A Brief Inspection of Royal Engagement Rings
If it weren’t for the Royals throughout history, we wouldn’t get or give engagement rings and most certainly not diamonds. It all began with Archduke Maximillian of Austria in 1477 when he requested the hand of Mary of Burgundy. He gave her the first diamond engagement ring and started a fad among the Royal families of Europe. It was during the reign of Queen Victoria that diamond engagement rings became important as diamond brokers paired with advertising agents to make them desirable and expected by modern brides. None of us would probably think much of her flat diamond chips today since they were mostly slivers of raw stones embracing a ruby cabochon. But, only Royals could afford those dirty, greying slices of stones as well as rubies and other gemstones found in the far off lands in the Middle East.
Never let it be said that Napoleon Bonaparte would slight Josephine de Beauharnais in his appeal to win her hand as his wife. He gifted her with the first of the blue stone engagement rings among Royals – a blue sapphire and a diamond nested side by side as lovers in the snow. Of course, since he gave himself the status of Royalty, the blue sapphire was deemed inappropriate for true the Royal-by-birth and it wasn’t until later that others would accept it for an engagement stone. The pre-1930 faceting failed to pick up the light as well as it does today but at least it wasn’t a dingy diamond sliver that our Mary of Burgundy got saddled with.
Queen Victoria’s engagement ring was, also, a ruby cabochon and diamond ring that her half-sister gave her. For whatever reason, gemstones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires were primarily cabochons that were unfaceted and nearly right out of the ground with no glimmer or shine to them. Another peculiarity that modern women usually describe as unattractive when they are being polite and downright ugly when in private is that the stones had dings and ditches and misshapen bites taken out of the sides of them. Queen Victoria’s is a good example of that. The ruby is supposed to be pear-shaped and technically, it is; but, there is a piece out of one side of the pear almost like a mouse had nibbled on it. The diamond is a Mazarin cut which is one of the first faceted cutting attempts on diamonds and while it catches much more light than previously, they still have a dullness that doesn’t release the fire within.
In 1893, Queen Mary was given a marquis cut diamond engagement rings surround by faceted baguette rubies that encased the brilliant white diamond by her father-in-law, who was at the time the Prince of Wales and later, of course, King Edward VII. HRH Princess Anne chose a ruby ring for her engagement with her first husband and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson kept that trend going. It wasn’t until Diana and her Australian Blue Sapphire entered the Royal Courts of Europe again as an acceptable choice for an engagement. In the meantime, the rest of us serfs just have to make do with emeralds, jade and diamonds.