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Step Back in Time With the History Behind the Engagement Ring

History Behind the Engagement Ring
Have you ever wondered how and when the practice of wearing an engagement ring actually began and what does it actually mean?
Shruti Bhat
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2017
vena amoris or the vein of love
It is traditionally believed that the fourth finger on the left hand has a special vein called vena amoris, meaning the vein of love, which runs directly to the heart.
It's every girl's dream to have that special someone to go down on one knee and promise her sincere d'amour and a happily ever after. At the same time, it is every guy's worst nightmare (well at least till he finds the special someone) of committing to just one person for the rest of his life. Once he is out of the shock of his grand epiphany that he wishes to settle down with someone, he begins to wonder about the ring. How much is too much when it comes to an engagement ring?
Traditionally (after 1920), it is believed that a man should spend around two month's pay on an engagement ring. Yup! Your read it right, two month's pay. By now you might be wondering how, when, and why this whole shebang started in the first place.
History of Engagement Rings
history behind the engagement ring
Historically, the engagement ring had a clear purpose and that was to claim that the lady was taken. Once the ring was placed on her finger, it was like an open declaration that she belonged to someone. It was somewhat of a seal or an unwritten contract made between two individuals and their families that both were to be married to each other. The ring also worked as a collateral for the woman if the wedding had to be called off. However, this is not the origin of the engagement ring.
In the Ancient World
Archeological remains of ancient Egyptians were found to be wearing rings made from a single wire of either gold or silver around the ring finger of their left hand. It is believed that around 2,800 BCE, Egyptian men wore rings that symbolized wealth, and presenting a ring to a woman symbolized the sharing of wealth.
According to Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder, a groom first gave his bride a gold ring to wear during a ceremony, and then placed an iron ring on her finger to wear at home, signifying the legal binding of their union and his ownership of her.
Asians and Persians found a unique way not only to claim and tag their wives but also to know if they were disloyal to them. This was done with a little help from engagement cum wedding bands known as puzzle rings. These rings were ingeniously designed to fall apart up on removal.
During the Middle Ages
history behind the engagement ring
People in Europe, were staunch believers of astrology and birthstones. They often changed their rings to harness the power of the stones. Therefore, many presented the betrothed with engagement rings studded with colorful stones.

The ceremony of betrothal also signified that both the bride- and-groom-to-be had to keep their promise of betrothal and marry one another.
During the Early Modern Era
The diamond ring was introduced in 1477, by Archduke Maximilian of Austria. He made a diamond crested ring for Mary of Burgundy. The ring was set with flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an M. This marked the beginning of the trend of a diamond crested engagement ring.
In the Modern Era
Victorian's decorated their engagement rings with diamonds, precious metal, enamels, and other gemstones. These rings were often in the shape of a flower called poesy rings.

They also set a new trend of wearing eye-catchy dearest rings, which were crested with amethyst, emerald, diamond, ruby, sapphire, and topaz.
During the 1700s, the Puritans and Colonist tried to bring in a new trend by presenting their beloveds with thimbles instead of rings. As expected, rings took their rightful place on the ring finger, and the finger protectors were used only while sewing clothes.
The Victorians found a creepy and disgusting new way to declare their love with jewelry made from human hair and gemstones. With an attempt to make it a little romantic, they spelled out words of endearment and names of their darlings with the precious stones woven in hair.
By the mid to late 1800s, diamonds became rare and very expensive to own for the common man, and could only be afforded by the elite. However, the whole scene changed in 1867 when diamonds were discovered in Cape Colony, South Africa. This began a diamond frenzy, as precious stones were supplied in plenty.
A couple of years later, Cecil Rhodes a British businessman, arrived on the scene and founded the De Beers Mining Company and soon took control of 90% of the world's diamond production.
history behind the engagement ring tiffany setting
In 1886, Tiffany & Co. brought in a six-prong ring design called the Tiffany setting, which revolutionized the simple engagement ring to a masterpiece in the world of jewelry.
A few years later, Sears & Roebuck and others had launched affordable engagement rings could be mail-order catalogs.
1900s and Thereafter...
Cartier, a French jewelry and watch manufacturing company, created the Trinity ring for French writer, designer, playwright, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, who presented it to his lover and poet Raymond Radiguet, in the year 1918. The ring had of 3 intertwined hoops made of pink gold, gold, and white gold. Each of these hoops carried a deep meaning and represented love, fidelity, and friendship, respectively. This idea tried to launch a new concept of men's engagement rings, which failed miserably.
history behind the engagement ring
During the early '20s, the demand of diamond studded engagement rings declined drastically. The De Beers Company decided to market their diamonds aggressively by asking film stars to endorse their diamonds. Within a couple of years, their sales increased by around 50%. Soon after, they coined the classic slogan, A Diamond is Forever, which implied that diamonds are durable and pure, just like a man's love for his lady.
A couple of years later, De Beers marketed a so-called 'rule' that defined how much a man should be spending on an engagement ring. They came up with the 'two month's pay rule'. This was done to motivate people to spend more on their engagement rings.
In the 1950, movie star Audrey Hepburn's husband Mel Ferrer, started a new trend by giving her a ring made from both rose (pink) and yellow gold so that it could match all her outfits. This led to different forms of gold to be used in engagement rings.
A decade later, Jacqueline Kennedy's diamond and emerald engagement ring and two decades later, in 1981, Princess Diana's oval sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds made headlines and furthered the trend of using other precious stones in engagement rings.
From the 1990s until today, there has been a constant change in the trends for engagement rings. However, diamonds have always been the first choice for one and all―be it worth only a few hundred dollars or more than a million as was the case of Elizabeth Taylor's 69-carat ring.
In 2003, Wal-Mart, introduced Keepsake brand of diamonds, which quickly became one of the top selling diamonds in the world. They became so preferred that around a week before Valentine's Day in the year 2005, one-carat round solitaire diamond rings which were set in 14-carat white gold sold out completely, even online.
Even though diamonds and yellow gold are the first choice of many, many couples have strayed from the traditional ways and moved on to other precious stones and metals viz. platinum, rose gold, titanium, and palladium and their metal of choice for engagement rings.
By the turn of the century, the average diamond engagement ring could set a guy back by approximately USD 1,500. By 2011, the average cost of an engagement ring had gone up to around USD 5,200.
Luckily for you, the whole two months salary scenario has changed. Now, you can choose to buy a ring that matches your preference and also your budget.