A Brief History of Engagement Rings

A diamond ring on someone’s left hand has long been a universal sign of engagement, but what this ring signifies today is not what it has always represented. As ideals and gender roles have become more fluid and forward-thinking, the intent and messaging behind these rings has drastically changed.

Years of tradition and advertising first made the engagement ring a symbol of commitment exclusively for women. What is now worn as a sign of commitment, collaboration, and hopefulness for the future wasn’t always so progressive. Over time, society and ring manufacturing has come a long way to make the engagement ring a statement that anyone can wear with pride.

To understand the weight and evolving messaging of engagement rings, it’s important to consider how these rings came to be, the innovation of materials used to create them, and the culture created behind them.

Origins of the Ring

It’s difficult to determine precisely when and where engagement rings originated. Some historians believe these rings were first seen in Ancient Rome, when Pope Innocent III declared that there had to be a waiting period between engagement and marriage. At the time, rings were made of copper, ivory, flint, iron or even bone, and they didn’t have stones like they typically do today.

Nowadays, engagement rings are frequently crafted of ethically sourced diamonds or gemstones such as sapphires or morganite. If a traditional looking colourless centre stone is what you’re after and environmentalism is a priority, you can work with a ring designer to find your perfect lab grown diamond or moissanite. These stones have a less significant environmental impact than earth-mined diamonds but are just as stunning.

The Evolution of the Engagement Ring In the 12th century, Pope Nicholas deemed engagement rings the official symbol of a man’s intent to marry a woman. This is how and when engagement rings started to become common practice.

Engagement rings remained simple until 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond ring. Although he was the first to do such a thing, diamond rings didn’t become popular until almost 500 years later when De Beers launched a campaign with the slogan, “A diamond is forever.”

After that campaign, diamonds remained the standard stone for engagement rings for decades and became widely known as “a girl’s best friend.”

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