History of the engagement ring

June 16th, 2007 by admin

The humble beginnings of engagement and wedding rings are the same. This ring is the most famous and instantly recognizable symbol of the (hopefully perpetual) joining of a man and a woman as husband and wife in the institution of marriage, has a long, wide spread and mysterious history. The earliest uses of these symbols of love are attributed to different peoples, including the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.

  • Betrothal rings were meant to symbolize a woman’s connection to the man who would become her husband, though the arrangement was more of a business proposition than a romantic union.
  • Romans used iron rings to symbolize strength and permanence.
  • Greeks are currently credited with the initial idea to wear the ring on the 4th finger of the left hand, where the “vena amoris” (translated from Latin it means ”vein of love”) was supposed to connect to the heart.
  • The Egyptians saw the circle symbolically and believed this was the symbol of eternity as well as many other ancient cultures. It had no beginning and no end, like time. It returned to itself, like life; and the shape was worshipped in the form of the Sun and the Moon. The hole in the center of the ring is not just space either; it is important in its own right as the symbol of the gateway, or door; leading to things and events both known and unknown.

Catholic influences: 

During the ninth century, Pope Nicolas I endorsed the idea of engagement rings by making a gold ring a betrothal requirement to demonstrate the groom’s wealth and ability to care for a wife. In 1215, Pope Innocent III made a similar declaration though the rings could consist of different metals, including silver and iron, and the rings were meant to be worn during a longer engagement period.

First use of a diamond in an engagement ring 

The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy by her betrothed, Archduke Maximillian of Austria, in 1477. Few details are known about the ring itself, but diamonds were considered at the time to have magical powers relative to love, purity, and fidelity – the same characteristics they symbolize today.

Starting in 1866, extensive diamond deposits were discovered in Africa, effectively making the gems more widely available and cheaper for the general public to purchase (This began with Erasmus Jacobs found the Eureka (21.25 carats rough) on the banks of the Orange River in Africa). Because of the sudden abundance of diamonds, designs became more elaborate and intricate, and more brides-to-be began to receive diamond engagement rings.

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