Engagement rings have existed in many forms since as early as the Roman era. In that time betrothal rings were just bands made of iron or gold. Later the started to set precious stones into the band as a sign of wealth but they weren’t specifically designed for the purpose of an engagement ring. Even signet rings, which were very popular during this time, sometimes performed the function of a betrothal ring.
As the times changed and fashions came and went gem set rings, in a display of wealth, started to become more and more popular and were commonly given as a part of the betrothal/marriage contract. They also used gems protect them from certain ailments or negatives spirits with each stone being used for a different purpose.
These days engagement rings are so often diamond but this wasn’t always the case and the first diamond betrothal/engagement ring wasn’t given until the 15th Century. Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian gave his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, a diamond ring in 1477 and this is the first recorded diamond engagement ring. However, it did not start a craze which had everyone following but instead was a slow burn that took centuries for diamond rings to gain the status they have now.
During the centuries up until the late 19th/early 20th century several different gemstones were a popular choice for engagement rings. Queen Victoria herself had a snake head design ring with rubies, diamond and an emerald set into it. Then came the discovery of diamonds in South Africa and the game changed.
De Beers pioneered one of the most successful marketing campaigns ever and the demand for diamonds as engagement rings started to soar in western countries. From the start of the 20th century diamonds continued to become the predominant choice of stone to propose with. In 1948 the marketing slogan of “A Diamond Is Forever” was launched by De Beers and diamonds become the first choice when it came to selecting a ring for your forever love. In a display of the power and success of this slogan it is still used by the company today!
While diamonds have dominated the engagement ring scene for most of modern times the actual history of the use of them for engagement rings is relatively new. These days many different stones have regained popularity. Sapphires in particular are extremely popular at the moment and their durability and unique colours makes them an excellent option for a one of a kind engagement ring.
Lang Antiques – Rings Ancient to Neoclassical
Wedding bands incorporate the history of betrothal and poesy rings which were their earliest forms. The Romans began wearing betrothal rings in the 4th Century as an acknowledgement of the contract of betrothal between two people. They were made from various metals with an iron ring often worn at home while a more lavish gold band was worn outside of the home in a display of wealth. These rings were worn on the fourth finger of the left hand as they believed there was a vein in this finger connected directly to the heart.
While these bands were used to denote a betrothal, and would eventually evolve into engagement rings, the attraction of a plain gold band to signify love continued throughout history to modern day. Posey rings were given out of love and friendship and were engraved with poems/phrases, such as “you have my heart” in French or Latin. These rings were popular from the 16th to the 20th century.
Bands of some form have been connected to engagement and marriage since the roman period. They signify a contract but also love, friendship and fidelity just like modern wedding bands do. During the 19th century bands begun being worn either side of an engagement ring and were known as keeper rings, used to keep the engagement ring from sliding off. This is one of the first times bands were worn along with an engagement ring.
Modern wedding bands still hold the sentimental significance of their previous incarnations but also serve a decorative function. Bands these days can vary in style and size with design ranging from a plain gold band through to diamond bands designed to fit around an engagement ring to complement/enhance its design.
Lang Antiques – Rings Ancient to Neoclassical
Solitaire is the French word for alone which is why it is the perfect description for a ring set with a single stone! Solitaires are one of the most classic and popular designs for engagement rings. Traditionally diamonds have been the most common choice for solitaire rings but in more recent time sapphires have become an increasingly more popular choice. With their enormous variety of colours and cuts a sapphire can prove to be a truly unique solitaire ring.
The history of the solitaire ring dates back to the Roman era but their popularity exploded in the 17th century when it became the setting of choice for larger stones. During this time coloured stones were set in gold while diamonds were set in silver to enhance their appearance (white gold and platinum were not yet available). The simplicity of the style has always helped show off the beauty of the stone. Settings have varied over the last 400 years with bezel and collect settings being popular in the 17th and 18th century while the claw setting we recognise as a solitaire setting today begun to be used in the Victorian era.
After the turn of the 20th Century white precious metals became the most popular metal used in jewellery with advancements in the ability to work with Platinum and the invention of white gold. Art Deco period solitaires were commonly diamonds set in white metal occasionally with a decorative engraved, filigree or pierce work crown beneath the stone. This period of jewellery was strong on aesthetics and decided the classic solitaire needed some fancying up!
Solitaires have remained the most popular style of engagement ring throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. Popular stones include the classic round brilliant cut diamond, oval sapphires and even salt and pepper diamonds. Set in a variety of gold colours with four or six claws these rings will always have a timeless elegance. Their simplicity offers the option to get more creative with wedding bands and eternity rings which can have more embellishment or intricacy to create a more personalised look.
Langs Antiques – Rings Ancient to Neoclassical
Gem Society – Victorian Period Jewelry 1837-1860
Round, oval, pear or square?
Diamond, sapphire, zoisite or morganite?
Triple excellent cut, custom precision cut, rose cut, mixed step cut?
1ct, 2ct, 3ct or 4?
Knife edge, half round, bezel or claw?
Feeling a little overwhelmed? We don’t blame you! There is a lot to learn if you are new to the world of engagement rings, diamonds and jewellery.
Even if you don’t know a thing about rings we are here to help. The secret behind our bespoke process is that we BREAK IT DOWN! Genius I know, but wait here me out.
When you book an initial consultation we have a series of tried and tested questions that will tease out your ring design even if you don’t have a clue. Our bespoke process is unique because we have a gemstone first approach. This means we focus on guiding you to the right gemstone for your needs, sourcing this stone and designing the ring around the gemstone.
Because we breakdown the process into actionable steps, we generally don’t talk too much about the ring design until we have found the perfect gemstone. Why? Well we believe the engagement ring is all about the stone and the ring design is complementary.
Below are the EXACT questions we ask at the first consultation.
P.S. You aren’t supposed to know all the answers, that’s why we are here. Our aim is to guide you through so it’s stress free and hopefully even fun!
What is your budget?
This is the first questions we generally ask, why? ‘Cause if your budget is $2,000 but you wanted a 1ct natural mined diamond then I have a bit of educating to do. It’s also important to work out if we are the right fit for each other. Budget matters as we need to know what we can offer you within your price range and perhaps some alternatives. We work with budgets of $2,000 and up for bespoke pieces. It is important that bespoke rings are accessible to all price ranges and we always try to accommodate your budget as best we can.
What gold would you like the ring made from?
The main options are Yellow, White and Rose gold. But Platinum is a popular option too. We mostly produce rings in 18k gold but if you are budget conscious then 14k and 9k are good options to reduce overall cost.
What gemstone ?
Diamonds are the go to for engagement rings but there are a plethora of diamond look a like options such as lab grown diamonds, moissanites, white sapphires etc which all have their own unique qualities. Perhaps you want to go for a coloured gemstone, sapphires, spinels, morganites and emeralds are popular choices too. This is where we can really educate you on the colours and range of gemstone options.
Shape of the stone
There are your standard shapes round, oval, pear, emerald, square, cushion. You also have the more fancy shapes and cuts marquise, asscher, radiant, then the new age geometric cuts or rosecuts. The IGS has a great guide on shapes if you are after more details.
P.S. A note on shape vs. cut. These terms can be used interchangeably but they are different. The cut of a gemstone determines how its facets interact with light. Shape on the other hand refers to the geometric appearance of the gemstone.
What is the desired size of the stone you wanted?
Things to consider include, finger real estate i.e. how big or small will the finger be that wears the ring. Carat refers to the weight of the stone, whilst there is a correlation between dimensions and weight (as most stones are cut with similar proportions) the shape of the stone has a huge role to play in this. If you are going for a solitaire you want to be aiming for at least 1 -1.5ct. An engagement ring should pack a bit of punch!
What is the overall aesthetic you are trying to achieve?
Modern, vintage, minimalist, chunky, one of a kind, quirky. Art Deco. This is starting to get into the ring design territory but have an idea of what the overall look of the ring you are trying to achieve. If you are a lost think about your partners clothes, homewares and other things they may like. We can help translate this into a ring style.
This can be very tricky to get right, especially if you are aiming for a surprise proposal. There are a few ways:
- Ask them casually
- Steal a ring they wear and measure it using our ring sizer chart (be sure to take note of what finger and what hand the ring is worn on as not all your fingers are the same size)
- Ask their Mum/sister or a friend who might know their size
- Go for an average a small finger is a size L, a medium finger M and a larger finger size P
What are your timelines?
For our bespoke process we need 6 weeks from the time of approving your computer render to be able to cast, polish and set your ring. Generally speaking, on average the bespoke process takes 3 months from initial consultation to deliver the ring to you.
How will you communicate?
Is this a surprise proposal, how are you going to keep this a secret? After the initial consultation which is either via phone/ video call or face to face in our studio, we generally converse over email. Occasionally we like to send through videos of gemstone options via chat or message too so if you are keeping things a surprise please let us know so we don’t blow it.
Are you ethically minded, do mined stones go against your ethical values? We are passionate about working to our clients bespoke needs. Every client has different values of which we like to support. Please let us know what is important to you
If you thinking of proposing why not book a free no obligations consultation? We offer a personalised and relaxed environment with no strings attached. We take the time to understand your requirements and guide you through the design process. We are local and trustworthy, your ring will be made in Australia supporting a network of other small businesses. We are passionate about removing the intimidation and barriers to buying an engagement ring whilst taking the mystery out of the bespoke process.