Why do ladies more often receive diamond engagement rings to indicate the beginning of a relationship than any other type of acknowledgment? And why don’t men get a diamond ring too? That would, after all , be only fair in these days of equality for all.
By some estimates, as many as 80 percent of brides get a diamond engagement ring before their marriage. In reality a diamond is still what most ladies expect. And in spite of price fluctuations, changing fashion sensibilities and the proliferation of non-traditional proposals and wedding ceremonies, diamond jewelry hasn’t fallen out of favor.
But where does the custom of the diamond engagement ring come from? We have some answers.
The History Of Engagement Rings
Diamond engagement rings have been used as symbols of commitment since ancient times. The Egyptians recognised the symbolism of a circle representing the everlasting cycles of life. And Greeks and Romans used betrothal rings through their ancient history too. In reality it could have been the Greeks who first used them.
Roman rings once included a small key as a part of the ring to symbolize the key to a man’s heart or the unlocking of wealth. Of course, they also thought of the rings more as representative of ownership than of love.
The Egyptians are believed to have started the custom of the ring being worn on the 4th finger of the left hand because they believed there was a vein in that finger that led directly to the heart.
The first known use of a diamond engagement ring was by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477. When he became engaged to Mary of Burgundy, a diamond ring was given to her. The concept did not instantly catch on , however , since diamonds were scarce and expensive. As late as Colonial American times, something much more common — a thimble — was used to indicate the start of a relationship.
When diamond mines were discovered in Africa 1870, however, diamonds were no longer as scarce. They became available around the world and prices became more reasonable. Then, the trend towards diamond engagement rings truly started to take off — and it’s a trend that hasn’t faded.
But What About Men?
Some think engagement rings are sexist because men are expected to get one but don’t receive a similar token in exchange. But that is not always the case any longer. In some non-Western nations, it never was the case.
It is also no longer unusual for couples to buy rings for each other to symbolize their mutual commitment. So what’s a man to do when he suggests marriage to be sure he isn’t being sexist and is offering his wife-to-be what’s in style today?
That is a straightforward call. While there might be new customs and new trends that come along each day, a lovely, custom-made diamond ring isn’t the wrong choice. Engagement rings are now not limited in metal or style and there is no limitation on what stones can accompany the diamond in the setting.
Unless the lady is involved in the making of her engagement ring, a man’s best bet is to choose a diamond engagement ring of one kind or another. It’s probably what his fiance is expecting — and she has decades of history & custom on her side. Then, she can buy him a symbol of her love later if she wants.
Petra Bierberg is owner of Petra Jewellery Design and manufactures engagement rings in South Africa. She also writes about engagement rings, wedding rings and other customs related to marriages, in an attempt to help both men & woman navigate this complicated time of their lives with grace & style.
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