Historical context of engagement rings

I do think it’s fair. It’s mostly a bunch of rules established by people trying to control others for material or emotional gain. Diamond engagement rings are a prime example. The tradition was invented wholesale by De Beers in the early 1900s. It’s not some great tradition passed down from generation to generation. It’s a cynical marketing ploy designed to pressure people into giving De Beers ridiculous amounts of money for not particularly valuable tiny rocks. And that’s just one of the most obvious ones. Most of these heterosexual romantic tropes are full of deeply deeply sexist double standards. Simultaneously putting women on a pedestal as superior beings whose approval must be earned and treating them like infants with no personal agency, while pressuring men to be both emotionless drones who’re completely unaffected by rejection yet also hypersensitive to a woman’s state of mind. It’s just a schizophrenic collection of product marketing and social engineering… Anything that’s the least bit practical about it is hopelessly lost in the mix.


This is not correct with what I was taught. The practice of engagement rings date back at least to the Romans but diamond rings date back to the 15th century … here is the Wiki entry supporting what I was taught.

The reason I even bring this up is that the more we interact, hopefully the more we can improve our characters.


Yes, there are examples throughout history of people giving diamond engagement rings, but it was only due to the De Beers campaign that it became a common and expected practice for everyone.

Incidentally, De Beers invented the “A diamond is forever.” phrase as well.

If you’re still looking at wikipedia, scroll down the page a bit.


Sorry but other sources say differently as well. The tradition originated in the 15th century; modern marketers profited from something long established. Your whole premise is wrong.

The fact is, as I said, the engagement ring idea dates back to the Roman period (undisputed) and these traditions are not a modern propagandist phenom. Romanticism was not invented nor first exploited in the 20th century; this is going off topic as the idea of the thread is to better write characters. Knowing the traditions and the fact that diamond jewelry and diamond engagement rings date back to the 15th century may help those (like myself) who write of those periods.

Anyways, I think this sidebar has ran its course.

The idea dates back a long time, but it wasn’t a common practice until De Beers made it one. If traditions of diamond engagement rings are on topic, then this is on topic, and you insisting that I’m wrong when i’m the only one who’s brought up evidence supporting my argument is detrimental to historical accuracy.


whatever …

Look, you’re free to stop talking about it any time you want but you’re still denying the evidence. I can’t even find the book you’re talking about on the first two pages after searching the exact phrase you told me to on google books. I did find a book about how the diamond cartels inflate the value of diamonds. There are lots of articles on regular google talking about the De Beers thing, and the wikipedia article you yourself quoted actually supports my point if you read the entire thing.

Here’re some of those articles in case they aren’t showing up for you.


Even if diamond engagement rings are an old tradition, or if they’re a manipulative ploy from the DeBeers company. If Valentine’s Day (NSFW COMIC http://oglaf.com/obligationday/) is a huge cash grab, and if the Wedding Industry is huge and overinflated. The thing is, 80+ years on (or hundreds of years on) they’ve taken on meaning. They matter to some people.

And while I do think we can question why, that it’s important to analyse and critique such things, I think it’s important to be done in a respectful manner, and I don’t think it’s right to look down upon those who do believe in such things. (Even if it’s so extremely hard when they look down on you, and think you’re less than, for missing this thing they consider so fundamental and yet doesn’t seem to make sense.)

You’ll note that those in the thread speaking of being aromantic and asexual speak mostly of their own personal experiences. They don’t disparage those that feel differently, even if they don’t quite understand it, or feel it.

I get it. I really do. I understand how there are these rules that seem strange and alien and don’t seem to make much sense. And that by just not getting those rules, on a fundamental level, it can be hugely ostracising. I understand the temptation to think, that these people are thus swayed by emotions, and that it’s illogical, inferior.

It’s not a case of there’s this great romance con going on and only a few can see through it. There’s people those things mean a lot to, even intelligent people who know the same things you do, and yet still do them, in order to make themselves, and those they love happy. By calling them moronic and bullshit, by using disparaging words, it’s insulting, and people are less likely to listen. They’ll feel attacked.



Your entire position is that in America, the DeBeers campaign changed the way that Americans proposed - to that of the diamond ring. And because of this, the entire world’s tradition of diamond rings is a new phenom - something began by this idiotic “brilliant” monopolistic company.

First the world thing. Diamond jewelry was first seen on the Hungarian Queen in the 1300’s. From then to the 16th century various factors combined to make diamonds (including rings) traditional jewelry. The various cuts started appearing in Antwerp and became prominent by the 1550’s.

This actually is the start of the tradition of the diamond engagement ring. Here is the authority: Jewelry Making in History

As shown, DeBeers was and still is an influence on that tradition growing but the actual tradition existed before the mines in South Africa were even discovered.

Even that slanted second article you link acknowledges that engagement rings were a tradition since the medieval times

[quote] With a carefully executed marketing strategy, N.W. Ayer could strengthen the tradition of engagement rings [/quote] Strengthen the (existing) tradition of engagement rings.

Even if we were to limit our argument to America, the tradition of the engagement ring dates back to the late 1880’s.

The American Experience

The only conclusion that can be drawn is: the tradition of the engagement ring and that of the diamond ring existed before this campaign and this campaign did not create this tradition out of thin air. They did change the trajectory of the use in America (from decline) … they are influential but not the everything, especially world-wide.

The following quote of yours: [quote=“Shoelip, post:34, topic:16860”]
The tradition was invented wholesale by De Beers in the early 1900s
[/quote] contradicts what others, even those used by yourself, state.

Did they exploit and influence diamond use in the engagement ring, yes but the tradition of engagement and everything associated with it is something that has roots going back to Rome.

The important take-away for writers is: These facts can be used to create better characters in all time periods you write about starting with the late 15th century.


I actually thought that this was a relevant tangent of the asexual/aromantic characters thread. And that a criticism and exploration of romantic trends is apt.

I’m actually really curious if there’s anybody around who has, or has bought an engagement ring, if they bought diamonds, and if so why and what these things mean to them? Or if anyone really wants one, why?

(And I’m half tempted to change the thread title to encompass other romantic traditions because I’d even be curious to hear from people who want a big white wedding, at huge expense, or who love Valentine’s day, or who find importance in other romantic displays, and why this is so.)


Having done this myself…yes, I did buy a ring for my partner.

It was funny, though, because she’s so non-traditional, but there is the overly-conventional cis-het-white-male in me that wanted us to wear rings. So I had to find a ring that she could at least tolerate.

So, no, it has no stone. It’s just a plain, rounded band. And because she wears a variety of other dime-store type rings, several of which are eye-catching, nobody realizes that it’s “a platinum wedding band from Tiffany’s.”

It’s interesting. Seven years ago, the only other time I seriously considered proposing to a girl, I was all about the diamond. But I’ve changed a lot in seven years. Priorities have changed. I’ve grown up.

What I lighted upon at some point was that the ring was important to me, not the diamond. Bearing a metonym of the other person–carrying that with you, letting it become part of your identity–is what I value from the tradition. But that doesn’t have to be a ring, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a diamond ring.


My wife and I bought an engagement ring together for her. For the most part, it’s tradition. We both come from very Catholic, average American backgrounds and though we don’t subscribe to many of those values, we still abide by some traditions. We bought an “infinity diamond” which is all diamond particles that are formed together to look like a diamond.

Honestly, both of us have never been very mainstream or do the norm, so some traditions make us feel like part of society.

We had a big wedding mostly because our families are old school and expected it. I tend to enjoy party, and if people want to get together to celebrate us, I’m not turning it down. Our wedding cost in the 50k range. Our parents paid. I suggested no wedding/reception, and I use that money to buy a house. I was overruled.


My wife and I actually didn’t buy discrete engagement rings. We got a pair of matching (burnished titanium) wedding rings when we got formally engaged. I didn’t put mine on until the wedding ceremony itself, but Marissa started wearing hers when we announced the engagement. All in all, we were pretty informal about the whole thing.

I obviously don’t come from a culture which really cares about wedding rings (I don’t recall my parents ever wearing them), so it wasn’t something that was a major consideration at the time, and it’s still kind of an afterthought now. However, I get the feeling that the ring is more important to her than to me, both because it represents a stable, long-term relationship (which she’s seen, let alone experienced precious few of), and because it keeps guys from hitting on her on transit.

As a result, I didn’t really feel bound to buy something expensive with a giant rock on it, partly because that was an expense I could ill afford, and partly because we both felt it would be better to get something more thematically appropriate. We ended up picking up matching polished titanium rings instead of the traditional gold ones, not just because of the price, but because titanium is relatively plain, but nearly indestructible.

We both thought that was a nice touch.


An interesting Reader’s Digest article on the history of engagement rings:

I do think Shoelip does have a bit of a point insofar as DeBeers through savvy marketing did manage to turn an upper class affectation regarding diamonds into a middle class expectation. The issue isn’t really engagement rings per say so much as the societal expectation that a big expensive diamond be placed upon it.


Both me and my ex- had rings from deceased parents that we preferred to use so discussion of rings was purely thought exercises for us. (The only thing we actually purchased was a very cheap engagement ring.)

That said the conversation did come up and it was odd explaining my views at the time, namely that I specifically would not have wanted to purchase a diamond at all (even if we could afford it and didn’t already have rings) specifically because I saw the societal expectation as harmful, particularly to stability in Africa. Specifically I saw the support of the diamond industry in any form as having a knock on effect globally, and the artificial valuing of diamonds in the west more or less leading directly to the value of blood diamonds in less developed regions. That caused a bit of an argument. I may have also been a bit more ideologically stubborn (and arguably simplistic) when I was younger (and had various other reasons for disliking a number of things).

It doesn’t help that I’ve always had an immense distastes for artificially valuing of things (e.g. I despise Valentine’s day).


@Zolataya I admit that the comment about it being invented wholesale was hyperbolic and inaccurate. I’m not sure where you’re getting all that other stuff though. I didn’t say engagements were invented by De Beers, I said buying Diamond Engagement Ring was invented by De Beers. And while it wasn’t so much invented as it was ripped off from a few examples throughout history in order to prop up their diamond sales while they simultaneously maintained a monopoly on the diamond market to strangle as much money as possible out of people who just wanted some guide on how best to express their love, that doesn’t really make it look much better.

Heh… It’s always interesting how blatantly otherwise decent first world people will freely toss their morals aside when they come into conflict with some deeply held belief that really has no effect on their survival… or is even detrimental to it. Some people value the idea of belonging or feeling like what they’re currently doing is the right thing above… well, most things. And it’s so freaking frustrating… I just complained about this yesterday in the emotion thread. You have to laugh to keep from screaming. :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m not especially keen on diamond rings - I like Cataphrak and his wife’s choice as far more appropriate for what this is about (allowing for individual sentiments, this is speaking of what it’s about to me).

But I think we could discuss this without those who dislike diamond rings treating those who do with undiluted contempt.


When I married the wife did not want a diamong ring she was happy with a 200 dollar ring. I was happy with a 10 dollar ring. After 15 years we still like are same rings and she still does not want a diamond.


I have to assume you’re referring to me, but I’m not really sure what specifically you’re referring to.

1st issue: Rings.

They scare me. I’ve been proposed to four times now. Each person had a brand new diamond ring ready - even after discussing waiting on the expense. Them not listening to me on this very important topic to my heart is one of the reasons each relationship failed.

I have my mother’s ring, which is actually her great-grandmother’s ring from the 1880’s. It is the ring I want to be proposed to with - I want it to be fixed (the stones are loose in their settings and it is worn) but this is the ring I want on my finger if I ever do get married.

This ring is my heritage, passed from great-great grandmother down to me. Most likely I will be ending the ring’s story. That does make me sad but I’m accepting that this is so. If I had a daughter, I’d pass the ring to her, telling each of my grandmothers’ (and mom’s) story to her. It is what connects me to them. It is what I hopes connects them to my daughter (if I had one).

It may seem like I am a diva or some crazy-woman but it is what it is.

2nd issue: The Wedding

If I ever do get married, it most likely will be a quiet and small affair - most likely a civil ceremony. As others in this thread, I grew up Catholic but my grand-parents were all Protestant. My wedding dreams date from my First Communion ceremonies at age 7. It was a Catholic ceremony that was (at the time) driving my parents away from my grandparents. But it was the ceremony which actually, in the end, brought our entire family together.

My grand-parents, up to that time, were all trying to get my parents to raise me properly (meaning protestant) and were all sorts of mean to my parents up to that point. At this point in time, however, everyone ended up accepting of each-other and our family “came together” at that First Communion ceremony.

As a result of all this drama and stuff, I ended up with a very expensive dress and after-party and such. I was the envy of my Catholic class. To me, it was all about my family (on both sides) coming together and loving each-other.

The wedding became entwined in my dreams as a repeat of that First Communion ceremony - except for adults … well, maybe you know what I mean. I idolized “the wedding” in my dreams from that point. Due to this, I’ve always dreamed of a “Princess’ wedding”

After growing up and going through the relationships mentioned above, I’ve given up on that dream and now only think of it as such. Also, as I get older, I can think of better things to do with the money I now know it costs to do events like this. @JimD 's idea of a house mirrors mine.

Unlike him, I won’t be overruled because my family is no longer here to impose their type of crazy on me. Except for my sisters both of whom are lesbian and non-traditional and anti-everything “hateful” to them.

@Shoelip - this entire conversation got started by that one statement of yours. That was the only thing I was objecting to. Anyways, sorry for any frustration or anger caused.