Heart shaped diamond engagement ring set amongst white rose bouquet

The tradition of offering an engagement ring as a symbol of love and commitment has stood the test of time. Across cultures and centuries, it has remained a powerful emblem, with each era adding its own nuances to the narrative. But where did this tradition originate? How has it evolved over time? In this article we will delve into the fascinating history behind the engagement ring tradition.

The Ancient Beginnings

The concept of an engagement ring can be traced back to ancient civilizations. The earliest recorded example comes from ancient Egypt, where rings were exchanged as symbols of eternal love and life. These rings were made from reeds or other natural materials and worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, believed by Egyptians to contain a vein that ran directly to the heart.

In ancient Rome, betrothal rings were used as part of marriage contracts. They were often made from iron to symbolize strength and permanence. Over time, these iron betrothal rings evolved into more ornate designs crafted from gold or bronze.

It was also during Roman times that arguably one of the first diamond engagement rings came about. Pliny the Elder describes in his Natural History book how grooms would give their brides a gold ring for public use, and an iron one for home use – sometimes adorned with an 'adamant' (likely a diamond) which was believed to symbolize indestructibility.

Click here to discover the beauty and allure of our exceptional engagement-ring collection.

The Middle Ages and Beyond

By medieval times, gimmel rings had become popular for engagements in Europe. These consisted of two interlocking bands that when combined formed one complete ring - symbolic of two lives becoming intertwined in marriage.

However, it wasn't until 1477 that diamonds became associated with engagement rings when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an "M". This sparked a trend among European aristocracy and nobility for diamond engagement rings.

The Victorian era saw a rise in romantic symbolism being incorporated into jewellery design. Engagement rings often featured intricate designs and were commonly made from yellow or rose gold. Popular motifs included hearts, bows, and flowers - all symbols of love and devotion.

Modern Engagement Rings

The 20th century brought significant changes to the tradition of engagement rings. De Beers launched its famous marketing campaign in the mid-20th century with the slogan "A Diamond is Forever" which led to an increase in demand for diamond engagement rings worldwide.

Today, engagement ring styles are as diverse as the couples they represent. From simple solitaires to elaborate halo designs, there's truly something for everyone. More recently, there has been a resurgence in popularity of vintage-inspired designs and coloured gemstones reflecting individual tastes and personalities.


The tradition of giving an engagement ring has journeyed through time – from ancient Egypt to modern day – evolving with each era yet maintaining its core symbol: a promise of love and commitment. It’s fascinating to see how this timeless tradition has adapted over centuries while still retaining its symbolic essence.

Now that you're familiar with the history behind this enduring custom why not explore Sophie Harley's range? Each piece is handcrafted with care to ensure it not only embodies timeless elegance but also unique individuality. So whether you're planning a proposal or simply wish to indulge in luxurious jewellery, we invite you to browse our exquisite collection today.