Engagement rings have been a tradition in many parts of the world since Austria’s Archduke Maximillian gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring in 1477. The wealthy classes thought that it was a great idea and soon men all over Europe were presenting their betrothed with diamond rings when they became engaged. However, due to the rarity of the stone only the very rich could afford to buy them. Nowadays, engagement rings are almost as common as marriage itself, and many people prefer the uniqueness and character that antique engagement rings offer as a symbol of their love.
The Georgian Era
For an engagement ring to be considered antique, it must date back at least 100 years, but they can date back many hundreds of years. The emergence of jewelry made from precious stones dates back to the Georgian era in England (1714-1837) when King George I-IV were at the throne. Jewelry from this era made from precious stones typically embraces a nature theme making use of designs such as feathers, foliage, and crescents. Pearls and other gemstones were very common during this time period and diamonds became much more prevalent with the discovery of mines in India and Brazil.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian era (named after Victoria, Queen of England) sparked the next major shift in the creation of beautiful pieces of jewelry. During the Early Victorian era (1837-1855) coral and seed pearls were very popular additions to jewelry; diamonds and opals (which happened to be the Queen’s favorite) were also popular, and the abundance of colorful gemstones made jewelry an affordable luxury for most people. Following the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, the Mid-Victorian era (1856-1880) is represented by dark mournful jewelry made from black enamel, onyx, and other dark stones. Influenced by the unearthing of Pompeii, the Late Victorian era (1885-1900) saw an abundance of sapphires and opals, as well as the continued popularity of diamonds and pearls.
The Late Victorian era saw a change in culture that allowed for the concept of engagement rings to catch on like never before. In 1879, several diamond mines were discovered in South Africa and henceforth, diamonds became the most popular decorative jewelry stone in the world. As the supply increased the stones stayed popular and valuable but people of more modest means were able to afford to buy diamonds. The tradition of the engagement rings was now within reach of ordinary people.
The Edwardian Era
Engagement rings are a symbol of love that have been bringing people together for centuries. This special event should require a special ring to mark the connection that you and your spouse will share for the rest of your life. Nothing says “I love you” quite like the character of an antique engagement ring!