In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented the first known engagement ring to show his love for Mary of Burgundy. Set with diamonds in the shape of an M, the Archduke traveled from Austria to Belgium to ask for her hand. Mary had fallen in love with Maximilian through his letters, and the marriage seems to have been happy but short. Mary was killed falling from her horse only five years after she received the first engagement ring. Rings have been made and worn since the ancient Egyptians, but this was the first known diamond engagement ring to wear before marriage.
After 1477, wedding rings, and not diamond engagement rings, were the most popular in the western world. Diamond jewelry was for the elite and wealthy. Typical Victorian era engagement rings in the 1800’s were usually in yellow gold with ornate and often floral designs. Beginning just after the turn of the century, Edwardian rings in the early 1900’s were designed with filigree and Art Deco patterns, often in platinum with fancy shaped colored stones as accents for the center diamond.
The golden age of Hollywood, beginning in the 1930’s, created lots of desire for diamond jewelry, including engagement rings. The war effort in the 1940’s limited the production of platinum jewelry, so white gold alloys became popular -- and engagement rings became popular for the first time.
In 1947, a young copy writer created the DeBeers slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” Business boomed as young brides to be across America and then around the world were engaged to be married with a diamond. Soon, almost 80% of American brides were wearing engagement rings.
The 1950’s continued many styles in white gold, and bridal sets with matching settings for the engagement ring and wedding band became best sellers. The 1960’s style icons Jackie Kennedy, Mia Farrow, and Elizabeth Taylor all wore fancy shape diamonds. These styles created lots of desire for pear shapes, emerald cuts, and marquis diamonds for the high-fashion brides. The squarish princess cut diamond, created in the 1980’s, was the first really new cut of diamond in ages and became wildly popular. Yellow gold rings with channel or bar set diamonds were also popular. The 1990’s brought back the demand for platinum and white gold wedding jewelry. Three stone rings featuring round brilliant or fancy shapes dominated bridal requests.
Today, brides often want thin banded engagement rings with small diamond accents in halos either around or below the center stone. Oval and cushion cuts have risen in popularity as Instagram drives styles, and many brides plan to add one or several diamond stack rings to their engagement ring.