04/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Diamonds: The Lure Of The Engagement Ring

It's wedding season and in honor of the oh-so-many pending nuptials, Tangomag has a story on the history and luxurious lure of the diamond engagement ring.

According to a recent DeBeers study, four out of five brides receive diamond engagement rings. National Jeweler's 2003 survey found that more than 40 percent of customers planned on buying a diamond one carat or larger. And the 2002 American Wedding Study (sponsored by Condé Nast) revealed that the average engagement ring costs $3,576: more than 16 percent of the average wedding budget.

"It's hard to talk about exactly when these traditions started," says Vicki Howard, adjunct professor of economics and women's studies at Hartwick College. "Before the 1870s, diamonds were rare.

Howard explains that the modern engagement ring's story really begins with the discovery of vast quantities of diamonds in South Africa in the late 1860s. Diamond jewelry of all kinds became more and more popular in subsequent decades, but the industry fell on hard times in the 1930s, due to the Depression and its accompanying plummeting marriage rate. Soon the DeBeers diamond cartel had a surplus. "So they tried to promote the diamond engagement ring," she says. DeBeers put New York's N.W. Ayer advertising agency on the case, and in 1948 they hit pay dirt with the slogan "A Diamond Is Forever." This hypnotic mantra has seduced America ever since, calling out from magazine and television ads, billboards, and bus shelters.

Read the whole story here.

In other diamond news, Sotheby's auction house attempted to auction off a 72.22-carat, "D" flawless white diamond in Hong Kong last week, however, the final bid of $9.24 million failed to meet the minimum reserve price. Not all was lost as, according to Reuters:

The diamond was later sold to a private buyer for an undisclosed sum, Sotheby's said...

The Sotheby's stone was the third largest "pear-shaped" diamond ever auctioned globally, and was of exceptional quality given its size, symmetry and esteemed "Type IIA" rating, given only to the most brilliant of white "D" color diamonds.

The poor Hong Kong result however suggests the market for top tier gems may be suffering from global economic weakness.

Worried you missed your chance? Fear not:

The next big test could be a massive 101-carat, "near-flawless," squash-ball sized diamond which will be sold by rival auction Christie's next month in Hong Kong, in what's being dubbed the largest diamond ever auctioned in Asia and could fetch $6 million.