Ever wondered when the tradition of engagement rings started? Well, this practice saw its origin during the ancient eras in Egypt and Rome and much beyond. It’s just that the token of immortal love wasn’t really an extravagant one when it all began. In the primitive times, a caveman would tie a cord made of braided grass to the wrist, waist or ankle of his mate to bring her soul under his control. Then, the Egyptians made rings using plant materials like reed, sedges and rushes as well as leather, ivory and bone to exchange at the betrothal.
These rings were worn on the fourth finger of the left hand as it was believed that a vein on this finger connected straight to the heart. As the rings were in the shape of a circle with no beginning or end, they represented unending love and commitment.
Later Romans used precious metals and gemstones for betrothal rings that were designed with elaborate details. They made it a customary ritual to engage the man and the woman with a ring, mainly as a legal agreement that signified of her ownership. Wearing the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand continued as a tradition and the vein that was believed to connect to the heart was called as vena amoris, meaning ‘vein of love’.
The Romans gave a romantic spin to these rings with the exquisite fede rings that featured a motif of clasped hands – in faith. They became popular in medieval and Renaissance Europe and were often studded with color gemstones. Also, the Claddagh ring became synonymous to Irish identity, apart from its heart, crown and the clasped hands motifs representing the loving bond of the couple. During courtship, men also gifted posey rings inscribed with romantic poems and quotes to their beloved, a trend that emerged in the medieval times.
It is interesting how the betrothal jewelry has come a long way with its many variations over the centuries. And then the diamond rings captured the entire engagement ring scene by storm. The ritual kicked off when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria got engaged to Mary of Burgundy with a precious diamond studded ring. The rich and the noble used diamonds for their engagement rings and it was a means to show off opulence. When the production of diamonds increased, diamond engagement rings became a prerequisite of every romantic proposal across cultures.
Today, women love to get their engagement ring customized according to their tastes and preferences and they have a wide variety to choose from. Modern engagement rings come with blue or black diamonds as well as color gemstones, giving the traditional colorless bling a miss. Whatever the rings be, simple, ornate or vintage, they all signify the same thing – that she is taken and committed to her partner.