This wasn’t always the case. Prior to the 20th century, it was more common for women to receive a sewing thimble as a token of her beloved’s devotion. The first engagement rings, called betrothal rings in the Christian tradition, came from an ancient Roman custom. In 1477, Mary of Burgundy, a duchess of the Low Countries, received the first known diamond engagement ring in 1477. Only women of status such as herself were commissioned such pieces. For hundreds of years, diamonds were not even thought to be a part of the engagement process.
Not until 1930 did the engagement trend start growing into the unavoidable topic of discussion among couples who are leaning toward marriage. Early Hollywood actresses wore the rings in their films and in public, inspiring the average American woman to take matters into their own hands. The boom of the diamond industry also made diamonds more affordable. Mining and cutting techniques improved and brought down the cost of producing a cut and polished diamond. By the 1950’s the largest diamond mining company in the world, De Beers Diamond Trading Corporation, started a very successful marketing campaign that opened the world to the idea that everyone could afford diamonds. The words “A Diamond is Forever” became the mantra of hopeful brides.
Today, a thimble just won’t cut it: an estimated 80% of women living in developed countries receive a diamond ring in exchange for lifelong vows. This number continues to increase as access to diamonds gets easier. Many people now purchase a diamond from an online jeweler. Most online stores today provide a much larger selection of diamonds at a lower cost than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The online jeweler has the advantage of lower overhead costs since they do not have an expensive storefront to maintain. Many online jewelers pass these cost-savings onto consumers — making diamond engagement rings more affordable today than they were prior to the online shopping boom.
As a strong symbol of financial security and commitment, as well as a cherished heirloom to pass to the next generation, the diamond engagement ring may indeed be eternal.