The diamond is the quintessential, universal symbol of love. Of all its many roles, the diamond as messenger of romantic love – beginning with the belief that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds – has resonated through the centuries to emerge today as powerful as ever.
While the ring itself, with no beginning or end, is an ancient symbol of eternal love, the story of the diamond engagement ring reaches back to the Middle Ages, when the invincible diamond, symbolising ”unquenchable” love, was considered ideal to seal a betrothal or marriage pledge, By the fifteenth century, the diamond ring was a feature of royal and noble weddings. When, in 1475, Constanzo Sforza presented his bride, Camilla d’Aragona, with a diamond ring on their wedding day, a poem, in an illuminated manuscript, documented the ceremony: ‘Two torches in one ring of burning fire / Two wills, two hearts, two passions, all bonded in marriage by a diamond.’ The fire in the diamond was likened to the constant flame of love.
Then, in 1477, Archduke Maximilian gave a diamond ring – generally held to be the first recorded engagement ring – to his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold. He placed it on the third finger of her left hand - the finger believed by ancient Egyptians to have a vein that led straight to the heart.
Gradually, during the Renaissance, these rings became elaborately decorated, richly chased with flourishes of enamel. The ‘gimmel’, or twin ring, composed of two hoops that slid open to reveal love emblems and an inscription (Whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder) evolved into the fede, or faith ring, in which two clasped hands, representing the unity of love, often hold a diamond heart.
Buying an engagement ring
Where do I start?
If you are planning to buy your "special someone" an engagement ring, it is helpful to have a basic idea of what you want to be looking for when buying a diamond as you are about to purchase an object that will be a permanent symbol of the most important relationship of your life. Armed with this knowledge, you will be much better placed to make a good value-for-money purchase and obtain a diamond that has the particular qualities that you are looking for.
Likes and dislikes
One way to find out what they like is to take a cue from the style of jewellery that they already own. Do they prefer modern or traditional? Do they favour white gold, yellow gold, two-tone or platinum (currently the most popular metal for engagement rings).
Also, how do they react to other people’s engagement rings? Do they ever express an interest in a particular style when flicking through fashion magazines?
The chances are, however, after a quick consultation with friends and relatives - if you can trust them with your secret - that you will glean a fairly accurate picture of their likes and dislikes.
Obviously, how much you spend is a personal matter, but you will no doubt hear that one to two months' salary is the norm. Our advice is spend whatever you like and can realistically afford.
Before starting to shop for diamonds or diamond jewellery, it is interesting and important to have a basic idea of the different aspects of diamond quality – what it is that makes the best diamonds.