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Engagement Rings and Diamonds: Why We Give Them and What They Mean

American women living in the twenty-first century generally expect to receive a diamond ring when they become engaged and a gold band or eternity ring when they get married. In fact, nearly 4 out of 5 American women choose diamonds for their engagement rings! But it wasn’t always this way: believe it or not, engagement rings were not always exclusively made of diamonds and metal. To discover the meaning of diamonds and what they symbolize, as well as the ways in which eternity and engagement ring meanings have changed, you must take a journey back in time.

The History of Engagement Rings

When we think of engagement rings and diamond symbolism and meaning in the modern world, we generally think about a diamond as being a reflection of love, sacrifice, and the enduring nature of the relationship. However, historical symbols of betrothal were quite different to what we see today.

A Braid of Reeds

In ancient Egypt, young men would give their intended a braided ring made of reeds, which would be worn on the ring finger of the left hand. This finger was believed to contain a vein that was connected directly to the heart. Sounds nearly as romantic as the symbol and meaning of a diamond, right?

A Symbol of Ownership

The picture in ancient Rome was somewhat more luxurious but definitely less romantic. Young men in Rome secured a young woman’s hand in marriage by giving her father a gift of money or an item of value—seen as a kind of legal agreement or business transaction. In the second century B.C.E., gold and iron betrothal rings replaced these traditional gifts as a symbol of the man’s ownership of his bride-to-be.

Engagement Rings Today

A similar engagement ring meaning of “belonging to my fiancé” has continued until modern times, with designs evolving over time to include decorative solitaire- and halo-styles that hold top-grade diamonds and carry a symbolic meaning of commitment and purity.

 A stack of three yellow-gold diamond rings.

How Diamonds Became Synonymous with Engagement Rings

While gemstone engagement rings began to appear among the European royalty in the 1400s, diamonds only became the standard expression of love and commitment thanks to a well thought-out campaign by the South African mining company De Beers Group.

After the Great Depression ended in the late 1930s, this highly-influential mining company launched the ad that would forever secure the symbol and meaning of diamonds in the hearts and minds of brides to be. Created by the N.W. Ayer & Son advertising company, this campaign made famous the slogan “A diamond is forever” and young men were encouraged to purchase a rock worth two months’ salary. Today, over 80% of American brides receive a diamond engagement ring, costing young grooms an average amount of $4,000 apiece.

Conflict Diamonds and Eco-Friendly Moissanite

Diamonds with their unmatched hardiness, clarity, and brilliance look stunning when worn as part of an engagement ring with the meaning of strength, purity, and lasting love. However, the diamond industry and the diamond as a symbol meaning engagement has not been without its problems. In the 1990s, diamonds mined illegally in Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were used to fund civil wars and violent challenges to legitimate governments—resulting in thousands of deaths and widespread forced labor.

While natural diamonds do exist that are conflict free, lab-made moissanite offers an ethical alternative with a similar brilliance and without hurting people or the environment. At Aurosi Jewels, we offer our customers the choice of ethical, GIA-certified diamonds and Forever One Moissanite stones from Charles and Colvard.

Eternity Bands: Where They Come from and What They Mean

We’ve briefly covered the history of engagement ring meanings over time and discovered how the diamond became a symbol with meaning for engaged couples. Now, let’s take a look at another popular ring style that has made a recent comeback: the eternity ring.

Usually given on a significant anniversary or upon the birth of a first child, an eternity ring consists of a circle-shaped band set with a continuous line of identically-cut gemstones. Diamond as a symbol meaning “forever” is a popular choice. However, colored gemstones are also used in a single color or an alternating pattern with diamonds. As an alternative to a full eternity band, “half-eternity” bands are also available with only one section of the band set with stones.

The Circle as a Symbol of Eternity

The concept behind an eternity band comes from the Shen ring of ancient Egypt, which was given to mark an anniversary or significant milestone. The circular shape of the ring was believed to symbolize eternity and has also been associated with the circle of life.

DeBeers’ Eternity Ring Campaign

In the 1960s, DeBeers once again capitalized on the idea of a diamond as a meaningful symbol. Their new campaign promoted diamond eternity rings as an anniversary gift, with the line: “She married you for richer or poorer. Let her know how it’s going.”

Today, eternity rings are given for a 60th “diamond” wedding anniversary or a lower-order anniversary such as a first or tenth anniversary. They also make a fabulous non-traditional wedding ring and can be used with an engagement ring to create a matching engagement set.

Create a One-of-a-Kind Ring at Aurosi Jewels

Whichever ring style or engagement ring meaning most appeals to you, you can find a unique and elegant selection at Aurosi Jewels. All of our engagement and wedding rings can be customized with your choice of stone shape, stone size, and metal color—and you can even try up to five rings at home for free!

Contact us for more information about moissanite versus diamond, their symbolism and meaning, and order our try-home rings to find the perfect match today.

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