Stoned in love

Diamonds, sapphires, rubies and more… the history of the engagement ring dates back more than 700 years

After the festive period from Christmas to New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day is the most popular time for people to pop the question. From as far back the ancient civilisations of Greece and Egypt, people have given tokens of their affection in the shape of rings. After all, what good would a proposal be without a ring to seal the deal?

The earliest examples that we have of engagement rings are quite different from what you think of today. Known as amatory, or posey rings, early engagement or wedding rings were often gold bands inscribed with words of love and decorated with floral motifs. Posey rings take their name from the ‘poesy’ or motto engraved around the band, and they become more valuable and collectable today. Midlands’ auctioneers Fellows sold an example inscribed ‘je adore’ (I love you in French) dated to the 1400’s for more than £2,000.


With the discovery of diamonds in Brazil at the beginning of the 18th century, these precious stones became popular with the Georgians. King George III presented Queen Charlotte with a diamond solitaire engagement ring in 1761, proving the love of diamonds was a growing trend.

Queen Victoria’s love of diamonds led to a revolution in diamond rings. The discovery of the stones in South Africa in the late 19th century made diamonds accessible to the masses. They were often paired with sapphires and rubies – an enduring style made popular in the Eighties by Princess Diana and more recently by the Duchess of Cambridge. A cluster ring is the perfect style engagement ring for a traditional but timeless piece.

The modern classic engagement ring styles were popularised by companies such as De Beers with their Diamonds are Forever campaigns. In America, Tiffany are probably best known for their single stone diamond rings. When buying a named piece such as Tiffany, you will be buying into the name as well as the ring… so expect a price to match!

The fact that these rings are timeless classics is part of their appeal. At auction you’re going to be buying a pre-loved piece but there is no limit on age. What’s to say that a piece bought today won’t be a prized antique of the future.

For more information on jewellery auctions contact Fellows Auctioneers