Why Do Most Engagement Rings Have Diamonds?

Diamonds are the most common gemstone for engagement rings; 87% of engagement rings in the United States are made with diamonds. But how did diamonds become the primary stone for rings? 

Most engagement rings have diamonds because Archduke Maximillian of Austria bought one in 1477 and made them popular in Europe. Then, the diamond company De Beers promoted diamond engagement rings with the slogan “A diamond is forever” in 1948. 

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain the history of diamond engagement rings and describe how they became so popular. I’ll also discuss some of the most popular alternatives to diamonds.  

How Diamonds Became the Primary Stone for Engagement Rings 

The history of using diamonds in engagement rings in the United States is long and spans the entire globe. Diamonds were first discovered in India thousands of years ago, and they weren’t originally used in jewelry but were instead used as protection against disease and evil spirits. 

In another part of the world, Rome, the custom of giving a woman a ring to proclaim engagement was getting more popular. The rings weren’t made with diamonds but were instead attached to small keys. These keys symbolized that the man now owned the woman. Women wore these rings on their ring fingers because there is a vein in that finger that connects directly with the heart. 

The discovery and use of diamonds and the practice of giving a woman a ring to announce an engagement culminated in the Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioning the first diamond engagement ring in 1477 for his fiancee, Mary of Burgundy. After this, it became trendy for those in the European aristocracy to get diamond engagement rings as a symbol of their love. 

Diamonds increased in popularity when miners found many of the gemstones in South Africa in the 1870s.  

This practice remained common all over the world, but purchasing diamond engagement rings took off in 1948 when the iconic tagline “A diamond is forever.” Copywriter Frances Gerety wrote this line for the diamond company De Beers, which was trying to increase diamond sales after the Great Depression. This line implied that diamonds were a never-ending sign of love and would always keep their value.

After De Beers started using this slogan, diamond sales increased by 50%. In 1939, approximately 10% of engagement rings used diamonds as the primary gemstone. As of 2020, 90% of engagement rings have diamonds. 

The saying stems from the idea that diamonds are the hardest substance in nature. The De Beers company still uses this phrase as their slogan today, and it has been translated into twenty-nine languages. The slogan is so influential that it was named the “slogan of the century” in 1999.     

There are no absolute reasons why diamonds have maintained their popularity since 1948, although here are a few ideas: 

  • Diamonds are clear. The gemstones have no color, so they go with everything. There’s no need for a woman to coordinate her outfit around her engagement ring if it’s made with a diamond. 
  • Diamonds are traditional. Since 1948, most engagement rings have used diamonds, so today, most women expect a diamond ring. Some women might be disappointed if they receive a ring without a diamond.  
  • Diamonds are sturdy. Most people wear their engagement rings daily, so they need to be sturdy and withstand a lot of wear and impact. Diamonds are the hardest of all the natural substances, so they can usually last longer than other gemstones. 
  • Diamonds are sparkly. There’s no denying that diamonds are pretty gemstones and some of the sparkliest ones available. If a woman loves a lot of sparkles, she’ll probably be happy with a diamond in her engagement ring. 
  • Diamonds are long-lasting. If you take care of your diamond ring, it can last for many years and maintain a good appearance. Because most engagement rings are significant investments, most people want to select a gemstone that will last a long time. 

Diamonds are still the most common gemstone used in engagement rings, although alternative gemstones are increasing in popularity and diamonds are decreasing. Natural diamond engagement ring sales fell by 51% in 2022.  

Diamond Alternatives

Just because diamonds are the most popular gemstone to use in an engagement ring doesn’t mean that everyone necessarily has to use them. One can use many great alternatives to diamonds in an engagement ring. Let’s take a look at some of the popular options: 

  • Lab-grown diamonds. Man-made diamonds are a good alternative to real, natural diamonds because they are usually more affordable and ethical than natural ones. Lab diamonds have many of the same qualities as natural diamonds, which makes them a popular option, especially because they have the same brilliance.
  • Emeralds. Emeralds are some of the rarest gemstones in the world, which makes them precious and highly-prized features for an engagement ring. Emeralds also have spiritual significance in some cultures; some believe emeralds can protect anyone who wears them against evil.  
  • Sapphires. Before the 1948 “diamonds are forever” slogan, most engagement rings featured sapphires instead of diamonds. Many sapphires are royal blue, although they can come in various other colors, which means you can customize them according to your preference and taste. 
  • Morganites. These blush-colored gemstones were discovered in Madagascar in 1922, and they are affordable, have sparkling clarity, and have a high level of brilliance. They are 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale, so they are durable enough for everyday wear but not as durable as diamonds, and they should be handled with utmost care. 
  • Rubies. Rubies are highly valued for their beauty and their bright red color. Red is often associated with love and passion, so they are a relatively popular choice for an engagement ring. They are also common in vintage rings because they were associated with royalty.  
  • Pearls. Pearls aren’t a gemstone, so many people don’t think about them when shopping for engagement rings. However, they are a preppy and elegant alternative. However, they are only rated 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, so daily wear will likely result in damage.  
  • Moissanites. Moissanite is a crystal discovered in 1893 by Henri Moissan. They are a popular choice for engagement rings because they are the second hardest mineral in the world after diamonds. They are also extremely affordable gemstones, which makes them a more accessible option for many.  
  • Amethysts. Amethysts are a pretty deep violet color that appeals to many people. However, they are only a seven on the Mohs hardness scale, so they aren’t as durable as diamonds or other gemstone alternatives. Therefore, they aren’t recommended for everyday wear.  
  • Aquamarines. Aquamarine is a lovely pale blue gemstone mined in Brazil, Africa, Asia, and Colorado. It is the state gemstone of Colorado and the birthstone for those born in March, so it isn’t unusual for someone to propose with an aquamarine ring if their beloved was born in March. They’re a 7.5-8 on the hardness scale, which makes them durable enough for everyday wear.  
  • Quartz. Quartz is a great choice for spiritual people because of its healing properties and the many colors, including shades of pink and white. They rate a seven on the hardness scale, which is durable enough for everyday wear.  
  • Opals. Opals are unique options because they reflect rainbow colors as they move, so no two opals are the same. They also make beautiful clusters, so you can find a shape that works for you.  
  • Onyx. Onyx is a good option for edgier people because of its inky black color and how timeless and chic they are. It is also a seven on the Mohs scale, making it durable for everyday wear. 

Many people have their hearts set on a real, natural diamond for their engagement rings because of their good qualities and the tradition and history behind them. Still, a diamond alternative might be a good bet if you’re looking for something more unique and out of the ordinary. 

Diamond Shapes

You must decide what shape you want if you go the traditional route and opt for a diamond engagement ring. Here are some of the most popular shapes: 

  • Round. A round-cut diamond is the most popular engagement ring today, and it’s easy to see why. The appearance is classic and sparkly, and this cut is extremely versatile. You can have a round-cut diamond in a solitaire, two-stone, and three-stone setting. 
  • Cushion. The cushion cut is one of the sparklier options because it has fifty-eight facets that increase the stone’s brilliance. This cut was most popular in the 19th century and has since regained its popularity because of its vintage appearance and shine.  
  • Pear/Teardrop. The pear shape is a vintage-inspired cut that plays an optical illusion on viewers and makes it so that the stone appears larger than it is. The cut makes it so that the stone is prone to chipping, so only the most careful people should choose this as their cut, or they should select a bezel setting to protect the stone better.    
  • Princess. A princess-cut diamond has square or rectangular sides that give the ring a modern look without getting too out of the box. The cut is relatively straightforward, so it isn’t as expensive as other options requiring more precision and labor. 
  • Heart. A heart-shaped stone may be a dream come true for those who are especially romantic. This contemporary cut requires precise angles and symmetry, which means they are more expensive because of the increased labor necessary to achieve the look. 
  • Trillion. Trillion-cut diamonds are triangular with round or pointed edges, and they are a unique choice that looks great as the main stone on a three-stone ring. The edges usually need a three-prong setting, and often rings with this cut aren’t as sparkly as other cuts, so they’re a great choice for people who don’t want anything too extravagant on their fingers.   
  • Oval. The oval is an elongated version of the round cut, so it can have as many facets as possible, which makes it extra sparkly. However, the cut can also show flaws and inclusions, so it isn’t the best choice for people who want a flawless look.  
  • Marquise/Navette. The Marquise cut has curved sides and pointed ends, like a football. However, the delicate edges make it so that it is easily damaged, and if the cut isn’t precise, it’s extremely noticeable.    
  • Asscher. The Asscher cut increased in popularity after Carrie Bradshaw chose it on Sex and the City. This cut has an octagonal shape with 58 step facets and a unique Art Deco style. This is also a popular cut because it has no sharp edges, so it doesn’t break as easily as other cuts.  
  • Baguette. Baguette-cut diamonds have a long, rectangular shape with 14 facets. Rings with this cut usually have three stones, as this cut is suitable for a featured center stone. The cuts must be extremely precise.  
  • Radiant. The radiant cut is one of the most popular options because it is the best for catching the most light. The shape is timeless and classic, and the eight corners minimize the chances of chipping. Unfortunately, this cut makes the stone appear smaller and more unusual. 
  • Emerald. This is a fairly popular cut in which the diamond is cut in a rectangular shape with a long silhouette. This shape helps fingers look longer and thinner, which is desirable for many people. 

The best diamond shape for you depends on your taste and how sturdy and durable you need the ring to be. The diamond will sparkle and look beautiful on any finger, regardless of the shape.  


Most engagement rings have diamonds because they became popular in Europe after the Archduke Maximillian of Austria bought one for his fiancee in 1477. Then, the diamond company De Beers made the slogan “diamonds are forever” in 1948, greatly increasing the popularity of using diamonds for engagement rings. Since then, they’ve remained relatively popular because of tradition, their beauty, and how hard and durable diamonds are.

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