How did the engagement ring become such a central part of getting betrothed? And why is a diamond the stone most often associated with eternal love? Engagement rings are commonplace in the modern era, with jewelers placing ads on television and in magazines all claiming to have the perfect ring. But things weren’t always this way. The history of the engagement ring is deeper and more interesting than you might think.
The ancient history of the engagement ring.
There is some debate as to when rings gained popularity as part of the engagement process. The history of engagement rings can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and the Middle Ages.
Pharaohs would present their brides with a ring made of twisted gold wire, which represented eternity. And in the eighth century, Pope Nicholas I decreed that all couples in the Christian church should exchange rings as a symbol of their commitment to each other. In the Middle Ages, during the mid-seventh century, a set of laws known as the Visigothic Code decreed “that when the ceremony of betrothal has been performed,” a ring “shall have been given or accepted as a pledge, although nothing may have been committed to writing, the promise shall, under no circumstances, be broken.”
The origins of a timeless tradition.
The tradition of giving engagement rings took off in the 15th century when the Archduke Maximillian of Austria used a diamond ring to signify his engagement to Mary of Burgundy. It soon became customary for the groom to give his bride a ring as a sign of his love and devotion. At this time, the rings were typically made of simple gold bands, and there was no set rule as to who should wear the engagement ring. It could be worn on the left hand or the right hand, and it was often worn above or below the wedding ring.
Although the Archduke was the first to propose marriage with a diamond ring, it would be a few more centuries before the prized stone gained popularity.
How diamonds became the gold standard for engagement rings.
In the 19th century, diamond engagement rings started to become popular. This was largely due to the discovery of diamonds in South Africa, which made them more affordable than ever before. The price of diamonds took a nosedive during the Great Depression, but by the end of the decade, their popularity was once again on the rise. An ad campaign taught people the concept of the four C’s—color, cut, clarity, and carats—and in 1947, diamonds got their very own slogan: “A diamond is forever.“
Since then, diamond engagement rings have become the gold standard for engagement rings. However, there are now a wide variety of ring styles to choose from, including sapphire, ruby, and emerald rings. So, no matter what your taste or budget, you can find the perfect engagement ring for your special someone.
Which engagement ring is right for you?
Finding the perfect ring for your partner is easier than ever before. Whether you’re going the traditional route or looking for an alternative engagement ring, there are countless styles, colors, shapes, and bands to choose from. Before shopping for an engagement ring, there are a few questions you need to consider:
- What are your partner’s style and taste?
- What is their ring size?
- Are they more traditional or nontraditional?
- How much money do you want to spend?
Answering these questions will help guide you toward the perfect ring for your perfect someone. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help—the ring is going to be on their finger, after all.