Diamonds have long been associated with engagement rings. It is suggested that the durability of this stone made it the fitting symbol of love. Since diamonds are the strongest and hardest mineral known to man, it became the symbol of a couple's unbreakable bond. Ancient Greeks believed that the diamond's spark was the reflection of the burning flame of everlasting love.
Historically, couple rings were either strands of braided grass, hair, a single silver or gold wire. Diamonds were not the only stone to be featured in the engagement ring. Sapphires, rubies, and emeralds were also used as tokens of love.
The giving of engagement or betrothal rings as gifts was popular during the 17th and 18th century. This ring-giving act is done upon the acceptance of a marriage proposal. The rings given usually have both rubies and diamonds. The red rubies symbolize love. The diamonds being strong and dazzling signifies eternity. The combination of both stones is a very romantic notion that a marriage should be based on love and is eternal.
Although the use of diamonds had been around for so many centuries, some historians puts the origin of diamond usage on engagement rings around 15th century. It coincides with the time when new techniques for cutting diamonds were developed. The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was on 1477. The Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring when he proposes to her. This ring was set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M."
This proposal gave rise to the widespread trend of giving diamond engagement rings among the rich and the famous. The other upper classes around the world followed suit and also started giving these precious gems to their beloved and betrothed.
Over the next few centuries, this custom was relatively limited to the rich and noble families only. However, a diamond mine discovery in South Africa in 1870 changed all that. With a great increase in availability the diamonds became affordable to the general public.