When did diamond engagement rings become standard?

Business & entrepreneurship, Tips for saving money

Since I’m writing on the topic of weddings and such, I decided to look into the whole history of diamond engagement rings. This topic piqued my interest a while ago, since every (woman) friend I have who’s gotten engaged received a nice sized diamond ring with the proposal. (I didn’t, but I’ve always been an oddball when it comes to being a girl.) Two of these friends have also assured me that my husband has a duty to buy a diamond for me sometime during our marriage, a belief I find very amusing.

What’s puzzled me the most is that if you look at the list of traditional anniversary gifts, diamonds don’t appear until you’ve managed to stay married for 60 years. In the modern list, diamonds start appearing much sooner. In fact, everything appears much sooner. The consensus seems to be that the traditional anniversary gift list first appeared in 1922 when it was published by a Ms. Emily Post, the queen of etiquette. (I haven’t been able to find the origins of the modern list.)

The is a pretty fascinating one worth reading. As far as diamond engagement rings go, what happened was that around 1870, diamonds were discovered in South Africa, and De Beers Consolidated Mines managed to gain control over most of the diamond supply to the world. To create demand and perceived value in the post-Depression and post-WWII era, De Beers began a very successful marketing campaign with the famous “A Diamond is Forever” phrase that you still see and hear today in ads. De Beers managed to convince the public that diamond rings were the only correct choice for engagement rings, and, what’s more, that they should be kept as heirlooms (and hence not resold, thus preventing a secondary market from being created). They even educated jewellers to instruct would-be husbands that two to three months’ salary was the appropriate amount to spend on an engagement ring.

Neat, huh? Even as a finance person, you have to hand it to the marketing department on that one!

I still think it’s interesting that diamonds are gifts given before marriage these days instead of after 60 years of being together. They’re still pricey baubles. And I’m not sure what, if anything, it means for how society is changing. For now, I myself will be sticking to the traditional anniversary list, because I kind of like the fun and challenge of finding a gift that suits the suggestion for that year. On our first anniversary, I gave my husband a subscription to Classic Cars magazine (paper), and the next year a baseball cap to his favorite Dominican league baseball team (cotton). More fun than just buying a gift off the modern list every year, right? Oftentimes the easiest way to be frugal is just to ignore convention and follow your own beat.


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29 Feedbacks on "When did diamond engagement rings become standard?"


Wow, that is interesting. De Beers is to blame for pre-marital debt! j/k ;) Great post.


I love your article. My wife keeps asking me whether diamonds will retain its value as well as gold or precious metals. I don’t know whether she is giving me a hint of buying her a pair of diamond earrings. Aside from that, I must say that I believe the value of diamonds is only in the eyes of the beholders, and I believe that it will retain its value less well compared to pure gold.


I haven’t any proof, but on “Who want’s to be a millionaire” tonight, there was question that went something like “what custom was begun in 1477 when” so and so became engaged to so and so?

Guess what it was. Diamond Engagement Ring.

My 1st Million At 33 » Blog Archive » A Trip to Other Personal Finance Blogs

[…] On Experiments in Finance: I finally find someone who is not so enchanted by diamonds.  Yeah, “when did diamond engagement rings become standard?” […]


I’m glad people have enjoyed the post. 1477 is the first recorded date in history of a diamond engagement ring being given, by the Archduke Maximillian of Hamburg. Pope Innocent III also helped in 1215 to institute rings as the official token used in wedding ceremonies. Lots of interesting stuff!

Mighty Bargain Hunter » Welcome to this week’s Festival of Frugality!

[…] Ricemutt at Experiments in Finance presents When did diamond engagement rings become standard?  (Personal note: Mrs. MBH did not want a diamond!  I got by really inexpensively there!) […]

AllFinancialMatters » Blog Archive » Diamond rings, revisited

[…] I’ve already written previously about how fascinating it is that we’ve learned to value diamond rings as THE ring needed for an engagement. Obviously, there’s no right answer to this guy’s question, and I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been covered in some form or another by the 5 pages of responses so far, particularly as it relates to the importance of discussing finances and values in a relationship. Mostly, I just found the thread amusing and thought I’d share it with JLP’s readers. […]

Brilliant Earth: conflict-free diamonds and recycled gold | Experiments in Finance

[…] Gotta humor my girlish side somehow, right? :P Posted on 29 July 2006 by Ricemutt Comment | Trackback Relatedposts: […]

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I think that it would be nice to get an onion ring… mmmmmmm

Engagement ring shopping? An Excel model for pricing an Asscher cut diamond | Experiments in Finance

[…] I realize this is a bit out of left field, so here’s a little background. Someone recently joined our group who’d built an Excel-based model to price out how much an Asscher cut diamond should cost, based on several factors. He did this so that he could get the right engagement ring for his fiancée, where “right” was defined as the biggest bang for the buck (though I have to say it’s a gorgeous ring, and I’m no diamond afficionado). After putting the model to good use, he posted publicly on a diamond forum, and I got his permission to post it here as well. […]

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That is great! I hate those modern lists, I am a jeweler and I find this very interesting to see what other people think about getting a huge diamond when your 25 years old and going into tons of debt over it. We choose to get a smaller diamond and put alot of money down on our first home! When I am working, I want to throw up all over these girls that come in and want these 2ct diamonds on there hands. Seriously, what do they have to look forward when they have been married for 50+ years. Well, most people don’t make it that long anymore.
Well, I like the way you look at things, and I like how you work with the traditional anniversary gift list.


Yes how genius for the diamond market: you wanna get married, buy a diamond ring! If you want everyone to know that you love her: value has to be at least 3 months salary…
Oh all these “ooohhhs” and “aaahhhhss’ that the girls can share in the cafes while their husbands-to-be will be working hard to make up the debt they just created.

And whats the best part: in the end those same “uhlllllaallla look what-john-gave-me” girls will end up getting everything that same man owes! He’ll pay for their SUV and manicures for the next 10 years!!! Lets admit it: divorce rate is HUGE!

I am a modern woman totally against diamond engagement rings.
Glad to see I’m not alone on this!


In the late 19th century, extensive diamond deposits were discovered in Africa, effectively making the gems more widely available and cheaper for the general public to purchase. Because of the sudden abundance of diamonds, designs became more elaborate and intricate, and more brides-to-be began to receive diamond engagement rings
diamond earrings

Ira Weissman

Hey Leslie. You’re spot on. I worked in the diamond industry for about 7 years for one of the world’s largest manufacturers. There’s a word that diamond industry insiders use all the time – illusion. Everybody on the inside knows the whole business is held together by one fine thread of illusion created by DeBeers. I wrote an article on my site called “Truth about Engagement Rings” – take a look and let me know what you think!

jeanna king

i’m happy to receive a humble james allen earring set (gorgeous) :) but i am not sure i am one who will spend a fortune buying diamonds myself

Lorelie Simms

Standard or no standard, every girl’s dream is to be proposed to with the man kneeling on one knee offering a ring, and a lifetime together…without the ring, the picture is not complete. Once I was proposed to without a ring. I felt that the event was not well-thought of. Like, it was a spur of the moment. My answer, of course, was a nig, resounding “N-O!”… Now, I’m engaged to a different person, one that gave me the complete picture- the one with a james allen micro pave diamond ring who offered to share with me a lifetime…

Engagement Rings

Another reason of selecting diamond at the time of engagement or marriage is that it is considered as a symbol of eternal love, memorable relationship and deeper commitment.

Engagement Rings

It is very important to select the ring according to the preferences and lifestyle of your lady as she will wear the ring everyday for her rest of life. Hence you must make sure that she feels comfortable while she wears the ring.


It’s really up to the values of the couple, for some spending the same amount as a bigscreen TV (say $2000) is reasonable, for others the same amount as a round the world holiday (say $15,000) is acceptable.

Jim @ Diamonds Guide

When de beers started heavy marketing to make diamonds a symbol of love, men had become victims of a big sham.

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I used to work with someone who had worn an engagement ring she hated for 20 years! I wanted some input on what mine looked like.

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