The engagement ring is one of the most widespread customs around the world to symbolize the love between two people. But where does this tradition come from?
Our world is filled with traditions and symbols that, although having distant roots, continue to be perpetuated to bring us closer to those who came before us. Festivities are an integral part of our daily lives, allowing us to escape from routine, just as carnivals were a way to escape boredom in the Middle Ages. Weddings are among the most intense and universal celebrations.
The symbol of an eternal union
The victory of love between two people, united forever (at least in theory) to perpetuate the species, is celebrated around the world. From the casinos of Las Vegas to the most remote tribes of South America, there are a multitude of rites surrounding the union of a couple. And one of the most famous traditions is the presentation of an engagement ring, usually given by the groom, which seals the commitment.
The origins of this custom go back to antiquity, although some sources also mention the existence of engagement rings among the Egyptians. However, the earliest evidence comes from ancient Rome. It is known that in the second century B.C., the Roman bride was given two rings: one made of gold, which she was to wear in public, and one made of iron, which she was to wear at home when she was engaged in household duties. The privilege of wearing gold rings was later extended to other people, such as officials, knights, freeborns and finally freedmen. The Romans also gave a name to the vein connecting the hand to the heart, calling it precisely vena amoris or vein of love.
The mystery of the origin of the engagement ring
Information on the evolution of this tradition is scarce, but some documents give us clues. In 860, Pope Nicholas I wrote a letter to Boris I of Bulgaria, describing the differences between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox practices. He mentioned how in the former, a man traditionally gave an engagement ring to his bride. In fact, the first well-documented use of an engagement ring (in this case, a diamond ring) dates back to 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave one to Mary of Burgundy.
The Book of Common Prayer, used in the Anglican Communion, designated the left hand as the hand of marriage (and the third finger as the official ring finger). However, the diamond ring does not have as long a history as one might imagine. After Maximilian of Austria, Queen Victoria also made them popular, but during the Great Depression, they fell somewhat out of fashion and it was even said in the United States that engagement rings were out of fashion among young people.
The revival of diamond rings through advertising
Curiosities and evolutions
Although engagement rings are predominantly worn by women, there was a time when the Christian church encouraged the exchange of wedding rings to preserve the fidelity of men. In the United States, double rings became popular during World War II, when soldiers wore them as a reminder of their loved ones back home (this trend continued during the Korean War for the same reason). Today, all over the world, engagement rings are not just fashion accessories or ways to keep couples engaged and attached, but rather outward symbols of a love that should hopefully be as lasting as a diamond.
My name is Maggie and I'm a writer for thesilverink.com, a website dedicated to news, culture and lifestyle. I have always been passionate about writing and I decided to make it my profession by becoming a web editor. I work on counterpoint.info and I mainly take care of the lifestyle section. I like to share my discoveries and my favorites with the readers, whether it's about fashion, beauty, decoration or gastronomy.