Engagement Rings: A History of Victorian Designs

Antique jewellery. Victorian diamond engagement rings.

The Victorians attached great importance to rings of sentiment. The Victorian era was a highly romantic period and sentimental jewels were among their most treasured and dearest possessions. Although occasionally seen before this time, it was during the middle of the 19th century that the engagement ring emerged as the recognised symbol of commitment to marriage we know today.

Victorian sapphire diamond engagement ring

The engagement ring was regarded as a family heirloom to be passed down through the generations and for this reason classic enduring styles were the most desirable engagement ring designs. Half hoop rings set with a row of precious stones and natural pearls were the most popular engagement rings in this early period, the pearl five stone ring being the most desirable engagement ring of the 1850s. Cluster rings were favourable, designed as naturalistic forms such as flowerheads and becoming simpler towards the end of the century.

Victorian diamond engagement ring


By the last decades of the 19th century engagement rings had become very widely produced to suit every taste and budget. Engagement rings continued to be designed as clusters and half-hoops with many variations of these designs, such as the tapered boat shape setting. The carved half-hoop ring was especially in favour, with carved scrolling detail around the settings. In the 1890s the crossover ring design came into fashion, with a pair or trio of gemstones set between scrolling shoulders. The solitaire ring gained favour towards the very end of the century, becoming the popular modern style. Take a look at our selection of antique engagement rings for a unique but traditional choice.