Diamond rings have adorned the hands of the rich for hundreds of years. They were not worn as engagement rings, as tend to we view them now, but as symbols of wealth and power. Written references of a diamond ring worn by a very wealthy woman date back to between AD 60 – 140 . Then the value of diamonds was in their hardness, rather than their intrinsic beauty. Diamond rings as engagement rings didn’t come about until many, many years later.
The Early History of Diamond Rings
The diamond’s amazing ability to refract light was not really discovered until the late 14th century. This was when gem cutters managed to facet the stone. Prior to this, diamonds were set in jewellery in their natural, octahedral form.
Diamond rings during Roman times were fairly rudimentary affairs. Thick bezels held the diamond in place. The octahedral shape is a double pyramid so it is as deep as it is high. In order to accommodate this diamond shape, rings were very tall. Gold and silversmithing techniques grew more sophisticated over time, and rings became more elaborate, with scroll and beautiful enamel work commonplace.
The improvement of diamond cutting methods during the 1600’s led to the creation of new cuts, namely the rose cut and later the brilliant cut. This marked the rise of the diamond being the feature of the ring, rather than the metalwork itself.
A poem written for the marriage of Costanzo Sforza and Camilla d’Aragona in 1475 really cemented the role of the diamond ring in prominent, mostly royal marriages. The poem appears in one of a series of small drawings commemorating the marriage. The drawing depicts the god of marriage, Hymen, standing before an alter upon which two burning torches thread through a very large diamond ring. The burning torches represent Constanzo and Camilla. The ring represents the binding together of the couple in marriage. The ring is of such importance in this union that a pattern of diamond rings covers the God’s robe. The poem puts the diamond at the centre of the vow of marriage:
Two torches in one ring of burning fire,
Two wills, two hearts, two passions
Are bonded in marriage by a diamond.
Diamond Rings as Engagement Rings
With the discovery of diamonds in more parts of the world, they became more affordable. They were no longer just the preserve of the incredibly wealthy. Of course today, although still very expensive, diamond rings as engagement rings are more common than not. Couples choose a diamond ring as a symbol of their love and commitment to each other. And of course, their intention to marry.