The solitaire diamond engagement ring is recognised throughout the world as a classic. It’s simple, elegant, and beautiful. Known for its durability, sparkle and shine, diamonds have almost become a must-have inclusion in any engagement ring. But how did the diamond engagement ring become one of the most popular jewels of choice for engaged couples?
The Archduke of Austria
It all began in 1477, when the Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned a diamond engagement ring for his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy. Acknowledged to be the first diamond engagement ring ever recorded, the piece featured small diamond pieces arranged in the shape of an M. It was a luxurious piece, designed to show off the Archduke’s wealth.
In the centuries following, diamonds continued to be included in the designs of ornate engagement rings. In particular, during the Victorian era, many of these rings were created in the shapes of flowers. Also called “posey rings” they were paired with other jewels like rubies and sapphires, and mounted on intricate filigree settings.
Diamonds are forever
However, it wasn’t until 1947 that diamond engagement rings hit the mainstream market. Many of you will be familiar with the slogan “A Diamond is Forever”, this was part of a campaign launched by the famous mining company, De Beers.
In the 30s, the company discovered a vast quantity of diamonds during their digs in Africa. Due to the sudden influx of diamonds in the market, the apparent exclusivity of this beautiful gem was suddenly gone – so De Beers needed to do something to reverse their declining sales.
And so, the Diamonds Are Forever campaign was launched, associating diamonds with eternal love and happiness. De Beers also began using photographs of beautiful movie stars dripping with diamonds, thereby increasing the perception of diamonds as a luxurious item. According to the advertising strategy plan:
“We spread the word of diamonds worn by stars of screen and stage, by wives and daughters of political leaders, by any woman who can make the grocer’s wife and the mechanic’s sweetheart say ‘I wish I had what she has.”
Coincidentally, at the same time, Carol Channing took the stage in the Broadway musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and sang the famous jazz song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”.
Diamonds take the world by storm
All of the elements combined to create the perfect environment for diamonds to thrive. Within three years of the campaign being launched, sales of diamonds had increased by 50%. In fact, in the 40 years between 1939 and 1979, De Beers’ wholesale diamond sales in the US increased from $23 million to $2.1 billion!
These days, diamonds have established themselves as the perfect addition to any piece of jewellery, whether they are the focus of an engagement ring or a shining accompaniment to other jewels. Durable and beautiful, there can be no better symbol of love that endures throughout the ages.
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