Portraits of Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg and his wife to be, Mary of Burgundy

History of the Engagement Ring

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the magic of romance is sure to fill the air. For centuries diamonds have symbolised love and commitment, but have you ever wondered where the tradition of giving an engagement ring as a betrothal gift came from?

In ancient Egyptian civilisation, rings were made of reeds and hemp with its circular shape representing the circle of life, the sun and moon, and formed a bond between husband and wife. Metal rings soon replaced the plant variety with the early Romans using lead, brass and copper. Eventually gold became the preferred metal of choice due to its pliable properties and status of wealth.

Yet, it wasn’t until 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg presented his wife to be, Mary of Burgundy, with a diamond engagement ring as a gift to mark their engagement.

First engagement ring given in 1477

The allure of diamonds took hold and sparked a trend among royalty and people of great wealth. At the time, diamonds were exceptionally rare and very costly, and for the next few centuries the giving of diamond engagement rings was limited to only the richest and noblest of families.

The discovery of diamond deposits in South America in the eighteenth century brought the price of diamonds down significantly, but still out of reach for many. Diamonds only really became more accessible to many after their discovery in South Africa in 1867. In the age of industrialisation, the discovery of diamonds in South Africa led to the Kimberley Diamond Rush and created a vast demand and supply of diamond engagement rings. Thus, an industry was born.

Diamonds discovered in South Africa in 1867

Today the diamond engagement ring has become a tradition and is regarded as an essential part of the act of getting married.

“Worn to symbolise a lifetime’s promise of love and commitment, the engagement ring is the most meaningful gift a man will give and a woman will receive” – Shimansky

Circle of love engagement ring matching wedding bands from Shimansky