The Most Stunning First Lady Engagement Rings, Including Melania Trump’s
Engagement rings date back to Egyptian times when wedded couples exchanged circles of braided leaves to symbolize eternity. Romantic legend holds that wedding rings are worn on the left ring finger because there’s a vein that leads directly from that digit to the heart (sadly, this myth was eventually debunked). It was DeBeers Mining Company who came up with the concept of rings with diamonds for engagements.
These days, more than 80% of American brides get diamond engagement rings. Not all presidential wives wear gigantic rocks — in fact, one first lady’s wedding band cost $2.50. Ahead, discover the most famous engagement rings to ever enter the White House.
1. Michelle Obama
One of the most popular first ladies in recent history wore a classic round cut solitaire engagement ring.
Barack and Michelle had been dating for a few years when he invited her out for a romantic candle-lit dinner in 1991. He told her the dinner was a celebration of passing his bar exam.
But when the waiter brought out the dessert tray with a ring on it, Michelle discovered the real reason for the fancy dinner. “I was completely shocked” said Michelle of the engagement. “Barack didn’t pledge riches, only a life that would be interesting. On that promise he’s delivered.”
Classic, elegant, understated, and timeless — Michelle Obama’s engagement ring sounds a lot like the woman who wears it.
Next: Jacqueline Kennedy
2. Jacqueline Kennedy
Possibly the most famous first lady engagement ring in history belonged to Jackie Kennedy, a style icon whose incredible sense of fashion is still celebrated today.
John selected his beloved’s ring with the help of his father Joseph. Rather than just selecting a regular old diamond, JFK made sure to incorporate an emerald too, which was Jackie’s favorite gemstone. The central diamond and emerald stones weigh close to three carats each and are flanked by several other marquis cut diamonds as well.
Next: Lady Bird Johnson
3. Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson had only known Lady Bird for three months when he popped the question on their very first date. They wed at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio in 1934 and exchanged simple gold bands that only cost $2.50. It just goes to show that money can’t buy love; their marriage lasted 39 years until Lyndon’s death in 1973.
Next: Laura Bush
4. Laura Bush
Not everyone gets their dream engagement ring right away.
Laura Bush met George W. Bush at a friend’s backyard cookout and married him in a simple, no-frills ceremony just a few months later. The couple exchanged simple gold bands at their wedding.
But just because she skipped the down-on-bended knee proposal with the giant rock, it doesn’t mean the former first lady skimped out on a ring. She upgraded her wedding set later with an impressive three stone diamond engagement ring befitting of a president’s wife.
Next: Hillary Clinton
5. Hillary Rodham Clinton
The third time was the charm for Hill and Bill.
The story goes that Bill Clinton was smitten with Hillary Rodham since the first time he met her at the Yale Law Library in 1971. He actually proposed to her three times — but it wasn’t until that last proposal in front of the house he bought for them to share in Arkansas that she finally said, “Yes.”
According to Ritani, Hillary switches up her engagement ring style every few years, sporting a variety of different cuts and stones. But the original that Bill proposed with is an emerald cut diamond flocked by two baguettes set on a yellow gold band.
Next: Melania Trump
6. Melania Trump
Donald Trump met Melania Knauss at a party in 1998 and the couple dated for six years before he proposed. It was to be his third marriage, and he knew there was no skimping on the engagement ring.
President Trump spent a pretty penny on wife Melania’s jaw-dropping $1.5 million, 15 carat engagement ring from Graff Diamonds. But while at one point he bragged about getting a “million dollar discount” off the sticker price, CEO Laurence Graff told Forbes that he never gave Trump any kind of price concession on the bauble.
Next: Mary Todd Lincoln
7. Mary Todd Lincoln
21-year-old Mary Todd fell in love with the gangly aspiring politician Abraham Lincoln despite her family’s objections to the union. He broke off their engagement for unknown reasons in 1842 but the couple was back on and quickly married just a year later.
Mary didn’t remove her wedding ring from her finger until close to her death in 1882. The inscription on the band read, “A.L. to Mary, Nov. 4, 1842. Love is Eternal.” She was buried with the token of Abe’s affection.
Next: Martha Washington
8. Martha Washington
The inaugural first lady’s ring was a true sign of wealth and prestige. Diamond jewelry wasn’t very common in the 18th century, making Martha’s ring a stunning anomaly that she likely only wore on special occasions.
The back of the ring setting includes a secret gold locket with a swath of hair inside it. The lock of hair’s owner is unknown.
Next: Betty Ford
9. Elizabeth Ford
Since she was described as charismatic and socially conscious, it’s no wonder Gerald Ford was drawn to Betty’s firecracker personality. The two met at a cocktail party and Gerald proposed just a year later — though they famously joked that they don’t remember the proposal.
Still, it’s hard to forget the ring, a classic diamond solitaire with a white gold band.
Next: Rosalynn Carter
10. Rosalynn Carter
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter went on their first date in 1945. The future president proposed just a year later while Rosalynn was visiting him at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Her ring is as unique as their impressively long marriage — one of the longest presidential unions in history. It features pave diamond clusters on a simple gold band.
Next: Nancy Reagan
11. Nancy Reagan
Nancy Davis got in touch with Ronald Reagan when she needed help going after a third party publisher who was using her name illegally. The rest is history.
They dated for three years before Ronald proposed over dinner at their favorite restaurant by simply saying, “Let’s get married.” Nancy Reagan didn’t wear an engagement ring, but her diamond-studded gold wedding band came from a Rodeo Drive jeweler.
Next: Barbara Bush
12. Barbara Bush
George Bush Sr. and Barbara Bush have the longest marriage in presidential history — they celebrated 73 years of wedded bliss in January 2018.
George proposed to Barbara at a commissioning ceremony for the Navy carrier USS San Jacinto. Her engagement ring is a stunning family heirloom sapphire ring flocked by diamonds around the gemstone and on the band.
Next: Eleanor Roosevelt
13. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt
FDR and first lady Eleanor were young when they got engaged. They were also distant cousins, and the bride’s mother didn’t approve of the marriage. Despite all the obstacles, the two were deeply in love and got engaged anyway.
Eleanor’s 3.4 carat round diamond was one of the first examples of the Tiffany setting, which is still popular to this day. Her mother forbade her from putting the ring on her finger a full year after she received it. She wrote in a letter to the future president, “‘I am longing to have my birthday present from you for good, and yet I love it so I know I shall find it hard to keep from wearing it! You could not have found a ring I would have liked better.”
Next: Dolley Madison
14. Dolley Madison
Dolley Madison was a young widow with a child when she accepted James Madison’s marriage proposal in 1794. Their union caused an uproar for several reasons and even got her disowned by the Quakers for her decision to wed outside the faith.
Dolley wore her diamond engagement ring religiously and even died with it still on her finger.
Next: Patricia Nixon
15. Patricia Nixon
Pat met Richard when the two were auditioning for the play, “The Dark Tower.” He started penning epic love letters and it wasn’t long before the couple fell in love.
Richard proposed in the spring of 1940 by offering Pat a small basket filled with mayflowers along with a diamond solitaire engagement ring. She said yes.
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