When true love is believed to last for eternity, what makes a more appropriate symbol than the diamond? Diamonds are the most durable gemstone, originating 100 million years ago – and enduring forever.
One legend suggests that a diamond's sparkle comes from the flame of love. Others say that the magical powers attributed to diamonds exist only if the diamond is found naturally – or when offered as a pledge of love or friendship.
The tradition of giving a diamond engagement ring is traced back to the year 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, with a simple gold band set with a diamond. The diamond represented pure, fiery beauty, and he placed it on the third finger of her left hand. Echoing the beliefs of ancient Egyptians, his advisors suggested that this finger contained a vein that coursed directly to his beloved's heart. While science has since disproved this particular anatomical assumption, the tradition happily endures.
Over time, this royal tradition gained popularity around the world, eventually becoming as much a milestone as the engagement itself. At the same time, the design of engagement rings evolved from goldsmiths' elaborately crafted settings to more modern designs that showcased advances in diamond cutting techniques. Another key factor in the use of diamonds for engagement rings was access – diamonds were much more available and affordable following the large African discoveries during the 1870s.
Today, the diamond is internationally recognized as a symbol of love and betrothal. According to a recent De Beers' survey, four out of five brides receive a diamond engagement ring. And couples who choose that tradition today have a dazzling number of choices in diamond shapes, sizes, qualities, settings and price ranges.