Diamond engagement rings are traditionally given to women by their boyfriends as a promise to marry them one day. This tradition has been around for many centuries and is one of the most romantic gestures in existence. As the world evolves and times change, couples are also changing the way they become engaged and married. Very rarely do you see a traditional wedding where both the bride and groom follow traditional values associated with the sanctity of marriage.
Up until the Great Depression, women could actually sue men for breaking off the engagement! Since the engagement ring represented a promise for him to someday marry her, she could sue him for breach of promise. Monetary damages would be paid by the man if he decided he no longer wanted to marry this woman. These damages often included money spent to plan the wedding and emotional distress and loss of other potential marriage prospects. The damages were greatly increased if the woman engaged in sexual intercourse with her potential husband. Since she is not actually married yet, this made it harder for her to find a suitable partner since she had already slept with someone who was not her husband.
In 1935 these laws were repealed and limited, but the social and financial cost of a broken engagement was still hefty. It was considered taboo to break of an engagement or even end a marriage. Marriage was the only financially sound option for most women. This ensured she would be taken care of by her husband no matter what. However, if the woman was no longer a virgin, it would make it difficult for her to find a suitable partner. This is when diamond engagement rings became a source of financial security for women. In the event the engagement did not last and they never became married, she would still have an expensive ring to support her until she could find another man willing to marry her.
Oh, how the times have changed. Now women are more empowered than ever. They have their own careers and make their own money. You may even hear of some stories of women throwing their diamond engagement rings into the ocean when they become divorced or separated. It is beyond me why people would just throw away thousands of dollars, but I guess it can be a rather liberating experience for women who were involved with less than respectable men.