The first mention of diamonds dates back to the 4th century BC, and for 1,000 years these precious stones could only be mined in India. In the 1870s, a huge deposit was discovered in South Africa. This country remains the top producer of diamonds today. Diamonds are now mined in about 25 countries and on every continent except Europe and Antarctica.
These sparkly gems remain a favourite engagement stone around the world, but do you know the history of how diamonds came to be? Wow your sweetheart with some little-known facts about wedding bands, diamonds and other precious stones.
1. The earliest wedding rings were braided from plants
The old tradition of exchanging wedding rings is thought originate in ancient Egypt more almost 5,000 years ago. Papyrus—also used as an early form of paper—was braided into rings and worn on the ring finger of the left hand. The ring symbolises eternal and everlasting love. Lovebirds believed that there is a special vein (the vena amoris, or the ‘vein of love’) that connects directly to the heart from this finger. Though this myth has been proven incorrect, the tradition stuck in most countries, with the exception being a few like Russia, Greece and Colombia where they wear the rings on their right hands. Reeds and papyrus don’t last very long, so rings were eventually made of bone, leather or ivory, or other stronger materials.
2. Diamonds were once reserved for royals
It’s said that, in the 13th century, Louis IX of France created a law reserving diamonds for the king. One of the first known diamond engagement rings belonged to Mary of Burgundy. Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to his love with a sparkler in 1477, but it was still such a rare gem that “commoners” couldn’t access diamonds until diamond deposits were discovered in South Africa.
3. Clever marketing kickstarted the diamond industry
In the 1940s, De Beers ran its very successful “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign, manipulating both supply and demand of this rock. The company also determined what one should pay for an engagement ring—two months’ paycheque, in case you’re unclear. It seemed a small price to pay for something’s that’s “forever”. De Beers was finding it hard to convince people to give up their hard-earned money on a rock. In came an ad company and marketing linking diamonds to love and marriage. While the concept of an engagement ring had existed since medieval times, it had not been widely adopted. Before World War II, only 10 per cent of engagement rings were made with diamonds.
4. Blue represents marital harmony
Jewels come in all kinds of colours and they often have their own symbolic meaning. It’s believed blue sapphire or aquamarine engagement and wedding rings represent faithfulness and sincerity. The Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton has a blue sapphire wedding ring, passed down to her husband Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, from his mother, the late Princess Diana.
5. Girl’s best (lab-grown) friend
The 4Cs (the classic “Cut, Carat, Clarity and Colour”) aren’t enough anymore—people want to know that their diamond has been responsibly sourced. Some couples would rather purchase more traceable options, such as lab-grown diamonds, moissanites (diamond substitutes) and recycled diamonds. Man-made diamonds sell for 30–40 per cent less than mined diamonds and are formed by artificially growing carbon on a thin piece of diamond. This process mimics the natural crystallisation that occurs in “real” diamonds.
6. Dust to dust to diamonds
If you’re extremely sentimental and want to carry a piece of your loved one around forever, why not have a “cremorial” that turns ashes into diamonds? This is a fairly straightforward process because we’re made of the same substance as diamonds: the element carbon. The human body is about 18 per cent carbon and the rest is mostly water. The ashes are heated and compressed in a lab, and are virtually identical to a mined diamond after the process. The jury’s out on whether this is the most ethically sourced diamond around! Perhaps that might the diamond made out of peanut butter.
7. Sourcing conflict-free diamonds is now easier
It’s pretty easy to purchase ethically sourced diamonds now if you do your research. In 2003, the diamond industry created the “Kimberley Process” certification to reassure consumers that the diamonds they’ve purchased are conflict-free. Almost 15 years later, it’s estimated that 5–10 per cent of diamonds are still traded illegally, but this is a huge improvement over the 25 per cent prior to 2003.
Ready to propose? Now go get that ring!
If you’re unsure, we’ve made it easy for you. Here’s a list of retail and online shops that guarantee conflict-free gems.
- Brilliant Earth: ethical diamonds from Canada, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Russia; eco-friendly gold and platinum.
- Fair Trade Jewellery Co.: this Canada-based online retailer provides both pre-set engagement rings and custom-made rings for every proposal It became the first North American business to use Fair Trade Certified gold, and is also a certified B-Corp.
- Nineteen48: fully committed to following ethical and responsible practices, both in terms of manufacture and production, as well as sales and marketing.
- John Hardy: a company that puts the ethical in ethical jewellery. This brand has shown dedication with regards to incorporating green corporate practises and committing to being socially responsible in almost every facet of its operations.
- niin: this is Asia’s premier luxury eco-jewellery brand. Jewellery makers handcraft nature’s treasures to create original jewellery and accessories, with sustainable practices at its core.
If you still have questions about diamonds and how to source ethically mined or lab-grown diamonds, the Diamond Pro website is really informative. Find diamond and jewellery information, Qs&As and just about anything you might want to know.
Do your research, find a reputable diamond supplier and feel good about spending your two months’ salary!
Please join niin Hong Kong for an exclusive launch of its latest collection, SISU, together with the official launch of niin’s collaboration with Austrian fine jewellery house, AENEA Jewellery—The Alaria Collection. A portion of all Alaria sales will be donated to the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation.
Drinks & Nibbles by Bar de Luxe
October 12, 6:00–8:30pm
29th Floor, 8 Wyndham Street
Lucky Draw Prizes from Allepo Soap by A&E,
Caudalie, and van der Bloom
Up to 50% off selected products from Attire House
+ Special offers on selected niin collections
RSVP – firstname.lastname@example.org or +852 2878 8811
Written By: Adriane Rysz