By Yaĝé Enigmus
As the centuries passed, sapphire engagement rings evolved. The designs seen in contemporary engagement rings and bespoke engagement rings of the past few centuries began their story sometime during the 14th and 15th centuries. European royalty and nobles of the time utilized the resources-- both natural and human-- that they had access to and elevated the construction of engagement rings. The fine settings and eloquent metalworking techniques that wealthy Europeans developed during this time were used to craft jewelry featuring all manners of precious stone, but sapphire were the preferred choice for bespoke engagement rings because of their ancient symbolism of truth and love.
A European gold ring dated to the 14th century featuring a sapphire cabochon; Image: Victoria and Albert Museum
The symbolic meaning of sapphires as stones of fidelity is considered to have become a core tenet of western European culture in the 18th century as a result of the popular work “Le Sapphire Merveillance” by Madame de Jenlis. This novel was said to have been inspired by a colour-change sapphire called the “Sapphire Merveilleux”, or “Wonderful Sapphire”, and further engrained the association between sapphires and loyalty. After the publication of this book the popularity of sapphire engagement rings soared. During the 18th and 19th centuries exploration of Africa and South America brought huge quantities of amethyst and diamonds to Europe, bringing the market value down of what were two “cardinal gemstones” at the time. This drop in the perceived value of diamonds and amethyst made rubies, emeralds, and the highly sought after sapphire engagement ring even more prized. This shift in the market caused an accentuated romanticization of sapphire engagement rings and for many years their allure was unmatched.
A gold engagement ring of the Georgian era dated to the 19th century C.E. featuring a pale blue sapphire and a halo of diamonds set in silver; Image: The Antique Jewelry Company
During the Edwardian era of the early 20th century, diamonds were often used in engagement rings due to their affordability. However, jewellers and their clients frequently preferred blue sapphires due to their vibrant colour and how it contrasted with the platinum that had become a common jewelry material of the time. The attraction to the colour of sapphire never dwindled, and brought the stone back into the spotlight during the art deco period of the early 20th century. The tone of art deco thrived on bold colour and high contrast, making the deep tones of sapphire an ideal choice for bespoke engagement rings crafted in this style.
A platinum engagement ring of the Edwardian era featuring a blue sapphire with diamond accents; Image: Lang Antiques
Many consider the contemporary view of sapphire engagement rings in the western world to have been incited by the famous ring worn by actress Elizabeth Taylor in the mid 20th century. The ring was given to Taylor in 1952 by her third fianceé and was admired by millions across North America and the globe. Following the debut of this gorgeous bespoke engagement ring, sapphire engagement rings became the must-have item of brides-to-be for a number of years, with many jewellers producing recreations of Taylor’s original ring or designs that were inspired by it. A similar craze of sapphire engagement rings came a few decades later in 1981, when the late Princess of Wales was given what could be considered the not only the most famous sapphire engagement ring, but sapphire ring of any kind, in known history. Princess Diana’s ring inspired countless affianced couples and jewellers the world over, and sparked a resurgence in the popularity of sapphire engagement rings that would challenge the diamond engagement ring conventions of the time.
Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring; Image: thesun.co.uk
Despite how straightforward choosing a stone for a custom engagement ring may appear, the evolution of this tradition was eccentric, and the stone chosen for a bespoke engagement ring can be too. At multiple points in history the meaning of sapphire was strengthened and given additional significance as an expression of one’s emotions. This complex series of events birthed the sapphire engagement ring as it is known today, and has maintained its desirability for generations as a representation of true love and commitment.
Here are some of our favourite unique sapphire engagement rings from the Skyjems catalog:
© 2020 Yaĝé Enigmus a.k.a. Kevin Back