Diamonds are a girl's best friend... but it isn't your only choice when shopping for the perfect ring to pop the question with.
Engagement rings have been around for centuries, but the tradition of using diamonds is only about 500 years old. The stone became a popular ring choice when Archduke Maximilian of Austria requested the very first diamond engagement ring for Mary of Burgundy, igniting a trend among the European nations and settlers traveling west.
Before that time, cultures used other gems to represent their love for the betrothed. Consider getting her one of these stones with historical meaning.
Today's significance: September birthstone, 45th year anniversary stone
Meaning: Honesty, loyalty, purity
History: Originally the Romans gave rings with sapphire gems to celebrate a friendship. It was used in engagement rings when the practice officially became custom in the medieval era, with religious law instituting a mandatory waiting period from engagement to marriage. It was believed a sapphire's color could fade or change if an unfaithful person wore it. Crusaders gave these rings to their wives to ensure her fidelity when they returned home. More recently, Kate Middleton was presented with Princess Diana’s stunning sapphire and diamond ring when Prince William asked her to be his.
Today's significance: June birthstone
Meaning: Luck, happiness, pleasure
History: This uniquely colored stone was discovered relatively recently, dating back only to the 19th century in the Ural Mountains in Russia. It's admired for its color-changing elements, and is known as "an emerald by day and a ruby by night" for a reason. Russians believed it was lucky because it changed to Old Imperial Russia's military colors. In Eastern Europe, it's believed to encourage romance and bring joy into the lives of people with too much self-discipline.
Today's significance: March birthstone, 19th year anniversary stone
Meaning: Purification, strength, safety
History: Aquamarine has long been regarded as a symbol of everlasting love. Young Roman grooms would give an aquamarine gift (though not necessarily a ring) to their new wife the morning after consummation to promise their love would remain strong for the remainder of their married lives. In Medieval times, it was also believed to renew a lulled relationship in married couples. If you want to show your loved one that nothing can come between you, this is the stone to show it.
Today's significance: May birthstone, 55th year anniversary stone
Meaning: New growth, fertility, rebirth
History: First discovered in Egypt around 300 BC, emeralds were once believed to reveal the truth of a lover's promise, and even make a person an eloquent speaker when it was worn. The gem was a special favorite of Cleopatra's; they were a fashion staple for her outfits. Later in history emeralds represented the lush growth of land, particularly in Ireland. It became a springtime symbol of new growth, and was popularized as an engagement gift to represent starting a new chapter in life together.
Diamonds became popular in western culture as a sign of unbreakable love because of how difficult it is to destroy. However, it's not the only way to tell your future fiancé that your bond is indestructible. Whichever beautiful gem you choose will speak the words of your heart every time she looks at it.