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History of the Engagement Ring - Part 1

By Tony on 5/13/2016

History of the Engagement Ring - Part 1

history of the engagement ring part 1

The engagement ring and wedding band are staples to most cultures, but where did this come from? This long tradition of giving something to someone you love is rooted deep within human history. While the styles, look, and trends of the engagement ring has varied over time, the meaning has evolved as well. From a less tender and loving view in ancient times, to the representation of love, life, and culture it takes now - the wedding ring's history is a long and interesting one. Whether it is the modern diamond engagement ring to the betrothal rings of the past, it has been a symbol of love and matrimony for centuries. This tradition has been alive for many centuries and we are here to answer the questions: Why do we give engagement ring and wedding rings?and What is the history for the engagement ring?

The Early History of Wedding Rings

While we are all familiar with the diamond engagement ring of the early 20th century, matrimonial rings have been a symbol of a partnership since ancient times. In pre-history there is evidence of braided grass and cords around waists or wrists to represent the connection that the two would have with each other. It is not until the Egyptians do we see the symbolic metal ring worn on the middle finger. This is where the belief of the ring finger has a vein that leads directly to the heart, often referred to as the "love vein".

During the ancient Roman era, the rings that we would see them wear were for reasons other than love and marriage. These rings would be worn as a form of contract or a business agreement, rather than a representation of a marriage founded on love. These rings would be made from a plethora of different materials, typically differing based on status and wealth. These rings were made from copper, flint, silver, gold and even bone. But by the end of the 2nd century the popularity of the golden ring was starting to catch on. So how did the gold ring become the fore front of wedding rings? An interesting aspect of the culture at that time was that there were two distinct rings to wear. One for being in the home, typically iron or a more basic metal, and one for wearing in public (typically gold). This sets the basics of the Anglo and European cultures, and in Asia wedding rings were similar, yet different.

In Asia, "puzzle rings" were given to each wife as a unique gift to identify them with, as well as a way to test for 'infidelity' while the husbands were away. These rings were very difficult to put together and if taken off the finger, they would fall apart. Knowing this, the husbands would be able to know if there was any infidelity. [1]

Engagement Rings turn towards Love & Marriage

We first see the step of wedding rings turning to mean something different than a binding contract around 850AD. This is when "it was made official" that marriage was more than a business agreement. Pope Nicholas I stated that the engagement ring was an intent of a man to marry a women. This set the beginning of the intent behind the ring. However the diamond in an engagement ring was not seen until Archduke Maximillian gave one to his wife to be around 1477. This is commonly referred to as the first ever diamond engagement ring.

Although the diamond ring didn't quite catch on after Archduke Maximillian, the rings of choice were known as "Gimmel rings". These rings were made with interlinking parts and were given to wife and husband each. At the ceremony they would connect their rings and the now one ring was given to the bride to wear. [2] (Sounds awfully, familiar to the wedding band and engagement ring of modern times).

Up next in part 2 we will delve into the modern engagement ring! (Yes, the one's with the diamond center stone!)

Sources: [1] Reader's Digest
[2] Gia.edu

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