Ballard & Ballard Jewelers presents a history of both diamonds and engagement rings so you can see how you and your loved one are becoming part of a beautiful historical tradition. Is there anything that symbolizes the lasting bond of devotion between a man and a woman more than a diamond engagement ring? On account of their beauty and strength, diamonds have come to represent the eternal love of the marriage union. Culminating with our custom designed diamond engagement rings, the story begins long ago. According to legend, diamonds were first discovered around 800 B.C. in India.
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Since their discovery, diamonds have been sought and fought over. The sparkling gems were worshipped and used to cast love spells. The root of the word diamond is “Adamas,” the Greek word meaning unconquerable and indestructible. The Greeks believed diamonds were teardrops of the Gods; the fire in the diamond reflected the eternal flame of love. The Romans thought diamonds to be fragments of tumbling stars. For many centuries, however, diamonds were too rare and expensive to be available beyond the domain of Royalty.
The practice of sealing a marriage contract with a ring dates back to ancient times. In ancient Egypt, rings symbolized the eternal circle of love. The first engagement rings used by the Egyptians were made out of hemp, leather, bone or ivory. These engagement rings tended to be worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because it was believed to contain the vena amoris or the vein of love that was thought to connect directly to the heart. It is incredible that such an ancient belief continues as a secular tradition to this very day.
The Greeks adopted the betrothal ring tradition after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC. The ancient Greeks wore plain bands, usually made of iron. The ruling classes, however, supposedly chose more expensive metals like silver and gold. The engagement rings often contained a poem engraved onto the ring. Later, the Romans also used iron rings to symbolize the strength and permanence of the marriage union.
During the 9th century, Pope Nicolas I cemented the tradition of engagement rings by making a gold engagement ring a requirement to demonstrate a husband’s ability to care for a wife. Still, it would be a long time before such rings were bejeweled with diamonds. In the middle ages, diamonds were deemed to possess magical powers. In fact, Kings often wore breastplates embedded with diamonds on the battlefield, believing the gems would make them invulnerable.
The first recorded diamond engagement ring was bestowed in 1477 to Mary of Burgundy by Archduke Maximillian of Austria. Some Renaissance era engagement rings were set with a single diamond in its natural crystalline form. Love messages called posies were often inscribed inside the rings. During that era, diamonds were viewed as charms, and Cupid’s arrows were said to be tipped with diamonds.
A popular engagement ring style in the 16th century was the Gimmel or twin ring, made of two hoops that slid together into one interlocking ring when shut. The bride-to-be and the groom-to-be wore the two rings during the engagement. The parts were reunited into one to become the wedding ring on the wedding day. In 1525, Martin Luther and Catherine Bora were wed with an inscribed Gimmel ring.
In the 18th century, colored stones became popular. Many rings were designed to include several different stones that spelled out a word with the first letter of each stone. For example, “dearest” would be represented in a ring containing a diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, epidote, sapphire and turquoise. Later, serpents surprisingly were considered a symbol of good luck. The snake was used in many engagement rings, and Queen Victoria was given a ring using this motif with the coils representing eternity.
In the late 19th century, extensive diamond deposits were discovered on the African continent. In 1888, the De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. was founded in South Africa, making diamonds widely available to the general public. With the sudden abundance, diamond engagement ring designs became more elaborate. In 1886, Tiffany created the six-prong Solitaire diamond engagement ring. Later, the Princess design was introduced, consisting of three to five diamonds across the top of the engagement ring.
During the 1920s in America, art deco designs became all the rage because of their artistic symmetry and flashy colors. In contrast, smaller rings with more delicate designs became the norm during the Great Depression because of their affordability. In the late 1930s, sales of diamonds in America and Europe fell to an all-time low.
With the major decline in sales, De Beers diamond mogul Sir Ernest Oppenheimer sent his son Harry to New York to meet with the N.W Ayer advertising agency. The plan was to transform America’s taste for small, low-quality stones into a high-end luxury market. The result was one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history, characterized by the enduring “A Diamond Is Forever” slogan. This inspired campaign established the “two months’ salary” guideline that suggests a prospective groom should spend two months’ salary on a diamond engagement ring. Americans embraced the idea that diamonds would last forever, adding value to a family line.
In 1953 Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell stared in the hit musical, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, performing the famous song, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, which sparked the popularity of diamonds. In modern times, 78% of all engagement rings sold every year are diamonds engagement rings. At the same time, Ballard & Ballard Jewelers offers a variety of high quality colored stones like rubies and emeralds for custom designed engagement rings.
Today’s engagement ring styles come in a great deal of variety, detail, and shape of the center diamond. Custom rings unique to each couple have become more popular than ever. In addition, your choice in an engagement ring often illustrates your vision and the promise of a bright future. At this time, more than 6.7 billion dollars is spent every year on engagement rings in the United States.
More than ever, the diamond engagement ring worn by a woman today is a reflection of her personal taste. At Ballard & Ballard Jewelers, we help our clients design the perfect engagement ring that fits their vision and their budget by using the latest Computer-Aided Design (CAD) technology. No matter which style you choose, the engagement ring you acquire from Ballard & Ballard Jewelers will forever hold special meaning for you and your loved one, symbolizing your eternal devotion to each other.
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