A History of Engagement Rings, Vol. 5: The 1940’s
As we continue to step back in time, exploring the history of engagement rings, we find ourselves discussing the 1940’s today. The decade could be described as a decade of extremes. The first half brought the end of The Great Depression, followed up by war-time, which meant resources like metals were scarce and extravagances like diamonds were few and far between for most, if they existed at all.
Many men and women were forgoing engagement rings all together and engagements weren’t the protracted events we know them to be today. If your love was heading off to war, you may skip the formal engagement all together and head right down the aisle.
There were a few exceptions of course, but even many of the celebrities of the time, like Dale Evans and Roy Rogers for example passed on an engagement ring and fancy wedding, to instead settle for gold bands and a simple ceremony. Others like Josephine Baker and bandleader Joe Bouillon and Betty Grable and Harry James, followed suit. Judy Garland, known for her unique style, settled on a pink pearl set in onyx when she married Vincent Minnelli in 1945.
And Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart opted for simple colored stone center with some small diamond accents for her ring. All in all still pretty understated given their fame and fortunes.
But once the war was over – whew boy did things change. Many of the men, having been away at war and now desperately searching for “normalcy” were coming back home and proposing to their girlfriends, old flames and in some cases, women who were practically strangers. With the end of war, came more money and the return of extravagance. And that included diamonds!
The diamond geometric lined engagement ring of the Art Deco period had been replaced with rings that included more floral details and a larger center diamond, instead of many smaller stones centered together. It was in the 40s, after all, that DeBeers’ ad agency coined the term “A Diamond Is Forever,” kicking off a now long-standing tradition of diamonds as the engagement ring centerpiece. And who might be one of the most iconic examples of the diamond engagement ring of the later 1940s?
None other than Queen Elizabeth, Great Britain’s current reigning monarch. The soon to be Prince Philip gifted her with a ring created from diamonds once in a tiara having belonged to his mother, Princess Alice of Greece.
If you have a ring from the 40s we’d love to see it! Tell us all about it in the comments below.