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history of wedding engagement ring

History Of Wedding And Engagement Ring

Few items with jewelry are as ubiquitous as wedding and engagement rings. As heirloom pieces are often passed down from generation to generation, diamond wedding rings have been a tradition for centuries. But of course, the history of wedding engagement ring is much more complicated than that, and diamond engagement rings are far more modern than you may realize.


No one knows for sure when using rings to symbolize marriage first began, but there’s little doubt that they’ve been used for thousands of years. 

Many historians believe that around 3,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians utilized braided hemp or reed rings, with the circle of the ring acting as a symbol of love between a man and a woman.

In this article, we will discuss the following:

  • The Roman Marriage And Wedding Ring
  • History Of Wedding And Engagement Ring
  • Why Wear Wedding Rings On The Finger Of Left Hands?
  • What Kind Of Wedding Rings Are People Wearing?

The Roman Marriage And Wedding Ring

Roman marriage
history of wedding engagement ring

Ancient Roman society had three different kinds of marriages. 

Lusus was an informal relationship between two people of the lowest classes. Coemptio was a marriage where the bride was bought and sold by her husband and father. The closest Roman equivalent to modern-day marriages was Confarreatio, and only the most elite classes of people were allowed to participate. It was also the only legal form of marriage in Roman society. 

In “usus” and “free” marriages, the groom presented a ring to his bride, usually made of iron, which was a very valuable metal at the time. These were the first metal wedding rings. 

But where the Egyptians used rings as a symbol of never-ending love, the Roman wedding rings were more like a shackle. Some historians believe that the use of rings in Roman ceremonies indicated that the wife was now the property of her husband. Very, very unromantic.

History Of Wedding And Engagement Ring

Throughout the centuries, different societies had their own take on wedding rings. In the Middle East, complex puzzle rings were a popular token of love. 

Puzzle rings are made of several different bands that, when combined correctly, form one unified band. Married Europeans during the 15th and 16th centuries wore something similar called a gimel ring. The bride and groom would exchange bands upon engagement, and then at the wedding, both rings were combined into one for the bride to wear.

In the Renaissance, Posey rings were exchanged. “Posey” is an archaic word for poem, and these rings were engraved with, of course, love. 

And what about a symbol as a symbol that rhymes? Puritan immigrants in early America gave thimbles to their brides as a show of humility. Even then, the ring found a way. 

Many women would cut the top off of the thimble, thus creating a band. But they still had it better than their Puritan cousins in Commonwealth England, where the religiously conservative parliament banned wedding rings due to their heathenish origin.

You may have noticed most of these historical reading exchanges were from men to women. In fact, men had traditionally worn wedding bands until relatively recently in the West. The shift happened around World War Two, when men who were sent out to fight chose to wear the rings to remind them of their wives and families back home. 

Through the rest of the 20th century, it became more socially acceptable for men to wear jewelry. They leaned into it in the 1970s, which meant more and more men decided to wear wedding rings alongside their beautiful brides.

Why Wear Wedding Rings On The Finger Of Left Hands?

Have you ever wondered why we wear wedding rings on the ring finger of our left hands? There are several different answers for this. 

Some people believe it started again with the Egyptians. The idea that there’s a vein running from the fourth finger of your left hand to your heart, the vena amoris or vein of love, has been popular for centuries. But that idea came from a second-century historian named Apeon of Alexandria, and the tale spread from there. 

In 1549, The Book of Common Prayer and newly Protestant England stipulated that the wedding ring be placed upon the fourth finger of the woman’s left hand. Why? Because Catholics were wearing rings on the right hand, and Protestants of this era wanted the opposite of whatever Catholics did. 

Of course, different religions have different traditions. In Jewish ceremonies, the ring goes on the index finger, and Islamic and Hindu weddings may not even use a ring at all. 

But today, many people in the West wear their wedding rings on the fourth finger of their left hand regardless of religion.

What Kind Of Wedding Rings Are People Wearing?

And what kind of rings are people wearing? If you looked at the hand of pretty much any married woman you know, the answer is diamonds. But have you ever wondered why? The answer is twofold. 

In the late 19th century, a huge diamond deposit was discovered in South Africa, and the powerful De Beers Corporation essentially took control of the diamond industry for decades. 

But sometimes, getting people to buy the diamonds was a little trickier. That’s where advertising stepped in. De Beers hired the ad agency N.W. Ayer, and in 1947, copywriter Frances Gerety came up with a tagline that you’ve heard before: “A Diamond is Forever.”

So a diamond engagement ring isn’t a centuries-old tradition but rather a combination of ancient symbolism, 16th-century Protestant doctrine, 19th-century industrial colonialism, and 20th-century advertising genius. Pretty complicated history for such a small piece of jewelry! 

Conclusion On History Of Wedding Engagement Ring

In conclusion, the history of wedding engagement ring is a rich and fascinating one, spanning thousands of years and countless cultures. From ancient Rome to the modern day, these rings have symbolized love, commitment, and fidelity, and have played a central role in the rituals and traditions surrounding marriage. Have you ever given someone a thimble as an engagement ring? How did that work out for you?

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