The Proposal, getting down on one knee & diamond engagement rings

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be looking at all the traditions surrounding weddings and telling you a little bit about where they came from.

I have been looking at them in no particular order and today I’m going to look at the proposal, getting down on one knee and the engagement ring.


The proposal:

Throughout history, wedding proposals have been pretty much a mundane affair and it is suggested that they probably were not given much thought at all. It is only in the last 40 years or so that a proposal has become such a big deal.


In a lot of cases ‘engagements’ were nothing more than arrangement between families, usually negotiated beforehand with not much say by the two people due to be married. Land and money would often change hands, along with allegiances gained between families, with little regard being given to the prospect that the two people being married may not be ideally suited or happy in their married life.


I have already covered the marriage of Queen Victoria in another blog, and her white wedding dress choice that influences us today. Her choice of groom was more or less an arranged marriage, but lucky enough for her, she dearly loved the man she married





Getting down on one knee:

This is simply a sign of respect and has been documented as far back as 328 BC with Alexander the Great who, it is said, borrowed the idea from the Persians.


It has become a way of showing respect or servitude to a leader – who can forget Game of Thrones with the constant reference to ‘taking the knee’.


It’s not more apparent than when the Queen bestows an honour on someone, such as a Knighthood, they kneel in front of her to receive that honour.


It was only in the 1800’s when a bended knee became part of the marriage proposal.


The Engagement ring:

It might surprise you to learn that a diamond has only been the stone of choice in an engagement ring since the late 1930s’.


Engagement rings have been around in some form since ancient Rome.


In a lot of countries, the engagement ring is placed on the ‘ring finger’ of the left hand (the finger next to the little finger). At one time it was thought that the ring finger contained the vein that led to the heart and although we now know this isn’t the case, we still use that finger.


South African diamonds were found around 1866, but most people saw them as solely reserved for the rich, wealthy, nobility and aristocracy and a more simpler engagement band was used.


In 1914 the First World War started and the sale of diamond rings fell. Then in 1933 America suffered the Great Depression that eventually affected most of the world in one way or other – all of them negative, and it is suggested that in America at least, the purchase of diamond engagement rings reached an all-time low. Coupled with this, it appeared that in America, diamond engagement rings were simply going out of fashion.


By the late 1930’s people’s finances were improving, but only 10% of engagement rings purchased in America had a diamond in them. In 1938 the diamond cartel De Beers started a marketing campaign that set out to educate people about diamonds – the 4 C’s – cut, carats, colour and clarity, was the first aspect of this campaign.


In 1947 De Beers introduced into their campaign the slogan that simply stated, ‘A diamond is forever’, suggesting

that a diamond engagement ring is indispensable and the only acceptable stone for an engagement ring.


Although much of the research around diamond engagement rings relates to America, what happens in America eventually takes hold in the UK and needless to say, the sale of diamond engagements has gone from strength to strength


There has been some suggestion that the person making the proposal should spend the equivalent of three (or more) months’ salary on an engagement ring. It is suggested that this is nothing more than part of the marketing campaign by De Beers in the 1940’s, to get men to buy the more expensive ring, (very similar to the ‘because we’re worth it’ campaign by a certain beauty product company) but it appears to have become the standard go-to guide for how much to spend.


I think that in this day and age, we have all got better things to spend our money on and the person making the proposal should spend whatever they can afford on an engagement ring.









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