At some point in your life you must have surely wondered about how the engagement ring came into existence! Interestingly the history of the engagement ring dates back to the ancient times and over the passage of years, it has evolved and undergone some drastic transformation to arrive at its present form.  The exact historical root may be shrouded in mystery, but from what we know, it has always been a symbol of commitments. Following is the history of the engagement ring in chronological order:

Ancient Egypt: They are often credited for giving birth to the engagement ring. The ring stood as an endless circle of love and the empty space at the center symbolized a gateway to their future.

Roman Empire: The Roman bride was presented with two rings; one of gold and another of iron. The gold ring was worn in public while the iron ring was worn at home whilst doing their household chores.

Puzzle Rings: The 1st century BC, saw the birth of the puzzle rings which were given by the sultans and sheiks to their wives. It is a ring which, when removed would fall apart into a number of smaller bands thus, exposing acts of infidelity.

Visigothic Code: That the ring was used to mark one’s entry into a formal contract became apparent in the Visigothic Code which stated: “when the ceremony of betrothal has been performed… and the ring shall have been given or accepted as pledge, although nothing may have been committed to writing, the promise shall, under no circumstances, be broken.”

860AD, Pope Nicolas I: Pope Nicolas I, in a letter describing the difference between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practice, stated the importance of presenting a gold ring to his betrothed. It was basically intended to flaunt the groom’s wealth and his capability to take care of his wife post marriage.

1477, Renaissance Period: In 1477 appeared the first documented record of diamonds featuring on an engagement ring. Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed Mary of Burgandy, with a gold ring mounted with the letter ‘M’ spelled out in diamonds. This set the stage for diamonds which eventually went on to become the most popular gemstone for an engagement ring.

The Age of Enlightenment: During this period, the gimmal rings and the posie rings came into prominence. The Gimmal rings were fashioned with two or three hoops that were joined together to form a ring. It was the posie rings that became more popular owing to their romantic note. The posie rings came with short romantic inscriptions on the inside surface of the band.

Victorian Era: Given the romantic and sentimental nature of the Victorians, a new trend in the form of Dearest rings surfaced. They were rings featuring Emerald, Ruby, Diamond, Amethyst, Sapphire, Topaz etc.

1867: The discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1867 and the introduction of the ‘Tiffany Setting’ in 1889 by the world famous jewelers Tiffany and Co. soared the popularity of diamond as a gemstone.

20th Century: The popularity and demand of diamond declined post the World War I and during the onset of the Great Depression. But thanks to the marketing campaigns by DeBeers in 1938, people’s interest in diamonds were reignited. Their slogan “Diamond is forever” still continues to lure people towards this rare gemstone.

21st Century: Today, it has become more of an expectation for the bride-to-be to be proposed with a diamond engagement ring. However, gemstones like emerald, sapphire, ruby etc have also garnered much fame and is increasingly being mounted on the engagement ring.


Posted by Roy Izakov.
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