how the engagement rings tradition started

While we know the “concept” of an engagement ring has its origins in prehistoric rites, the circle, as a symbol of endless unions, only took the shape of a ring later. Before that, ribbons and bracelets from a wide variety of materials like leather, hemp, and iron were used.

The official existence of the engagement ring dates back to ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. The Egyptian grammarian Apion, who described innumerable Egyptian artifacts, provided interesting historical information about rings.

Unfortunately, most of Apion’s contributions were destroyed. We know him better from the works of Plutarch, the Greek philosopher.

The tradition of wearing a ring on the left hand

Apion affirmed that among ancient Greeks and later Romans, a ring was worn on the ring closest to their little finger in the left hand because the dissection of bodies showed a nerve leading to the heart in this finger.

It might not be as romantic as we would like it to be but the fact is it was from this belief that it then became appropriate to honor this finger with an adornment, as it was closely connected to the heart where our soul and spirit are located.

The Renaissance of precious metals

We know it was with an iron ring that a man made his request for union with his future wife throughout all antiquity and all the Middle Ages. While the shape of the ring was not a random choice—its circular and solid shape symbolized endless love—at this point, there was no talk of yellow gold.

Rome made it hard by demanding gold rings and it was Pope Innocent III who facilitated the life of young and wretched lovers with the establishment of simpler technicalities for engagement rings.

But it was in the beginning of the Renaissance that the solitaire changed from an iron ring to a more sophisticated one, with its appearance the symbol of eternal love and eternity was finally linked to wondrous gold.

The classic solitaire ring shape

The meaning of the solitaire ring does not date from yesterday and it is still today the model that is preferred to seal an engagement. But what do we know about its first appearance?

While it was customary to propose to a woman by offering her a ring, the solitaire ring first appeared in the 15th century. With the multiple possibilities that it began to offer overtime in the art of jewelry making, it was then possible to mount a stone on a setting—the combination quickly became an object of admiration of men for women.

The solitaire as we know it today, however, has not always been like this. Even though engagement rings and wedding rings have existed since ancient times and are present in ancient history and culture, this custom was on the way out at the turn of the 20th century.

The 20th-century mark for engagement rings

The 20th century marked the start of a new class in society, the modern middle class. While the solitaire ring with a single large diamond had its moment among aristocrats five centuries before, it was no longer so traditional during this period. This custom was a real roller-coaster in the 20th century because of the middle class.

With 1900 came the great depression, the difficulties were many for the middle class, therefore the engagement ring was a luxury that one could not afford. Instead, the man proposed his marriage with a practical, everyday gift. Can you imagine how sad? Not very romantic, but necessary at this time.

With World War I, a new definition for the engagement ring emerged, because it would symbolize the union of a couple separated because of the war. But it was especially after World War II and the increase in marriages during the post-war boom that the engagement ring once again became an important jewel in the life and tradition of a couple.

Engagement rings in 2020

Now the industry provides us with incredible quality and unimaginable shapes and forms. Countless versions of engagement rings exist and bring more symbolism depending on the chosen stone. Indeed, we are now starting to see the finger of future brides bearing sapphires, rubies, and emeralds, but this will be a topic for a future post.

For now, take advantage of the technology providing you with incredible engagement rings and enjoy the superior service provided by jewelry stores like Becker’s and visit them if you are in Old Saybrook or West Hartford in CT!