Wedding and engagement rings have a long history, probably from Roman customs where a woman would wear rings attached to small keys, which demonstrated her ownership by her husband. Women were considered property for many years, and we’re fortunate that this has changed. The first rings with diamonds were recorded in the late 1400s. Maximilian I, the King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor, commissioned a diamond ring for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy.
Maximilian is responsible for the diamond engagement ring trend, but it was the Victorians who popularized the ornate designs and beautiful settings that we know today. However, diamonds were largely inaccessible to the masses until De Beers began mining in the late 1800s. The demand for diamonds dropped during the Depression, but De Beers Company fought back by using the movie stars of the time to advertise the diamonds.
Are Diamonds Really a Girl’s Best Friend?
In the 1953 film, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Marilyn Monroe sang:
“The French are glad to die for love.
They delight in fighting duels.
But I prefer a man who lives
And gives expensive jewels.
A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
Diamonds might be considered traditional, but not everyone can afford these rare gems. Some people don’t want to support the industry. There are a lot of other gemstones that can be made into beautiful rings. Here are some of the best alternatives.
- Garnets come in shades of pink and red most commonly, but you can also find them in other colors. Although garnets aren’t as hard as other gems, only a 7.0 on the Mohs scale (a diamond is a 10), you’ll be able to get a bigger gem for a fraction of the cost.
- Sapphires are most commonly a blue gem, but you can find them in other hues. The best part is that sapphires are generally one-third of the price of diamonds. You can get a larger stone, but make sure it’s well cut.
- Emeralds come in beautiful shades of green, and although they aren’t one of the more popular gems these days, they can look chic and timeless in a ring setting that will last forever.
- Pearls are an iconic look, but they do tend to scratch and tarnish easily. You can find very elegant pearls at a good price, but don’t plan on wearing the ring every day to make it last.
- Opals can reflect the entire rainbow as they move in the light. No two opals look the same, but they are in the middle of the Mohs scale. Opals don’t stand up to daily wear like a diamond might, but they still make a beautiful ring.
- Onyx is generally black in color, but it can come in a variety of colors for fine jewelry. The black stone pairs with anything you wear and it looks timeless and chic.
- Sunstones are a very abundant gemstone and come in a variety of shades including peach, red, orange and green. Many are found just south of the border in Oregon.
- Amethyst is a pretty, purple gem that is durable but less expensive than diamond. The gem is beautifully paired with gold or silver for a classic look.