Men’s diamond wedding bands are actually a recent concept; up until the 1950s, the majority of wedding couples in the Western world wore plain gold or silver bands (in some cases, bronze or even brass). DeBeer’s – a diamond company founded over 125 years ago – was largely the driving force behind the new tradition of diamond wedding bands and other types of diamond wedding sets with single set stones, as well as the idea of diamond engagement rings. The idea of men’s diamond wedding bands was part of a marketing campaign that turned out to be one of the most successful in history.
In the Beginning
150 years ago, men’s diamond wedding bands didn’t exist – in fact, men usually didn’t wear wedding rings of any sort. Women almost always did; it was a reflection of the status of women in Victorian times as being as much property as companion. It was the American jewelry industry that began marketing double ring wedding sets toward the end of the 19th Century. Still, prior to 1930, only about 15% of all wedding ceremonies were “double ring.”
It was an ad executive working for DeBeers in 1950 who coined the immortal phrase “a diamond is forever” – starting a marketing campaign that transformed the institution of marriage. Within a very few years, diamond wedding sets became the standard. It became common for not only the bride, but the groom to wear a diamond wedding band.
Diamond Engagement Rings
The concept of the engagement ring dates back to the Fourth Lateran Council held nearly 800 years ago. Early engagement rings were plain bands of metal – gold, silver, bronze or iron, depending on one’s social status and economic class. Although it later became common to set small precious gems into these engagement rings, the first use of a ring similar to today’s diamond engagement rings date from 1477, when the Archduke of Austria wed duchess Marie of Burgundy.
The concept of men’s diamond wedding bands is also due in part to attempts to market engagement rings. Early in the last century, the American jewelry industry made an attempt to establish a “historical precedent” dating back several hundred years, in which men also received engagement rings. In fact, no such precedent ever existed, although the idea behind this strategy was later used successfully to expand the market for men’s diamond wedding bands.
Today, the jewelry industry is even more aggressive in its marketing strategies; in addition to diamond engagement rings, couples are now encouraged to wear “promise rings” prior to engagement and “eternity rings” given on a subsequent wedding anniversary.