Engagement Rings & Wedding Bands – Where did it all begin?

March 4, 2016


No matter what era of history, all engagement and wedding rings have one shared element  – the perfect circle through which the finger is slipped. At its heart, an engagement ring symbolizes eternity, a love that has a beginning but has no ending.

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When any person imagines an engagement ring, what usually comes to mind is a simple gold band with a white round diamond at its center. This iconic image, featured everywhere from emoticons to bachelorette party decorations,  is called a solitaire. But where did it all begin? It was only natural that once humans learned how to master the art of metalworking that they would make a perfect circle for the finger. The ancient Egyptians started the tradition of wearing a ring for weddings. It was always worn on the third finger of the left hand to show a marriage that was close to the heart. The left hand was associated with a woman who was expected to have an unwavering dedication to her spouse.

Marriage rings of the Greeks and Romans also featured center stones and there were rings that had them back then that are commonly found in the modern era.  Two very different styles that were extremely popular from marriages at that time. The first one we are very familiar with – the simple gold wedding band or the unadorned metal band. The other motif is less known. Roman rings often-featured two hands clasped together. Sometimes this was incorporated into the band and other times the image of hands holding each other was carved into a center charm often accompanied by an inscription, the idea being the couple would hold hands for eternity.

For a long time, Christianity viewed wedding rings as a slightly pagan idea before fully embracing them in ceremonies. When they did, they often followed in the path of ancient rings, and were made of gold, iron and bronze.

During all these eras, diamonds used for decorating rings was not uncommon but they were different from the ones we covet now since they were often raw, uncut stones. Many ancient Romans believed that diamonds were the shards from falling stars. However, with the discovery of the mines in Africa, diamonds became as numerous as the stars in the heavens and began being used in all rings.

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Prior to the mid-19th century rings often featured sapphires, rubies and birthstones as center stones before diamonds became more widely available. In Europe, broken rings were considered a bad omen so there was a considerable amount of effort put into making them the earthly representation of an unbreakable bond. Gold is one of the most precious metals in existence and gold was used to show that couples had made a serious investment in their relationship. Diamonds fit right into that mindset.

The modern diamond engagement ring takes all of this in account and lets people get creative with that rich history. The modern does not symbolize someone who has been taken. It symbolizes someone who is shared. It is a perfect circle of love.