Engagement rings, symbols of love and commitment, have woven their way through history, adorning the hands of loved ones and signifying the promise of marriage. Today it's commonplace to give your loved one a ring, but that wasn't always the case.
Let's embark on a journey through time, exploring the origins and evolution of the engagement ring, and discover how this enduring symbol of partnership has come to be what it is today.
The Circle of Eternity: Ancient Beginnings
The story of the engagement ring begins in the warm sands of Ancient Egypt. Here, the circle was a powerful symbol, representing eternity, with no beginning and no end. The Egyptians exchanged rings of braided reeds or leather as tokens of eternal love.
These rings were traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, believed to house the Vena Amoris, or the "Vein of Love," which was thought to flow directly to the heart.
From Affection to Contract: The Roman Contribution
Fast forward to Ancient Rome, and the engagement ring transformed from a symbol of love to one of intent and contract. The "fede ring", a ring given during the betrothal ceremony, served not just as a declaration of love, but as a sign of a binding agreement to marry. The rings often had a depiction of a handshake carved into the material, as the marriage ceremony was consecrated by a handshake.
These rings were made of various materials, including ivory and iron. The evolution of a ring from a symbol of love to a symbol of marriage is thanks to the Romans.
The Medieval Shift: A Sacred Promise and Engagement Periods
During the Middle Ages, the Church began to play a more significant role in the sanctity of marriage. Pope Innocent III decreed a mandatory waiting period between betrothal and marriage, which propelled the importance of engagement rings as a sign of the couple's intent. It was during this time that diamonds began to appear on these betrothal rings, although they were reserved for the nobility due to their rarity and price.
A Noble Trendsetter: The Archduke's Influence
The year 1477 was a milestone in the history of the engagement ring, as Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy. This, being the first diamond engagement ring recorded, began a trend among the European elite. Diamonds became the coveted stone for showing love and wealth (diamonds were only found in India and were accordingly incredibly expensive).
Victorian Romance and Secret Messages
The Victorians took the designs and complexities of engagement rings to new heights. They preferred ornate designs, often incorporating other precious stones and diamonds that were typically more modest in size.
The Victorian era also saw the rise of "Acrostic" rings, which carried secret messages spelled out in gemstones (talk about personalization).
The 20th Century: A Diamond is Forever
The engagement ring that we associate with proposals today has almost been around for a century. In the 1930s, the De Beers company changed the course of engagement ring history with a marketing campaign that is still hailed as one of the most successful ever. Their slogan, "A Diamond is Forever," perfectly captured the essence of a marriage proposal and cemented the diamond's place as the ultimate symbol of enduring love.
It didn't hurt that the company also had a monopoly over the diamond market at the time, so their campaign worked very well for them.
Modern Engagement Rings: Whatever Style You Want
Today, the engagement ring is as varied as love itself, reflecting the diversity and individuality of modern relationships. From classic solitaires to custom designs featuring a variety of gemstones, the ring is an intimate reflection of the bond between partners.
The engagement ring has come a long way from the banks of the Nile to the jewelry boutiques of the world's most glamorous cities. It has evolved from a symbol of eternity to a testament of personal style and everlasting love.
The engagement ring, steeped in tradition and history, continues to be an emblem of the love two people share. Its evolution is a testament to the timeless nature of love itself — always enduring, always sparkling.
If you're looking for a beautiful ring to symbolize your everlasting love, take a look at our collection. With many different vintage and modern styles, we have something for every style.
From timeless classics to modern masterpieces, find the ring that will take your journey from "Will you?" to "I do."