I get asked why we give engagement rings, most often by men who are feeling a little overwhelmed in picking out a ring, but it is an interesting question! Diamond engagement rings are a big part of our culture that has evolved since the dawn of time. From the first historical reference to a ring exchange 3000 years ago to today, there is a lot of ground to cover!
Egyptians: The ancient Egyptians came up with a couple of key symbolisms that we still honor today. They were the first to see a ring as representing eternity as it had no end and no beginning. They also chose to wear their rings on their left hand thinking that the left ring finger had the “vena amoris” or vein of love that led directly to the heart.
Greeks & Romans: The ancient Greeks and Romans liked the symbolism the Egyptians attributed to rings and continued the tradition. The Greeks depicted Cupid, the god of love, on their rings while the Romans began using an iron ring. During the Roman era, rings became more extravagant and began to represent the giver’s wealth. Gold also became the metal used instead of iron.
Medieval, Renaissance, & Victorian: Getting married in Medieval England was a very simple affair. Two people offered their consent through the giving and receiving of an object called a ‘wed’ which was most often a ring. The ceremony began being referred to as a ‘wedding.’ At first, it was a family and community event, but by the 12th century, the church had declared marriage to be a holy sacrament and needed church sanction. This is where the idea of two rings are thought to have its origin. The personal engagement ring was given as a promise, and then, the wedding band was added at the church ceremony to symbolize the commitment.
The first diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy from Archduke Maximillian of Austria in 1477. As you can probably guess, it was the very wealthy and royalty who had access to diamonds at this time. The Victorian era continued the tradition with diamond engagement rings as Queen Victoria was famed for her love of diamond jewelry. In fact, she was famed for her love of all jewelry!
Modern History: Interestingly, prior to the 20th century, women were the ones who wore wedding rings, most men did not. American and European soldiers began wearing wedding rings during WWII as a way to keep their wives close to them while they were away. This idea continued during the Korean War, and then, became part of our culture as a whole!
It was tradition for wedding/engagement rings to hold any kind of gemstone, but in 1947, De Beers began their marketing campaign titled A Diamond is Forever. Through the use of art, Hollywood, and advertising, diamonds became the ultimate symbol of romance and devotion. Marilyn Monroe made popular the idea that diamonds are a girl’s best friend!
In some ways, yes, there is a marketing element to the tradition of a diamond engagement ring, but the giving of rings to represent a marriage commitment is an ancient tradition that has spanned culture and time. As we have learned through modern gemology, diamonds really are best suited to represent a commitment because of their strong properties. Diamonds are one of the most durable gemstones withstanding most scratches and bumps we put our hands through.
I would love to help you with your engagement ring! Angela Cisneros Jewelry Concierge brings back the joy and confidence of jewelry shopping, so that you can celebrate with ease! My by-appointment approach means:
One-on-one appointments (personal attention and no crowds!)
Discretion and privacy (surprises remain surprises!)
Expert help from a Graduate Gemologist with 26 years of experience (yep, that’s me!)
Learn more about me and my process: www.AngelaCisneros.com
Book your FREE appointment with me today! www.AngelaCisneros.com/book-appointment