The Artistry and Tradition of The Engagement

There are many ways to ask, but there is only one ring to give

Before the arrival of the Tiffany setting in 1886, engagement diamonds were a bit repressed.

“All diamonds were set in a bezel so only the crown (top) was visible,” says Russell Shor, senior analyst for the Gemological Institute of America. Kind of like a turtleneck sweater, but for gemstones.

Seeking to expose more of the diamond’s surface and with it, more shine, Charles Lewis Tiffany, along with company gemologists, proposed a new contraption: a raised claw to hold a diamond securely but visibly atop a ring band. The blueprints for the Tiffany setting, as it was called, insisted on a special number of prongs, meticulous collet (base that grips the diamond) engineering and, most importantly, less metal obscuring the main attraction.

Marybeth La Motte meets with Tiffany & Company in San Francisco and finds out about its opulent history and how to buy an engagement ring.