The giving of engagement rings began in ancient times, but the tradition evolved significantly during the Renaissance and Victorian eras. These periods saw engagement rings transform from simple bands to ornate symbols of love and status.
During the Renaissance (14th to 17th centuries), betrothal rings gained prominence among the elite. Rings set with diamonds and gemstones reflected the prosperity of the era. Suitors commissioned personalized posy rings engraved with romantic phrases or initials to solidify engagements. The gimmel ring, which joined two or three hoops that fit together like puzzle pieces, also emerged as a popular engagement ring style.
The posy ring remained fashionable through the 1600s. But by the 1700s, simpler bands engraved with the betrothed couple’s names or wedding date gained favor. Rings increasingly incorporated tiny rose-cut diamonds following the diamond deposits discovered in India. For the first time, diamonds became more accessible to the growing middle class.
By the early Victorian era (1837 to 1860), extravagant jewelry was in vogue again. Advancements in diamond cutting gave rise to the brilliant-cut diamond during this period. The increased refraction of light from these facets enhanced a diamond’s sparkle. This development coincided with the growing middle class’s desire for jewelry that denoted status.
The late Victorian era (1860 to 1900) ushered in several engagement ring changes. Platinum’s durability and malleability made it the preferred setting metal. Tiffany & Co. introduced the six-prong solitaire diamond setting in 1886. And with South African diamond mines providing a steady supply, engagement rings featuring larger single diamonds caught on.
The Victorian era also inspired enduring engagement ring styles like oval, cushion, emerald, and Asscher cuts. Romantic scrollwork, laurel leaves, flowers, and starbursts became common ring embellishments. Three-stone rings symbolizing the past, present and future also grew popular.
Today, many vintage-inspired engagement rings nod to these classical Victorian designs. Retailers like ethical engagement rings uk offer handcrafted rings with delicate filigree and timeless diamond cuts that evoke the craftsmanship and elegance of history. Their rings bring together modern sensibilities like conflict-free diamonds and recycled metals with styles from a more romantic era.
The giving of an engagement ring is a centuries-old tradition that continues to evolve. Exchanging rings engraved with sweet posies has given way to diamond solitaires and personalized designs. But engagement rings remain symbols of commitment and love passed down through generations.