I found a history of engagement rings here. Here’s a quote:
The idea that engagement rings must be diamond rings is a modern invention, a marketing ploy by the DeBeers company. Diamonds are not in fact rare or special. They are expensive merely because the DeBeers cartel has succeeded in controlling both supply and demand. Not wanting the diamonds to ever be resold, and needing people to buy the heaps of diamonds they were sitting on, they sought to imbue the jewels with romantic meaning and social status. Launching a full-press campaign in 1938, the company sought to convince Americans that “A diamond is forever” and the only acceptable way to express your love.
So it seems that this great “tradition” is not even one hundred years old. Before then, birth-stones were more common as the setting for an engagement ring. Now, some have started returning to the older tradition of birth-stones in order to cut down on costs.
What other “traditions” do we cling to that are not as old as we thought? What are traditions that come to us from long ago, or just a few decades ago? Are there any we should change due to our current situation? What one’s should we hold on to?