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Engagement Rings: Moments in time through history


Getting engaged to the one you love is a moment in time that you will treasure. Deeply emotional, the ring you wear will carry the memories of that moment forever. Has getting engaged always been that way? It’s a question we’re often asked as we work with our customers to find the perfect ring, so today we are taking a trip back in history to explore how the modern Engagement ring came to be.


Did you know that the giving of Engagement rings goes back as far as the Egyptians, as they were known to wear rings on the traditional ‘ring finger’, believing that the circle shape symbolised eternity?

From featuring in the Bible through to later times, an Engagement ring wasn’t always about symbolising love, but more of an act of ownership – the Romans were said to have attached small keys to the rings to signify a wife belonging to a husband – which thankfully is not representative of why we give and wear them today!

Symbolically marking the intent of marriage with a ring has firmly been rooted in history and, as time has progressed, unions built on the foundation of love grew. Why we wear them on our ‘ring finger’ has been attributed to the belief that the ‘vein of love’ (later known as Vena Amoris) is located in the fourth finger of the left hand and runs directly to the heart, symbolising love.

Like modern day, historical Engagement rings could come in a variety of metals, consisting of gold, silver, copper and iron (so much choice!). It wasn’t until the Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond ring in 1477 that diamonds were first introduced into an Engagement ring. Made with flat pieces of diamond in the shape of an M, it set a precedent for aristocracy and nobility within Europe who quickly started adding gems to their jewellery.

In more modern times you’d see ‘posey rings’, so-called as they were set with diamonds, gemstones, precious metals and enamels in to ornate flower shapes and inscribed with romantic wording. The tradition of mixing diamonds with other gemstones continued in to Edwardian times, where they were commonly crafted using filigree settings.

But what made the diamond Engagement ring what it is today? It’s thanks to the DeBeers Mining Company, who in 1880 discovered them in South Africa and within a decade controlled 90% of the world’s diamond production. Yet it wasn’t until after the Great Depression in the 1930’s, when they were on a mission to get engagement rings back in to the hearts and minds of consumers, that they transformed the Engagement ring in to what we know and love today.

By creating the advertising campaign ‘A Diamond is Forever’, and encouraging men to spend two month’s salary on the ring, DeBeers had hit the jackpot. With such a strong slogan that we still use today, the campaign brought to life the magic of a marriage proposal. And, by the early 1940’s diamond Engagement rings became the leading line of jewellery and shaped what we see today.


A moment in time with Lister Horsfall

We understand that it’s both an emotional and exciting time when someone is about to propose or get married, so we make sure that couples get the best experience to help them make their day as perfect as possible. We believe choosing a ring is an occasion in its own right and treat it as such.

With our heritage, knowledge and experience passed on through generations, Lister Horsfall is the perfect place to mark a special moment in time. Both stores offer our customers an inviting and comfortable environment in which to explore collections.

Our bridal areas are intimate settings where you can explore and try on the different ranges, seek advice and ring recommendations from our down-to-earth and experienced team, whilst relaxing and soaking up this special moment with complimentary champagne. If you’re looking for something unique, you can even work with our Master Goldsmith and design your own bespoke Engagement ring. Our Halifax branch also houses our luxurious Bridal Suite, giving grooms and brides-to-be the perfect place to choose their engagement and wedding rings whilst enjoying complimentary drinks from our in-store bar.

All our customers benefit from the Lister Horsfall Promise, meaning that every piece of jewellery that you buy from us is entitled to a lifetime of clean, re-size and polish, and free valuations in the future. And, if you buy an Engagement ring from us, you also receive 10% off wedding rings.

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