An diamond ring is a ring indicating that the person wearing it is engaged to be married, especially in Western cultures. A ring is presented as an diamond gift by a partner to their prospective spouse when they propose marriage or directly after a marriage proposal is accepted. It represents a formal agreement to future marriage. In Western countries, engagement rings are worn mostly by women, and rings can feature diamonds or other gemstones. The neologism "mangagement ring" is sometimes used for an diamond ring worn by men. In some cultures, men and women wear matching rings, and diamond rings may also be used as wedding rings. In Anglo-Saxon countries, the ring is customarily worn on the left hand ring finger, but customs vary considerably elsewhere across the world.
Neither the diamond nor any other ring is worn during the wedding ceremony, when the wedding ring is put by the groom on the finger of the bride as part of the ceremony, and sometimes by the bride onto the groom's finger. After the wedding, the diamond ring is usually put back on and is usually worn on the outside of the wedding ring. Some brides have their diamond and wedding rings permanently soldered together after the wedding.
In the 20th century, if he could afford it, the typical Western groom privately selected and purchased an diamond ring, which he then presented to his desired bride when he proposed marriage. In countries where both partners wear diamond rings, matching rings may be selected and purchased together. In the United States and Canada, where only women traditionally wear diamond rings, women also occasionally present their partners with an diamond gift.
Like all jewelry, the price for an diamond ring varies considerably depending on the materials used: the design of the ring, whether it includes a gemstone, the value of any gemstone, and the seller. The price of the gemstones, if any, in the ring depends on the type and quality of the gem. Diamonds have a standardized description that values them according to their carat weight, color, clarity, and cut. Other gemstones, such as sapphires, rubies, and emeralds have different systems. The jewelry may be chosen to honor a family tradition, to use family heirlooms, to have an unusual style, to have socially responsible characteristics (e.g., a style that is not associated with blood diamond controversy or the pollution caused by gold mining and cyanide process), to fit the individual's stylistic preferences, or to manage cost. Synthetic stones and diamond substitutes such as cubic zirconias and moissanites are also popular choices that are socially responsible and reduce cost while maintaining the desired appearance.
The idea that a man should spend a significant fraction of his annual income for an diamond ring originated from De Beers marketing materials in the mid-20th century in an effort to increase the sale of diamonds. In the 1930s, they suggested that a man should spend the equivalent of one month's income in the engagement ring. In the 1980s, they suggested that he should spend two months' income on it. In 2012, the average cost of an diamond ring in the US as reported by the industry was US$4,000. In a 2015 scholarly study, almost a quarter of couples said that they did not buy a ring, and another third spent less than US$2000 on it. Less than 15% of couples spent $4,000 or more. In the UK, estimates of the average cost of an diamond ring range from £1200 to £2000. Scholarly research indicates that expensive diamond rings are associated with early divorces, possibly because spending more than US$2,000 on an engagement ring is strongly associated with debt-related stress. Couples that spend less money on engagement rings and the wedding ceremony tend to have longer marriages and a lower risk of divorce.
One reason for the increased popularity of expensive diamond rings is its relationship to human sexuality and the woman's marriage prospects. In the United States, until the Great Depression, a man who broke off a marriage engagement could be sued for breach of promise. Monetary damages included actual expenses incurred in preparing for the wedding, plus damages for emotional distress and loss of other marriage prospects. Damages were greatly increased if the woman had engaged in sexual intercourse with her fiancé. Beginning in 1935, these laws were repealed or limited. However, the social and financial cost of a broken engagement was no less: marriage was the only financially sound option for most women, and if she was no longer a virgin, her prospects for a suitable future marriage were greatly decreased. The diamond engagement ring thus became a source of financial security for the woman.
The online purchase of diamond rings is growing, disrupting the market for the diamonds by bringing greater transparency to an industry that has traditionally relied on opacity.
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