Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they say. They are certainly an unbeatable gem. No, really, they are the toughest gem going. The word diamond comes from a Greek word that means ‘unbreakable.’ With a MOHS hardness rating of 10, diamonds are 58 times harder than any other material in nature. That’s why they are also used for various industrial purposes. It’s also why so many stunning vintage diamond engagement rings have endured for generations. But please, don’t take that as a reason to be careless with your jewellery!
WHILE HUMANS HAVE LOVED DIAMONDS SINCE WE FIRST DISCOVERED THEM, THEY HAVEN’T ALWAYS BEEN THE UNIVERSALLY RECOGNIZED GEM FOR ENGAGEMENT RINGS.
De Beers launched their famous ‘a diamond is forever’ slogan in 1947 as part of a campaign to boost the popularity of diamonds for engagement rings, and it was that campaign that really led to the diamond’s prominence in engagement rings. But does that mean there are plenty of vintage engagement rings with diamonds but no antique engagement rings with the most enduring gem? Not at all! The first known diamond engagement ring dates back to 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned one for his beloved betrothed Mary of Burgundy.
While antique engagement rings feature a variety of gems, diamonds are certainly among the most popular. When you look at vintage engagement rings from the 1940s and 1950s, you can see the success of the De Beers campaign.
If you are looking at vintage engagement rings, you might notice that certain diamond shapes were more popular at different times. Just as wedding dresses have changed shape and style over the decades, so have diamond engagement rings.
The 1940s and ‘50s were the point when diamonds became the standard for engagement rings. Two cuts really stand out from this era: the emerald cut and the baguette cut. The two are similar. Both are a rectangular shape. When Prince Rainier proposed to Hollywood star Grace Kelly, he gave her a stunning ring featuring a large emerald-cut diamond flanked by a smaller baguette-cut diamond on either side. Actor George Clooney gave human-rights barrister Amal Alamuddin a similar ring when he proposed.
Arguably the actress most associated with diamonds is Marilyn Monroe. It was she who gave the iconic performance of the song ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ after all. When baseball legend Joe DiMaggio married Monroe in 1954, he gave her a ring featuring 36 baguette-cut diamonds all around the band. Elizabeth Taylor had plenty of engagement rings. Her third husband, producer Mike Todd, gave her a massive emerald-cut diamond engagement ring in 1957.
These vintage engagement rings styles are timeless. Remember when Brad Pitt spent a year working with a jeweller to design the perfect engagement ring for Angelina Jolie? It featured an emerald-cut diamond. Jay Z gave Beyoncé an emerald-cut diamond engagement ring, proving that this cut is both classic and completely fashionable today.
From the most antique engagement rings to the most modern, diamonds have always been popular. Their toughness means they stay beautiful through a lifetime, which is a perfect symbol for any couple’s hopes.