An engagement ring is more than an accessory. It’s more than a piece of jewelry or even an asset. It’s a symbol of love and commitment. In other words, it’s not about the ring itself but what it stands for that matters.
Now, rings have existed since the dawn of civilization. Over time, they were made from all sorts of materials. Some were made out of gold (like modern rings), while others were made out of various types of rock and bone.
Another important thing to mention is that they weren’t always a symbol of love. They weren’t always used for engagement. So, how did we come from point A to point B? What were some of the most important steps of this journey? Ultimately, how did “put a ring on it” become a symbol of making a life-long commitment? Let’s find out.
There are some tales of rings being used as a sign of engagement and matrimony as early as ancient Egypt. However, it’s not until Ancient Rome that we know that they were used for this purpose, for sure. In ancient Rome, rings were used as a symbol of mutual love and obedience.
For this purpose, they were made out of ivory, flint, bone, copper, or iron. In the past, rings were made out of materials like reed and hemp; now, the transition to these more durable materials is significant for a number of reasons.
First, these materials were more valuable. This symbolizes the value of the relationship in question. Second, they’re more durable. This means that they signify the bond that’s supposed to last forever. This is also a natural progression towards diamonds which are, as we all know, forever.
In 850, Pope Nicholas I declared that the engagement ring represented a man’s intention to marry. This is the first official involvement of the church, and it represents a major milestone. You see, in ancient times, marriage had a role that was much closer to modern civil marriage. There was no need for a religious ceremony, and the ceremony often didn’t even take place.
Now, this was a bond blessed by God and, subsequently, supervised by god, as well. It wasn’t long until diamonds appeared in engagement rings. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria made a proposal to Mary of Burgundy. This is a first-ever mention of a diamond engagement ring. The stone setting was in the shape of an “M,” which proves that customization and originality of engagement rings were a thing even back in the day.
Early Modern Period
The evolution of engagement rings was long and meaningful, but not every trend stuck. Namely, in the 15th century, there was a trend where both engaged parties would wear a ring and, on the wedding day, these rings would be connected via a third ring. Then, this wedding band would be worn by a new bride. An interesting concept but one that was abandoned and not talked much about since.
During the Age of Enlightenment, the engravement of silver rings was a massive thing. These rings would be engraved with lines of poetry and romantic quotes. This introduced a whole new concept of showmanship into the ceremony. Some might even claim that this is the origin story of wedding vows.
The 20th Century
Even though Archduke Maximillian used a diamond ring for his engagement, this was mostly a standalone act rather than a trend. The real trend of diamond engagement rings didn’t fully bloom until 1947. Then, a British company De Beers heavily pushed this trend via Hollywood, and the rest is history.
The ring that Richard Burton gave to Elizabeth Taylor was on every little girl’s wish list. Still, this is neither a coincidence nor a spontaneous decision. Hollywood movies and TV shows, as well as newspaper articles, were written with the intention of popularizing this trend.
Now, there’s a reason why you can buy engagement rings in Phoenix, AZ, China, and Kongo alike, and it’s not all down to marketing. A diamond engagement ring is a compelling trend for a number of reasons. Sure, they are expensive, but since you’re already committing to one person for the rest of your days, is it really that insane to bequeath them with an expensive piece of jewelry?
The 21st Century
This brings us to modern times. Now, we live in an era where this trend is already several decades old. Generations of fiancées were born and have grown up with this trend as a general rule, which makes the tradition feel ancient. If you asked how old this tradition is, they would probably assume that it was always so. Remember that this is only ever the case with organically-grown trends.
Still, Hollywood and pop culture still dominate the scene. Whenever a celebrity couple gets engaged, be it Megan Fox or Blake Lively, the first thing anyone wants to know is – what the ring is like. Hollywood sets the standards for the real world, as well.
Finally, since this trend is so accepted and widespread, it’s worth mentioning that there’s also a lot of social pressure that goes with it. Your circle of friends might make assumptions based on the ring that you give/get, and you might not be able to show off your new ring to your girlfriends. However, this also affects the decision-making process when it comes to buying the ring. In other words, it’s truly more than just an accessory.
In the end, while this trend has evolved over the years, the impression that it gives away is that it’s pretty much set in stone by now. Sure, the styles will be updated, but it’s unlikely that engagement rings are going anywhere anytime soon. They’re just too big of a part of our culture to just disappear. Still, understanding the journey that it took to get here may make you appreciate this trend a lot more. This can just make it more meaningful.