How engagement rings came to be
It’s one of the most memorable moments of your life, your engagement. Your engagement ring symbolizes that moment, the moment you said yes, and committed yourself to a life together. Engagement ring styles have varied over the decades, but the history of the engagement ring dates back to Ancient Egypt.
It was the Egyptian pharaohs who first used rings as a symbol of eternity. The Egyptians also believed that the finger for the engagement ring should be the ring finger, thought to have a vein that connects directly to the heart. Later the Ancient Greeks adopted this tradition of giving rings to their lovers as a symbol of their devotion. By the time the Romans started using rings in marriage ceremonies, engagement or wedding rings were made from copper or iron that included key symbolic motifs. However, by the 2nd Century CE, for most engagement rings, gold was the metal of choice.
This tradition of placing the engagement and wedding ring on the ring finger of the left hand continues in many countries worldwide today. However, the materials and gems used in these rings symbolic of love have evolved over the years with the diamond engagement ring with the gold band being the most popular in modern times.
Engagement ring unique designs over the ages
In Medieval Europe portrait rings and the Roman fede in which two hands clasp each other as a symbol of marriage, were popular. The fede motif evolved into the Claddagh ring around the 1600s which had the pair of hands now holding a heart. It was around the same time that gimmel rings became popular.
Gimmel rings incorporate two or three interlocking bands worn separately by each lover during their engagement and united into a complete set on the wedding day, worn by the bride. Some of these gimmel rings had a third center band that showed a gem clasped by two hands.
During the Renaissance and Elizabethan times, poesy rings rose in popularity. These rings had lines of poetry inscribed inside or outside of the band.
Today engagement rings can be in white gold, rose gold or platinum and the most common setting is a solitaire prong setting made famous by Tiffany & Co, with a single diamond set in a six-claw prong.
When the engagement ring and wedding band became two separate rings
In Medieval England, a wedding was simply offering an object, such as a ring, to a woman. The woman’s acceptance of this object then meant the couple was married. Because these weddings didn’t require any witnesses, there was often confusion around the legitimacy of a marriage. By the 12th Century the church declared marriage a holy sacrament and the church wedding ceremony began. Rings were still very much a part of this ceremony. Still, it is thought that this was when the idea of two separate rings emerged, the engagement ring as a more personal token of devotion and intent, and the wedding ring as an integral part of the religious ceremony.
How engagement and wedding rings evolved to include precious gems
As early as the Visigoth era (418 – c. 720 AD) engagement rings had elaborate settings with roughly polished stones or glass. Wedding rings began to be set with precious gems in Medieval times. Rubies were used as a symbol of passion. Sapphires were used to represent the heavens. Diamonds were a symbol of steadfastness and strength.
The first recorded diamond wedding ring is thought to be in the late 1300s or early 1400s, left by a widow in her will. In 1477 the Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond engagement ring, the first well-documented use of diamond rings to signify engagement. Diamond rings given to loved ones then became more popular with the higher classes or those with significant wealth.
By the Edwardian era between 1901 and 1910, engagement ring designs were dainty with elaborate details with most rings centering around a large diamond.
How diamond rings became synonymous with engagement
Queen Victoria was known for her love of diamond jewelry. The rush for diamonds began when the Kohinoor diamond was cut and embellished in her crown in 1852. Diamond engagement rings grew in popularity during these Victorian times, becoming more and more ornate. Although popular, diamond rings remained the domain of the wealthier aristocracy and upper classes. It was only when diamonds were first discovered in South Africa in 1866 and mine output exceeded a million carats per year that diamonds became more accessible to all.
But diamonds weren’t the most popular choice for an engagement ring for a long time. Engagement rings came in a variety of gemstones right until the 1940s. An ad campaign by diamond merchant De Beers to offset a slump in diamond sales is famous for being the event that made diamond rings synonymous with engagement.
Diamonds made appearances in Hollywood movies, worn by glamorous actresses, admired for their romantic appeal. In 1947 the slogan “a diamond is forever” turned diamonds into the ultimate symbol of love. By the time Marilyn Monroe declared “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” in 1953, diamonds were the gem of choice for most engagement rings. Diamonds showed status and were used to demonstrate a women’s worth in the relationship.
The engagement rings women have loved throughout history
Engagement ring styles and designs have changed and evolved over the years. Today women, and men, have an endless array of gems, cuts, and shapes to choose from. An engagement ring is highly personal, and the style says a lot about who the wearer is. From an engagement ring in a vintage design to an engagement ring with an emerald center stone, the possibilities are endless. Styles are often influenced by the rings worn by the celebrities we love. Certain designs gained popularity around the engagements of some of the most famous women in the world.
Jackie Kennedy’s engagement ring started a trend not once but twice. The elaborate Van Cleef & Arpels engagement ring with an emerald cut diamond nestled with an emerald stone was given to her by John F. Kennedy in 1953. The emerald-cut diamond ring became popular soon after that. The Marquis shape of her second engagement ring was well-loved during the 1970s.
Another trendsetting diamond ring was the one given to Marilyn Monroe by Joe DiMaggio in 1955. The platinum eternity band included 36 baguette-cut diamonds.
Elizabeth Taylor is yet another celebrity whose engagement rings we loved. Her style is bold and grand as seen in the 29.4 carat emerald cut ring she wore from her third husband, or the large 39.19 carat Asscher cut diamond she got from her fifth.
Although their marriage didn’t last long, the pear-shaped solitaire diamond ring Frank Sinatra gave Mia Farrow became one of the most popular choices in engagement ring over the next decade.
When it comes to romance and fairy-tale weddings, nobody inspires engagement ring styles more than a princess. While Princess Diana’s sapphire and diamond ring inspired the resurrection of colored stone engagement rings, Meghan Markle’s engagement ring with 3 stones has brought a beloved style back, last popular in the 80s.
Engagement rings and wedding bands are the ultimate symbol of marriage and eternal love. The engagement ring and wedding band are the representation of commitment between two parties to love and cherish one another for the rest of their days.
Nothing symbolizes the love and devotion we have for another quite like a well-chosen and unique engagement ring. This ring needs to encapsulate the personality of the wearer and show the commitment of the giver.
. At our Calgary Jewelry store, “Davidson Jewels,” we create engagement rings and wedding bands for all in love.