I am German, but I thought I would ask this question in English so that everyone possessing knowledge about this specific subject could join in independently from the language it was asked in.
In Latin, the digraph ae has been spoken in many different ways, but it has always been written as ae, that is, the pronunciation changed, but not the way it is written. At the end of the early Middle Ages, the phonetics had changed so much in, for example, Italian, that the diphthong lost its first letter, and became an e, even though in this specific case, some words retained the a until modern Italian became widespread, but I digress.
In German, specifically, and maybe in other Germanic languages I am unaware of, the diphthong did not fuse into one letter, but was retained through the ages; for example, in many writings of the 18th century, you can still find spellings such as Aesthetik. But then why, at the end, did it mutate into first the famous aͤ (that is, an a with a small e above it) and later into today’s ä?