Diamonds are synonymous with engagement rings, and not just because of DeBeers’ famous advertising line, “A Diamond is Forever.” Diamonds are not only a symbol of lasting love, but also a long-lasting gemstone, suitable for the daily wear of engagement rings with a bright sparkle to remind you of your loved one.
Diamonds were first discovered, historians believe, 6000 years ago in India, where they were used as tools for engraving and other fine, tough work. Today, the English name ‘diamond’ is derived from the Greek word ‘adámas’ which means ‘unalterable; unbreakable; untamed.’ Diamonds are indeed still recognized for their toughness and durability. Rating at 10/10 on the Mohs scale of hardness, nothing can scratch diamond – except for another diamond.
Made of almost pure carbon, diamond is the only gemstone that is made of only one element. Diamonds are graded internationally by the 5 ‘C’s: Carat, Colour, Clarity, Cut, and Country of Origin. Carat is how jewellers and gem-cutters determine the size of any gemstone based on weight. Colour refers to how colourless the stone is, from nearly colourless (D-F on the scale) to lightly coloured yellow-brown (S-Z), with lots of variation in between. Clarity determines how many inclusions there are in any diamond – ranging from Flawless to Included. Cut is measured based on the face-up beauty of the stone; primarily how each facet of the diamond is symmetrical and reflects light back to the viewer’s eye. Country of Origin labels where the diamond was mined, which can help to make an ethical choice in purchasing diamonds!
So how did such an exacting stone become the standard for engagement rings?
The first known diamond engagement ring was gifted in 1477 by Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Duchess Mary of Burgundy. Said to have diamonds set out in the letter ‘M’ for her name, this stunning ring influenced nobility across the continent to give diamond rings to their loved ones as well. Diamond was still an unusual choice for most engagement rings until the reign of Queen Victoria in England (1876-1901). Inspired by the monarch’s love of diamonds, diamond jewellery – and thus diamond engagement rings – grew in popularity.
It wasn’t until the 1940s, however, that diamonds became the ‘gold standard’ for engagement rings. Launched by the famous “A Diamond is Forever” campaign by DeBeers at the end of the Great Depression, diamonds became the only way to express your undying love for your partner throughout the twentieth century. It was this diamond giant who first made the comparison between the ‘unbreakable’ diamond and everlasting love.
After nearly a century of diamond rings being the assumed centre piece for all engagement rings, there are a lot more gemstone centre-piece variations now. Sapphires, Morganites, and the diamond-look-alike Moissanite have all become popular alternatives to the ‘traditional’ diamond. Being the hardest of all gemstones, however, and having the most beautiful sparkle of all, diamonds are still the incomparable choice for engagement rings today.
Written by: Margaret Finlay
March 4, 2023