How far back do you think the history of what we know as “the engagement ring” goes? The 1950s? The Victorian area? The engagement ring, it turns out, appears as far back as the first civilizations. Read on to learn about some key moments in the evolution of this symbol of devotion.
Both the Ancient Egyptians and Imperial Romans wore rings on their left hand to symbolize a commitment to matrimony. Egyptians wore a thin wire wrapped around the third finger of the left hand, whereas Romans wore rings of iron or gold on the fourth finger. These fingers were believed to be directly connected to the heart by veins. While this romantic notion turned out to be anatomically inaccurate, the tradition of wearing an engagement ring on the left hand persists to this day.
If you’re the proud wearer of a diamond engagement ring, you have Archduke Maximilian of Austria to thank. In 1477, the Archduke proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a gold ring inlaid with diamonds that spelled out the first initial of her name. While engagement rings with bejeweled initials are an uncommon sight these days, diamonds are easily the most popular gem for engagement rings.
In the 1600s and 1700s, posie rings (also called poesy rings) were the reigning trend. These were simple silver or gold bands engraved with lines of poetry on the inside and outside of the ring. Today, simple and elaborate rings alike are often engraved with romantic messages or the couple’s names.
The 1920s marked a singular stylistic era for engagement rings. Reflective of the art and architecture of the period, engagement rings during the Jazz Age were usually silver, with angular, stylized shapes and tiny gems creating geometric patterns.
The Classic Look
Starting in the 1950s, what we’ve come to think of as a traditional engagement ring gained popularity. Diamond distributor De Beers made the solitaire diamond setting the must-have style for wedding jewelry, and it has never gone out of fashion, though, occasionally, other precious gems have become trendy, as when Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring became all the rage in the 90s.
Everyone has an opinion about the Kardashians, but one undeniable fact is their influence on current fashion trends. Kim Kardashian’s 15-carat diamond engagement ring from Kanye West has made the cushion cut one of the hottest engagement ring trends of the 2010s. Princess cuts and unconventional shapes like hearts are also big among newly-engaged couples of today.
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