First Lady Engagements: The Story Behind the Ring

Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

Our nation’s first ladies have some stunning engagement rings – let’s take a look.

Melania Trump

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First lady Melania Trump first met Donald Trump at a New York Fashion Week party in 1998. After a courtship of six years, Donald proposed to Melania on the night of the Met Gala in 2004, when he presented her with a 12-carat emerald cut diamond ring with side baguettes, set in platinum. “It was a great surprise,” Melania said of the proposal.

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Get the look: Tapered Baguette Diamond Engagement Ring

Michelle Obama

Official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama in the Green Room of the White House, Feb. 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

From her intelligence and poise to her activism for health and education, Michelle Obama has become one of the most beloved and respected American first ladies of recent history. They had been dating for several years when, in 1991, Barack invited Michelle to a candle-lit dinner in order, he said, to celebrate passing his bar exam.

The real reason he wanted to celebrate became apparent when the waiter arrived with a dessert tray bearing the classic round-cut solitaire engagement ring. “I was completely shocked” remembers Michelle. “Barack didn’t pledge riches, only a life that would be interesting. On that promise he’s delivered.”

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Get the look: Six-Prong Knife-Edge Engagement Ring

Laura Bush

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Despite coming from a presidential bloodline, George and Laura’s engagement story was anything but traditional. After meeting at a friend’s backyard cookout, the pair had their first date at a miniature golf course. Their love blossomed quickly, and a simple wedding followed just three months later. While there was no engagement ring for the wedding (the couple exchanged simple gold wedding bands) Laura said, “I did get the bigger ring later.”

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Get the look: Three-Stone Diamond Engagement Ring

Hillary Clinton

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Perhaps one of the more unconventional presidential engagement stories, Bill Clinton actually proposed to Hilary on three separate occasions before she said yes. The third time was the charm for this dynamic couple when Bill asked Hillary to marry him in front of a cottage he purchased for her in Arkansas – needless to say, her answer was yes.

Hillary has worn various rings over the years, and we’ve seen her displaying emerald and ruby center stones, as well as a plaited gold wedding band. However, the ring with which Bill proposed to her is the one we find most inspiring: an emerald cut center stone with elegant side baguettes.

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Get the look: Tapered Baguette Diamond Engagement Ring

Barbara Bush

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The longest-running marriage in presidential history, Barbara and George Bush, Sr. celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in January 2016.

After dating for several years, George chose to commemorate his love for Barbara at an event that also celebrated his love for the nation – a commissioning ceremony for Navy carrier, the USS San Jacinto. Before the event started, he took a gorgeous star sapphire engagement ring out of his pocket and asked his longtime love to be his wife.

The ring was a family heirloom, handed down from George Bush, Sr.’s aunt.

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Get the look: Clara Sapphire Engagement Ring 

Nancy Reagan

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With a mega-watt smile and strong acting chops, Nancy Reagan, then Nancy Davis, lit up the silver screens before she first crossed paths with former president Ronald Reagan. They met was under unusual circumstances when Nancy contacted Ronald to assist her with rectifying the wrongful use of her name by a third party publisher. After 3 years of dating, while at Chasen’s, their favorite local restaurant, Nancy answered Ronald’s declaration of “Let’s get married” with a simple “Let’s”. The couple was married for 52 years.

Nancy Reagan didn’t wear an engagement ring, but her platinum diamond wedding ring was from a jeweler on Rodeo Drive.

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Get the look: Emerald Diamond Eternity Ring 

Rosalynn Carter

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Having just celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have one of the longest presidential marriages in history. Jimmy and Rosalynn went on their first date in 1945. Sealing a life-changing courtship, Jimmy proposed to Rosalynn in 1946 when she visited him at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

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Get the look: Pave Diamond Cluster Ring 

Betty Ford

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Betty Ford was a fiery spirit known for her candor and charisma as well as her dedication to social activism. Betty met Gerald Ford at a cocktail party in 1947, which led to Gerald proposing to her a year later, in July 1948. The couple’s relationship was built on mutual respect, friendship and laughter – so much so that years later, they famously joked about not remembering when Gerald proposed!

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Get the look: Knife Edge Engagement Ring 

Pat Nixon

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From their first meeting while auditioning for the play “The Dark Tower”, to Richard Nixon’s poetic love letters, this presidential couple’s courtship was one for the ages. After Pat and Richard fell in love, he proposed to her in the spring of 1940 with the Pacific Ocean as their backdrop. Her engagement ring was nestled in a small basket filled with mayflowers, and an intimate wedding ceremony was held later that year.

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Get the look: Tulip Cathedral Engagement Ring

Lady Bird Johnson

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The engagement story of Lady Bird and Lyndon B. Johnson is as simple and heartwarming as their classic wedding bands. They had known each other just three months when Lyndon asked Lady Bird to marry him on their first date. What followed was a whirlwind romance of countless love letters and sweet encounters until their wedding day at the San Antonio St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in 1934. They exchanged simple wedding bands from Sears, Roebuck that cost $2.50.

While the wedding was planned last-minute, their powerful union stretched into a 39-year long marriage.

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Get the look: Classic Knife-Edge Wedding Ring

Jacqueline Kennedy

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One of the most legendary love stories in U.S. history took flight on a summer evening in 1953. Sitting across from each other at a dimly-lit Boston restaurant was Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and John F. Kennedy. As they basked in the glow of their surroundings, John pulled out the velvet box that held his future wife’s diamond and emerald engagement ring. As he asked her to marry him and the restaurant broke out in applause, they sealed what would become one of the most iconic unions of all time with a kiss.

Jacqueline’s vintage art deco ring featured both a 2.88 carat diamond and a 2.84 carat weight emerald with several tapered baguettes.

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Jackie Kennedy’s iconic engagement ring