Secondhand engagement rings

Common items of jewellery that are used to secure a loan at Suttons and Robertsons, pawnbroker in Central London will be rings, and of all the rings that are seen probably the most common will be;

The Engagement Ring:

Both the ancient Egyptians and Greeks can be credited with the birth of the engagement ring. The history of the ring though can be reliably traced back to ancient Rome. In many countries the ring is placed on the ring finger of the left hand. This finger was supposed to contain the ‘vena amoris’ or vein of love, which led to the heart. The first well documented use of a diamond engagement ring was by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria, to his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy in 1477. (see below)

This then influenced the upper classes and nobility to use diamonds in engagement rings. The medieval Italians called diamond the “Pietra della Reconciliazione” (stone of reconciliation) because it maintained concord between husband and wife. On this account it was recommended that the stone be set in wedding (or espousal) rings, not on account of its beauty therefore.

A Gimmal ring, is a ring with two or three hoops or links that fit together to form one complete ring. The name gimmal comes from Latin gemellus, twin, via Old French. In the 16th and 17th centuries, such rings were fashionable in England, Germany, and other countries, and were often used as betrothal rings. The engaged couple would wear one hoop each and rejoin them to use as a wedding ring.With triple link rings, a third person could witness the couple’s vows and hold the third part of the ring until the marriage.

In 1866 diamonds were discovered in South Africa and by 1872 output exceeded one million carats a year. This then enabled those of lesser means were able to purchase diamond engagement rings, though they primarily remained in the domain of the aristocracy and nobility. The vogue at that time was for a simple band ring.

The diamond price collapsed during the 1930’s and the Great Depression in the USA.  Hence, in 1938, the diamond cartel De Beers started a merchandising campaign to galvanise the market.

One of the first elements of this campaign was to educate the public about the 4 Cs (cut, carats, color, and clarity). In 1947 the slogan “a diamond is forever” was introduced. Ultimately the De Beers campaign sought to persuade the consumer that an engagement ring is indispensable, and that a diamond is the only acceptable stone for an engagement ring.

The idea that a man should spend a significant fraction of his annual income for an engagement 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; later they suggested that he should spend two months’ income. In 2012, the average cost of an engagement ring in USA as reported by the industry was US$4,000. In the UK, estimates of the average cost of an engagement ring range from £1200 to £2000.

In Nordic countries engagement rings are worn by both men and women. Traditionally they are plain gold bands, although more ornate designs and other materials are gaining popularity.

Traditionally, women in the British Isles may propose marriage to men during a leap year. Women proposing has become more common in recent years, to the point that some jewellery companies have started manufacturing men’s engagement rings. They resemble typical men’s rings, often with a diamond centrepiece.

Whatever the style and price point, engagement rings will typically be of higher value than other rings purchased as gifts, this makes them ideal items to be use as collateral for pawnbroking  loans.