The Origins of the Engagement Ring

How Engagement Rings Came to Be

Engagement rings are a sign of love and a marriage to be. As with wedding bands, engagement rings are a custom that started thousands of years ago. While people still wear these bands what they look like and how they’re worn changed with time. Not only have the aesthetics changed, so has the symbolism.

The first documented engagement rings are from the Roman empire. A first these rings were iron, though by the second century BCE, people wore gold. Brides-to-be eventually got two rings, one of iron to wear around the home, and a gold band for outside. Both were worn over the vena amoris, a vein in the finger believed to lead straight to the heart.

Engagement rings slowly spread through the rest of Europe. The 7th century Visigothic Code outlined when the proper circumstances for ring giving. Pope Nicholas I helped push the jewelry into greater use. In 850, he stated that gifting rings helped strengthen the connection between fiancées. Those who could afford to, preferred gold.

The year 1477 was a turning point for engagement rings. To commemorate their engagement, Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave the first known diamond engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy. Even then, diamonds were renowned for their unmatched hardness. The Archduke wanted the strength of the jewel to convey the power of his love for his fiancée. Ever since, diamonds are the gem of choice for engagement rings.

During the Victorian era, several things helped boost the popularity of diamond engagement rings. One was the rise of the middle class, with more people who could afford fine jewelry. Another was the 1867 discovery of diamond deposits in South Africa. Simpler designs such as solitaire diamond rings helped make rings more available than ever before.

From the 1910s through the 1930s, diamond ring sales declined. Hollywood helped to revive the tradition, with stars wearing designer engagement rings on and off screen. Advertising campaigns which underscored the connections between diamonds and romance further encouraged ring wearing. Today, people continue to wear their engagement rings long after marriage, wearing them with their wedding bands.

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