When you think of diamonds, what comes to mind? Maybe engagement rings in round shapes. Perhaps a diamond tennis bracelet you’ve been coveting and for which you have been saving up. Maybe a pair of diamond stud earrings. Whatever it is you imagine, it is almost sure that you like diamonds. Who doesn’t? You may even love them. Chances are, if you’re a woman in your 20s, you have at least a vague idea of how your engagement ring will look like. At the very least, you joke, you want your engagement ring’s diamond to sparkle and shine when you hold it up. The bigger, the better. 


A Brief History of Diamonds

Diamonds have been a metal of desire for thousands of years. Diamond deposits were found as early as 900 million years ago. But the earliest diamonds are said to be from the Indian continent. They were found around 3000 BC. Many diamonds were found along the trade routes of the Silk Road. Their brilliance made them beautiful and desired.


They were worn as bodily décor, and at times they were used as cutting tools. During the Dark Ages, they were used to aid in medicinal matters. At other times, they were believed to ward off evil. They were also used as talismans and were believed to only originate from India. It wasn’t until the 1700s that people realized that there were other sources of diamonds, such as Brazil in 1725.


Still, the supply was stronger than the demand. In 1866, a man found a 21.25-carat diamond on the shores of the Orange River in South Africa. A few years later, an 83.50-carat diamond was found in Colesberg Kopje, also in South Africa. Thousands of diamond mining operations soon flooded the region and continent. The world’s diamond supply thus increased, and their value decreased. 


Engagement rings made of emeralds, rubies and sapphires became options. De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd was established in 1880, and diamonds became a more-or-less controlled commodity. By 1919, the value of diamonds had gone down by 50%. Still, they remained coveted and are still sold today, over a century later, for a relatively high price. 


History of Diamond Engagement Rings

Diamonds are a symbol of everlasting commitment. This symbol goes back to the Romans. Twisted copper or braided hair were worn around the third finger on the left hand and symbolized commitment. The vein of the third finger supposedly ran directly to the heart, and the rings were thus used in betrothal ceremonies. 


But the history of the engagement ring as we know it today dates back to 1215 when Pope Innocent III announced a waiting period between a couple’s engagement and their marriage. The rings lost none of their value of commitment from the ancient times as they were used in the interim period between being betrothed and married. During the same period, rings became part of the wedding ceremony. 


It was also this time that marriages were required to be held in a Church. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to his soon-to-be wife Mary of Burgundy using a diamond engagement ring. Diamonds were still considered very, very rare at the time, and it was also a symbol of riches. Thus, Archduke Maximilian of Austria created an aura around a diamond engagement ring, which was that it was the ultimate form of aspiration and a symbol of love. 

As rich as the history of diamonds may be, nothing beats owning one for yourself or purchasing one for a loved one. Visit your local jewellery shop or online store to get an idea of what your options are. 


In this article

Join the Conversation