An engagement ring symbolizes the promise to marry someone. But where does this tradition come from?
Engagement rings – history
It was Pope Stephan I. who supposedly initiated the engagement ring tradition. He was a strong advocate of the indissolubility of marriage and urged men to gift their future wife a ring as an additional confirmation of their imminent marriage.
During the Roman Antiquity and the middle ages, engagement rings symbolized that a woman’s dowry had been received. At the time, rings were made of iron.
The first known diamond engagement ring was given to Maria of Burgundy in 1477 by her future husband, the archduke Maximilian I. of Habsburg.
Engagement rings in the 20th century
In the 20thcentury it became a common custom to propose with a golden engagement ring. What many don’t know is that this tradition partly stems from an advertising campaign initiated by the diamond producer De Beers. In 1947, the copywriter Francis Gerety wrote the slogan “A diamond is forever” – a claim that is still widely known and often quoted until today. Gerety’s “A diamond is forever” became one of the most famous slogans of advertising history. Roughly two decades after, 80 % of US women wore golden engagement rings adorned with a diamond.
In Germany and Austria, engagement rings were often worn by women as well as men in the 20thcentury. This trend experiences a new upturn in the 21stcentury.
Engagement rings today
Today, engagement rings are not only a symbol of the promise to marry but also of the unique relationship between two individuals. While traditions and customs still serve as guidelines, engagement rings have never been more individualized than today: Personal style gets more and more important.
Even the traditions on what hand and even what finger engagement rings are worn are often newly interpreted. Traditionally, engagement rings are worn on the left ring finger in Germany and Austria. After the wedding, the engagement ring is then stacked over the wedding band on the right ring finger. However, nowadays many women decide to wear both their rings on the left hand.
Compared to the USA, the investments into engagement rings are still relatively low in European countries. However, the impact of American movies where ecstatically smiling actresses are being presented huge sparkling rings also have their impact on the European market: more and more couples follow the American model and invest up to three salaries into a perfect engagement ring.
Did you know that ...
… it was believed for a long time that there was a vein leading from the left ring finger directly to the heart? Hence, engagement rings were worn on this finger.
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