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Engagement Rings: A Symbol of Love Through the Ages

Aug 14, 2008
The first known exchange of engagement rings comes down to us from five millenia ago; in ancient Egypt, a band worn on the finger was seen as a symbol of eternal love. In ancient Rome, the acceptance of a ring from a suitor was considered to be a legally binding arrangement and meant that the woman was no longer single.

Even now, engagements rings bring the sacred bond of marriage to mind - they are a way of informing the world about one's marital status. The traditions surrounding engagement and marriage have changed over time, as have the materials of choice for engagement rings. The biggest change is that men as well as women now wear these rings as a signifier of their love and commitment to their spouse.

The ancient custom of using engagement rings as a token of a binding marriage contract is a bit different than the way that they are regarded today - and unlike today's engagement rings, they would not be as likely to catch the attention of passers by with their beauty. These rings were, in ancient Rome, simple iron bands. The custom of making rings from precious metals came much later on.

It was not until the 16th century that diamonds began to be used extensively in engagement rings, although diamonds were being mined in India as early as the year 800 AD. At this time, diamonds were exclusively for the very wealthy.

Ever since they were introduced to the world, diamonds were beloved for their brilliance and their durability, second to none among minerals. The word diamond comes from the Greek word for unconquerable, "adamas". Diamonds were believed to contain magical properties and as such were seen as natural symbols of the bond of marriage.

Diamonds became more widely available in the 1800s and they became much more widely used, especially as a stone for engagement rings.

Although some designs have come and gone over the years, other designs are perennial classics. The diamond solitaire is one which is irresistible to many, with its single beautiful diamond within. The three stone ring has been popular, symbolizing those three little words.

A lot of women opt for stones other than diamonds for their engagement rings, including opals, emeralds and rubies. However, the diamond remains the most popular choice.

As a metal for the band, platinum has become a popular material, despite its expense. There has been a growing demand for titanium and zirconium engagement rings since they are very strong, hypoallergenic and attractive. These metals work well with more modern styles and can be heat treated for unique color effects.

The hardness of these metals lends themselves to tension set diamond engagement rings. With precious metals, this would be much more difficult due to the relative softness of these metals.

The engagement ring is typically worn on the third finger of the left hand, although in some countries the ring is instead worn on the right. This tradition is thought to date back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that a vein in this finger ran directly to the heart.
About the Author
Lauren Matthews is a fashion maven and an editor at www.SorellaJewelry.com. Sorella creates personalized jewelry with the names, words, dates and Chinese symbols that matter to you.
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