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Learn About The History Of Engagement Rings

Aug 30, 2008
The tradition of engagement rings has been embedded in western culture for over a millennia. The concept is that a woman is presented with an engagement ring as a gesture of a mans intention to wed her. The ring is worn until the wedding day when it is replaced during a wedding ceremony by the wedding ring. The engagement ring is then is either worn with the wedding ring or put in storage. The wedding ring is a symbol of the marriage commitment and deeply ingrained in western religious practices.

Engagement rings started in classical period where Aristotelian natural sciences believed that a vein from the finger of the left hand was linked directly to the heart, so a ring worn on that finger was representative of being directly linked to the heart. In Western culture the ring was introduced as a symbol of betrothment after the Pope Innocent III, who ruled around 1215, introduced a period of waiting before people were married.

At that feudal point in history wealth was not spread around and only the nobility and the church had money to purchase precious stones. The feudal period lasted well into the sixteenth century and during that time the proletarians would use whatever they could get their hands on, such as metal or wooden bands. As it is today, engagement rings became a status symbol and the very rich would have elaborate engagement rings designed with precious stones encrusted in them. Plain bands are still used today in certain countries mainly around Lutheran Europe.

As the feudal system began to dissolve through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the emergence of the merchant class or what is referred to today as the middle class, there was more money available and engagement rings became a more common place occurrence. During this period to be betrothed was a serious matter and it was not taken likely, as with many traditional values this has dissolved these days and divorce and broken engagements are commonplace.

Depending on where you live the laws differ around this subject. In certain states of the United States of America the ring is the property of the person giving it, as it represents a commitment to marry. If this is not honoured then the ring has to be returned to the donor irrelevant of who is seen to be at fault for the dissolution of the engagement. In other places it is understood that the ring is a gift and becomes legal property of the recipient after the donor has handed it over.

Engagement rings today take many forms however after a massive advertising campaign in the 1940s a leading diamond manufacturer basically said that you do not love your fiance unless you give her a diamond. This changed popular culture and now diamond solitaire engagement rings are the most popular. Other forms of engagement rings are birth stones, or precious stones, whose initials are an acronym for a message such as beloved, love or dearest.

The engagement ring is a symbol of love and intent to wed, many couples who do not believe in marriage will still wear rings on their fingers called commitment rings. This practice has survived over two millennia and countless empires and today engagement rings are big business, as it is not only a symbol of love but a status symbol.
About the Author
Dominic Donaldson is an expert on engagement rings and provides impartial advice on all aspects of the jewellery industry.
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