Wedding rings have been used since prehistoric times, although it seems that their origin is not a particularly romantic one: chosen mates or ‘brides’ were often thought to have been bound to prevent them from running away. Those that didn’t were allowed to wear bonds of string on their fingers, signifying their loyalty to the ‘groom’. The ancient Romans are thought to be responsible for more affectionate reasoning behind the wearing of betrothal rings. They took the ancient Egyptian tradition of wearing a ring on the third finger of the left hand, believing that the vein in this finger leads directly to the heart.
Betrothal rings were used to signify truth and commitment between two people who were to be married. The Middle Ages continued this tradition, in the form of the Gimmal ring. However, these rings still resembled the wedding rings of today, not yet sporting the distinctive single stone. It was around this time that diamonds became available to the wealthy families of Europe.
They had been recognised as the strongest minerals on Earth and were used among the rich to symbolise the enduring union of marriage. Diamonds became more commonplace amongst the affluent, especially during the 18th Century, with the discovery of diamonds in Brazil. In the 19th Century, more diamonds flooded the market, lessening their desirability, as well as the price.
De Beers were firmly ensconced as the main diamond dealer’s in the world, having huge influence on the supply and price of diamonds. As the 20th Century loomed, a worldwide recession threatened the sales of engagement rings; platinum was being used for the war-effort and diamonds had crashed in price. In an inspired piece of marketing, De Beers coined the slogan “A Diamond is Forever’, suggesting the enduring quality of these gemstones in an echo of the traditions of the Middle Ages.
Accompanying this was a campaign that convinced those who owned diamond rings to keep them as family heirlooms. The result was that used diamonds were not coming back into the market and new ones became more desirable and increased in value. However, the rarity of platinum has meant that these wedding rings have never lost their value or desirability.