The Evolution of Engagement Rings Through the Years

See how they've changed from the 1400s to now.

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An engagement ring is more than just a piece of jewelry: It signifies a major commitment in your relationship and gets shown off a lot on the 'gram. But the history behind why engagement rings exist dates all the way back to Ancient Rome. Find out how this piece of jewelry came to be and see how the styles have evolved over the centuries.

history
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1477

In Ancient Rome, women were given rings made of ivory, flint, bone, copper, or iron "to signify a business contract or to affirm mutual love and obedience," according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). It wasn't until 1477 that the very first diamond ring was commissioned by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria for his bride, Mary of Burgundy.

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katharina von bora   wife of martin luther
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1525

Gimmel rings featured two or three hoops that fit together to form one ring. After getting engaged, the man and woman would each wear one part of the ring, then during the wedding ceremony they'd reconnect their bands and the bride would wear the unified ring. Catherine Bora (pictured) and Martin Luther opted for this ring for their marriage in 1525.

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edwardian diamond ring
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1901

Engagement rings arrived in America in the 1840s but were still relatively uncommon. In the Edwardian era (1901-1910), designs were marked by their dainty and elaborate details. Most rings centered around a large diamond and the goal of the jeweler was to get as many diamonds on the piece as possible. They would do so by encrusting small diamonds into settings made of filigree and ornate detailing sometimes resembling lace.

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antique diamond from 1920 in worn ring box
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1910

The most popular stone for engagement rings during this period was the old European cut diamond. The hand cut round stone remained popular from the turn of the century until the 1930s.

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actress sally starr and actor bobby watson announce their en
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1920

The 1920s brought with it a wave of modern fashion, art, and, yes, even engagement ring styles. When art deco style emerged, it replaced the frilly and intricate rings of the Edwardian era with a combination of diamonds and colored gemstones and angled lines centered around one large stone.

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london celebrity sightings   july 21, 2016
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1922

Asscher cut diamonds were one of the most popular styles in the 1920s. Invented in 1902 by the Asscher family, the patented cut is similar to an emerald cut, but is wider set and features larger step facets to make the diamond appear more brilliant.

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amethyst ring
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1925

Due to art deco jewelry featuring a mix of diamonds with colored gemstones, it became common for an engagement ring's center stone to be fitted with a sapphire, emerald, or ruby instead of a diamond.

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marry me
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1930

During the Great Depression, many couples opted for less extravagant engagement rings. As a result, styles became simpler and stones became smaller.

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war bride everyday life in wartime london, march 1943
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1939

Platinum was widely the metal of choice for engagement rings, until World War II hit, as the material was needed for the war effort.

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band of gold
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1940

Fashion in the '40s was all about doing more with less—and engagement rings were no exception. Jewelers added intricate designs, like leaves, flowers, bows, or hearts, to settings to make up for smaller stones.

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a man slips an engagement ring onto his fiancee's finger, circa 1950 photo by fpghulton archivegetty images
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1942

As platinum was still scarce in the '40s, yellow gold emerged on the forefront for ring settings and bands.

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view of poised and ring worn hand of lucille ball
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1945

For those who could afford it, glamorous cushion cut and solitaire center stones were all the rage by the mid-1940s. Here, Lucille Ball shows off the cushion cut ring she wore during her marriage to Desi Arnaz.

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choosing an engagement ring
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1948

De Beers launched their "A diamond is forever" marketing campaign in 1948, in an effort to convince the public that diamonds were symbols of an everlasting marriage.

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diamond engagement ring in box
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1950

De Beers's marketing campaign proved successful, and by the 1950s, diamond engagement ring sales skyrocketed and the custom of proposing with a diamond ring became the norm. The most common style at this time was a solitaire stone with diamond baguettes on the sides.

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jackie kennedy exhibit at the jfk library
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1953

The public took an interest in Jacqueline Kennedy long before she was the First Lady of the United States. In fact, her engagement ring from John F. Kennedy had a huge influence on engagement ring trends. The elaborate Van Cleef & Arpels ring was fitted with both an emerald cut diamond and emerald stone, nestled together with a leaf-shaped set of diamonds.

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bride and groom with rings
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1954

It's no coincidence that the models in this 1950s jewelry ad look identical to JFK and Jackie on their wedding day. Their nuptials reignited an interest in glamour, starting with the popularity of the emerald cut engagement ring.

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joe dimaggio and marilyn monroe kiss
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1955

After a simple courthouse ceremony, Joe DiMaggio sealed his nuptials to Marilyn Monroe with a diamond eternity band. The engagement ring, set in platinum and fitted with 36 baguette cut diamonds, was a huge trendsetter.

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holding her arm and gazing at her solicitously, mike todd sq
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1957

Elizabeth Taylor's third husband, Mike Todd, set himself apart from the actress's former husbands with a 29.4 carat emerald cut engagement ring from Cartier. The piece cemented an ongoing obsession with emerald cut rings, which would continue into the '60s.

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aretha franklin
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1960

The '60s were all about showcasing bright and shiny diamonds, and as a result, simple silhouettes became more popular for their modern look. Aretha Franklin's engagement ring from Ted White shows off the chic simplicity of this trend.

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mia farrow modeling wedding ring set
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1966

When Frank Sinatra proposed to Mia Farrow, the singer was prepared with a 9 carat solitaire pear-shaped diamond set in tapered baguettes. Although the couple's marriage only lasted two years, the resurgence of pear-shaped diamonds took off throughout the next decade.

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elizabeth taylor's diamond ring
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1968

How does someone propose to a woman who's been married four times? With a 39.19 carat Asscher cut diamond. Elizabeth Taylor's ring, which is known as the Krupp diamond, sparked a trend of grandiose, over-the-top engagement rings.

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jewelry from the estate of jacqueline kennedy onas
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1970

Angular and geometric cut rings took off in popularity during the '70s, making the uniqueness of a ring more important than its size. Jackie Kennedy Onassis's marquise-shaped ring, given to her by her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, quickly became a trendsetting piece.

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princess cut diamond engagement ring
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1973

Although the princess cut diamond first began circulating in the '60s, it was in the '70s that the style really took off. The look of the square diamond was either worn as a solitaire or with tapered baguettes to the side.

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wedding ring set
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1975

As people began taking a more personalized approach to their rings, it became common for the bride and groom to design matching wedding sets. Jewelers could sell you a matching wedding band to your engagement ring, as well as a band for your husband.

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ricki lake file photos
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1980

Yellow gold had its shining moment in the 1980s. The metal became the go-to setting for bands during the decade.

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lady diana pre marriage
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1982

Princess Diana picked her sapphire and diamond cluster ring out of a Garrard catalog. Little did she know she'd be sparking an industry-wide trend. Not long after the royal-to-be debuted her sparkler on the lawn of Buckingham Palace, colored stone engagement rings started to make a huge comeback.

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jewelery from michal jewelers of double baywatch philippe charriol design cable watchnecklace blue topaz diamond and perlear ring blue topaz and diamond perlring marquise and caree diamondring brilliant cut and baguette diamondring bezel set diamon
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1985

The '80s were all about excess. From unique finishing touches and tapers to side stones and baguettes, engagement rings were far from simple during this time.

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jennifer shefft's engagement ring
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1990

By 1990, the minimalist trend was back. Settings made in yellow and 24-carat gold were out and cooler metals, like platinum and white gold, were in.

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showtime presents "liza with a 'z'"   arrivals
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1995

Since simplicity was so popular during the '90s, it's no surprise that the round solitaire diamond was a very common design.

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showtime presents "liza with a 'z'"   arrivals
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1998

The marquise cut (a.k.a. the football-shaped cut) had a major moment in the late '90s, when Victoria Beckham revealed her engagement ring from David Beckham.

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