 25759
Vintage diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1950 hatton garden
Vintage diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1950.
Ref: 28337
Sapphire and diamond cluster ring circa 1920 hatton garden
Sapphire and diamond cluster ring, French, circa 1920.
Ref: 28562
Colombian emerald and diamond cluster ring berganza hatton garden
Edwardian Colombian emerald and diamond cluster ring, circa 1910.
Ref: 26096
Padparadscha sapphire diamond flanked solitaire ring hatton Garden
Padparadscha sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring.
Ref: 27941
Pigeon's blood Burmese ruby and diamond three stone ring, circa 1900. Hatton Garden
Pigeon's blood Burmese ruby and diamond three stone ring, circa 1900.
Ref: 27316
Art Deco Burmese sapphire ring berganza hatton garden
Art Deco Burmese sapphire ring, circa 1930.
Ref: 24914
Art Deco Colombian emerald diamond solitaire ring hatton garden
Art Deco Colombian emerald and diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1925.
Ref: 27274
Padparadscha sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring hatton garden
Padparadscha sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1990.
Ref: 28170
Fancy intense yellow diamond flanked solitaire ring hatton garden
Fancy intense yellow diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1950.
Ref: 28036
Orange Ceylon sapphire solitaire ring, circa 1905 hatton garden
Orange Ceylon sapphire solitaire ring, circa 1905
Ref: 28074
Art Deco sapphire diamond flanked solitaire ring hatton garden
Art Deco sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1930.
Ref: 28029
 Burmese ruby coronet cluster ring berganza hatton garden
Burmese ruby coronet cluster ring by Maurice Beck, circa 1910.
Ref: 25803
Colombian emerald and diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1920. Hatton Garden
Colombian emerald and diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1920.
Ref: 27917
Ruby and Diamond Three Stone Ring, circa 1890. Hatton Garden
Burmese ruby and Diamond Three Stone Ring, circa 1890.
Ref: 27045
Yellow diamond solitaire ring hatton garden
Yellow diamond solitaire ring, circa 1915.
Ref: 27416
Art Deco sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1935. Hatton Garden
Art Deco sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1935.
Ref: 27434
Colombian Emerald and Diamond Crossover Ring hatton garden
Colombian Emerald and Diamond Crossover Ring, Circa 1915.
Ref: 27359
front view  Diamond and sapphire target ring, English, circa 1915. berganza hatton garden
Edwardian diamond and sapphire target ring, English, circa 1915.
Ref: 20950
Victorian five stone ruby and diamond ring hatton garden
Victorian five stone ruby and diamond ring, English, circa 1900.
Ref: 21986
Purple Ceylon sapphire and diamond solitaire ring hatton garden
Purple Ceylon sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring, circa 1930.
Ref: 27121
Art Deco sapphire and diamond ring hatton garden
Art Deco sapphire and diamond ring, circa 1925.
Ref: 27103
Cabochon colombian emerald ring hatton garden
Cabochon Colombian emerald ring, circa 1920.
Ref: 26858
Sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring hatton garden
Sapphire and diamond flanked solitaire ring, English.
Ref: 26770
Art Deco Burmese ruby and diamond ring hatton garden
Art Deco Burmese ruby and diamond ring, circa 1925.
Ref: 26747
Colombian emerald diamond two stone cluster ring hatton garden
Colombian emerald and diamond two stone cluster ring, American, circa 1935.
Ref: 26239
Berganza on Facebook Berganza on Instagram


Email: info@berganza.com | Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 11am-5pm | All Stripe currencies supported



Connect with us


Berganza on Facebook Berganza on Instagram Berganza on Pinterest Berganza on youtube Berganza on linkedin



Sign up for regular emails on our new acquisitions, news and features:
Updated 27/02/2024 at 2:37PM

|
© Berganza Ltd 2024