Diamond wedding rings are a fairly recent phenomenon; up until about sixty years ago, most married couples wore simple gold bands. Today, diamond wedding ring sets are fairly common. There are even diamond wedding bands for those who prefer these to diamond wedding rings that have a set stone in them.
The Story of Diamond Jewelry
Throughout recorded history, diamond jewelry has been treasured and sought after. However, it wasn’t until about 500 years ago that the art and science of diamond cutting was born. Most of the stones that find their way into diamond wedding rings are cut and appraised in the Belgian city of Antwerp, which has been the center of the diamond business since the mid-1500s.
The DeBeers Company – formed in the 1880s by Sir Cecil Rhodes, for whom the African colony was Rhodesia (now independent Zimbabwe and Zambia) was named – was instrumental in creating an artificial market for diamond jewelry, particularly diamond wedding ring sets, where none had existed previously. It is true that Archduke Maximilian I of Austria presented his bride, Marie of Burgundy with a diamond wedding ring on the occasion of their wedding in 1477, but that did not set a general precedent. That precedent had to wait another 423 years.
“Diamonds Are Forever”
The phrase “a diamond is forever,” became the basis not only of a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming and the movie and hit song that came out of it, but of the most brilliant advertising campaign of all time. The DeBeers Company used this phrase to convince the public to abandon the plain gold bands that had been traditional for married couples for centuries, and embrace their line on fashion-designed diamond wedding ring sets.
The campaign was remarkably successful; within only a few years, plain gold bands had been replaced by diamond wedding bands and rings with set stones.
A similar campaign was undertaken by the U.S. diamond jewelry industry; the market was targeted toward those couples planning to wed. The idea was to convince the American public of an “old tradition” in which men wore diamond engagement rings as well as their fiancées. This particular campaign was rather less successful, but it did help to increase the popularity of diamond wedding rings among American couples.
Diamond Jewelry Today
Diamonds in the rough are shipped to one of the major diamond centers in Antwerp, Tel Aviv, New York, London or Singapore, where they are graded and cut; after this, they undergo an appraisal for carat (size and weight), color, clarity and cut. After this, jewelers purchase these stones in lots and use them as settings for diamond wedding rings and other types of jewelry.