History of Engagement Rings / Wedding Rings
History: The idea of jewelry (bracelets and necklaces) to symbolize betrothal go back as far as Ancient Egypt. It started with bracelets and necklaces but the ring’s circle began symbolizing eternity, perpetual and everlasting love. Rings are placed on the fourth finger on the left hand because Ancient Egyptians possibly believed that it contained a vein that lead to the heart (vena amoris), although an inaccurate idea as every finger has the same vein structure. Over different cultures, the ring was worn on different fingers, so this may be a myth manufactured by jewelers.
Some Ancient Greeks took up the betrothal ring tradition after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC. Until the Ancient Romans, the ring was usually made of hemp, leather, bone, or ivory, but the Ancient Romans began making them of iron. However, betrothal rings were still not commonplace until the 2nd century AD.
Then there was the fede ring which displays two hands clasped in love or betrothal or friendship, designed in Ancient Rome but created in medieval and renaissance times.
When the Diamond became popular: Diamonds were not mined heavily until the 1860s in South Africa. And diamond engagement rings (including the 4C descriptors) were not popularized until DeBeers (owned by the Oppenheimer family since the 1920s) monopolized and heavily advertised the industry in the 1930s. They have gone to extraordinary lengths to advertise “diamonds are forever” and have celebrities of all types advertise them. Diamond jewelers will want you to believe the diamond engagement ring tradition started in 1477 by Archduke Maximillian of Austria, when he presented one to Mary of Burgundy with diamonds in the shape of her first initial “M”. However, it is an even more recent phenomenon.
Today: While the DeBeers / Oppenheimer monopoly over the market used to be more like 99%, even today they (as their Diamond Trading Company branch) still sell 75% of the world’s rough diamond, and 35% of the world’s refined diamonds (as their Global Sightholder Sales and Auction Sales branches). We still see the factors of a monopoly within the drastically reduced prices of the secondhand diamond engagement ring market. Also, the man’s wedding bang was not popularized until the 20th century.
While the money spent on a wedding or a ring could be better spent on your life together – home, vacations, children’s future and college tuitions, the “necessity” of an engagement and marriage with a diamond ring is now practically unavoidable. Most people will accept an expensive norm in order to avoid societal judgment.
Sources even say DeBeers had a hand in manufacturing proposal stories involving diamond rings and other extravagances surrounding (beach getaways, Paris, etc.).
Factors to think about for your proposal – Surprise, Romance, Family being all around, Photographer (many have photos of the proposal)
In many cultures, it is traditional for the bachelor to personally ask permission from the woman’s father for her “hand in marriage” prior to the proposal.
Diamond Ring Styles and Diamond Cuts
For a general overview (not sure if 100% accurate) of historical ring styles, see Youtube: 100 Years of Engagement Rings
Cut is probably most important of the 4 Cs, and is the most difficult to tell by the average customer. The most popular cut has always been the Round Brilliante, as it has the most sparkle from refraction of light. The other fashionable style is the Signity. Runners up include the Princess cut, the Emerald cut (square-ish with sharp edges), Oval cut, Cushion cut (square-ish with round edges, recent trend). Note that the “4 Cs” is also a jeweler-manufactured idea.
Side-diamonds: These are nice to have on the band (but not fully around the band, because it won’t be able to be resized and the bottom of the ring tends to get damaged when resting or tapping hands on something).
Alternatives to Diamond
Cubic Zirconium: The cheapest fake diamond
Moissanite: Fake diamond with a price 3/4 of the way between Cubic Zirconium and Diamonds. In many developed countries, the use of moissanite in jewelry has been patented; these patents expire in 2015. So the price of moissanite jewelry is expected to drop, possibly down to Cubic Zirconium prices. Would not recommend until after patent expiration because of the possible price collapse.
Charles & Colvard (C&C or C3 Inc) creates many of the Moissanites and Forever One is their type is most colorless and radiant, although slightly pricier than the other types (Forever Brilliant, Forever Classic). The Forever One (F1 for short) is designed with the most sparkly cut but is not as diamond-like (splintery/step-like facets and a lower crown), and possibly overly sparkly. Hearts and Arrows is another cut that is very sparkly, not as sparkly as the F1, but is more realistically diamond-like with a taller crown. I would go with the Hearts and Arrows (H&A). Amora Gem (AG) Eternity is a competitor to the C&C H&A.
Gold only rings: Side note, white gold does not exist. It is yellow gold with plated Rhodium, and the rhodium will wear off eventually and require re-plating.
Famous Models of Rings
Cartier Maillon Panthere – The one layer is listed as a wedding ring for Men, and the three layer an engagement ring for women, however, could possibly use the three layer as a wedding ring for men (without the diamonds as white or yellow gold).
A certified diamond of a certain grade will be the same whether from the most premium or the most discount of jewelers. GIA is the best certification. Also, get an independent appraisal, as any free appraisal provided by the stores are not to be trusted.
Bluenile.ca is recommended by the forums at redflagdeals.com
or WhiteFlash (or the founder Brian Gavin Diamonds)
Goodoldgold is just okay.
Costco used to be one of the most trustworthy retailers of diamonds, however, now they have less certifications (IGI instead of GIA). Overpriced by at least 20%.
Harry Winston is the brand of the celebrities $20k+
Tiffany’s is known to hold value well, however, definitely overpriced. $10k+. Overpriced by 60%
Mall vendors – way overpriced (many levels of profits before arriving in your hands)