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By Sophia Hussain
Have you ever wondered why we first began presenting future brides with diamond rings? Blame it on one lovestruck Archduke, who arguably started the tradition: apparently, Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds. Rather than the stand-alone rock, the Archduke reminded his lady of his humble self by presenting the diamonds in the shape of an “M.”
But he wasn’t the first to gift a future bride with a ring: apparently, even back in prehistoric times, the cavemen tied cords of braided grass around their chosen mate’s wrists or ankles. Around 2,800 BC, the Egyptians wore silver or gold bands on the third finger of their let hands, believed to be connected to the heart via the ‘vena amoris’– but these rings were worn during funeral rites!
It wasn’t until the 2nd century BC when grooms gave brides a gold ring to wear during their wedding ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home. The rings symbolised–get this–the man’s ‘ownership’ of the woman, and their binding legal agreement of marriage. Similarly around the same time, ‘puzzle rings’ first appeared in the Middle East and Asia, where sultans and sheiks used them to tag each of their many wives.
A Corporate Fashion
Rings lost their appeal during the Middle Ages and didn’t really make a comeback until Archduke Maximilian brought them back into fashion. The Victorians really popularised rings, but not necessarily diamond ones. Highly sentimental, they made rings from human hair and used gemstones to spell out loving words, such as DEAR and SWEETHEART.
However, when diamonds were discovered in the Cape Colony in South Africa, and after Cecil Rhodes founded the DeBeers Mining Company, the Victorian colonisers, who controlled 90% of the world’s diamond production, ensured there was a huge demand for diamonds by hiring the ad agency N.W. Ayer & Son, who spread the trend for engagement rings through articles about engagement rings in fashion magazines.
However, there was a problem: after the engagement, people were selling their rings, especially during the Depression, and were passing rings down through generations. In short, they were not buying new diamonds, so in 1948, the company launched the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign to sentimentalise rings, thus ensuring their control of the market.
Today, savvy brides still want something romantic and symbolic of love, but don’t want to create more demand for new diamonds, and this is where eco-luxury designer Ana Katarina Vinkler-Petrovic of Ana Katarina Eco Gioielli comes in.
Ana Katarina creates her engagement rings mainly from existing stones brought to her by clients, infusing each unique piece with history and deep meaning. “My engagement rings are inspired by the love a man has for his bride-to-be. Their story and his description of her character inspire my creativity,” she says.
Here, she gives Eluxe an intimate and exclusive glimpse into some of the very personal stories behind her inspirations.
The Lady is a Tramp
AK: These bands were inspired by an elegant bride who radiates grace. She wanted two bands as tokens of her man’s eternal love, and her preference reminded me of this 1937 song Lady is a Tramp, which suits her unconventional joie de vivre!
AK: This ring was created for an effervescent and strong young woman, who has a very classic yet distinct style. She desired a “piece” and I desired to create for her a ring full of romance. I was inspired by a brooch from the art deco period, and wove this intricate design around her exquisite diamond.
Ne Me Quittez Pas
AK: The groom-to-be had fallen in love with a classical flutist with long red curls. Her vibrant and intellectual personality inspired me to create a ring with renaissance and modern lines. This photo includes his wedding ring too, which is reminiscent of the song “Ne me quittez pas” by Nina Simone.
AK: The groom told me since his future bride reminded him of Audrey Hepburn, he chose a beautiful radiant-cut Canadian diamond for her ring. I was inspired by the grandeur of Hollywood glamour with the long gowns and humour, but with a modern twist reminiscent of Persuasion.
Prima Donna and Staccato Reverie
AK: The Prima Donna was created for a statuesque beauty who wanted to replace her simple diamond engagement ring, into a piece fit for a princess and inspired by a crown. For her wedding band, Staccato Reverie was upstyled from a flower ring and matching earrings into this opulent design. The diamonds dance along her finger giving her a joie de vivre.
To request a bespoke engagement and wedding ring, please contact Ana-Katarina via her web-site here: http://www.anakatarina.com/