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Why Do We Wear Engagement Rings?

14 March 2017
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A diamond ring has become symbolic of an engagement and impending nuptials, but why?

Whether you and your partner have discussed and agreed that marriage is something you would like, or you are planning on surprising your beau with a destination proposal you have probably questioned why an engagement ring needs to be involved.


A diamond engagement ring has become a fairly recent phenomenon - before the 20th century different items were gifted to a future husband or wife in order to symbolise an engagement. For example, in the UK gold or silver was broken in half, and each person would keep a half. It was not until the 1870's when miners discovered diamonds in South Africa that they became prevalent within the jewellery industry.


The origin of the word diamond comes from ancient Greek αδ?μας (adámas) which translates to the words"unalterable" and "unbreakable" - the perfect adjectives when it comes to describing love. At the time, diamonds were thought to be the strongest material on earth, which meant giving your other half a diamond as a symbol of your love and devotion was a truly romantic gesture.


Wearing an engagement ring on the left hand isn't a world-wide custom

In Western countries such as the UK, America and some parts of Asia it is custom to wear their engagement ring on the ring finger of the left hand. However, traditional Indian practice dictates that the ring should be worn on the right hand as the left hand is considered unclean. This is also custom for Denmark, Norway, Russia, Poland, Spain and Greece.


Here are five myths about engagement rings and why we wear them.


5 Legends Surrounding Engagement Rings


Engagement Rings Were a Custom in Ancient Egypt

Engagement rings are the ultimate sentiment of love, and some people believe that the tradition of an engagement ring derived from Ancient Egypt 4,800 years ago. Engagement rings and wedding bands were made from reeds, sedges and papyrus. They were twisted and braided into handmade rings for women to wear. The circle shape was a symbol of eternity, and the hole in the centre of the ring signified never ending and immortal love for the woman wearing it. However, as these materials didn't last very long they were often replaced with engagement rings made from ivory, leather or bone. The more expensive the material of the engagement ring signified the wealth of the giver.


Engagement Rings Signified Ownership in 2000 BC Rome

Another mythology of the engagement ring dates back to 2nd Century Rome. An engagement ring was given to a soon-to-be bride in lieu of a money or a valuable object. This gift wasn't not a grand gesture of love, instead the betrothal ring was symbolic of ownership. Roman philosopher and author, Pliny the Elder stated that bride was gifted a gold ring to wear during the engagement ceremony and at formal events. Whilst the bride was at home she would wear an iron ring that symbolised the legal agreement of ownership.


The Ring Finger Holds the ‘Vena Amoris'

The phrase ‘vena amoris' is a Latin phrase that directly translates to ‘vein of love'. The ring finger on the left hand was also known as the ‘love finger' and this myth has various roots in history. Some people believe it dates back to the Ancient Egyptians, where they believed that an engagement ring worn on the ring finger would ignite eternal love.  However, the earliest documentation of the ‘vena amoris' was by Latin philosopher Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius in 395 - 423 AD. He believed the vein of love had magical properties. Henry Swinburne is also a well known reference for the ‘vena amoris' as he referenced this in "A Treatise of Spousal or Matrimonial Contracts" in 1686. Whilst the vein of love has been disproven it is still a popular choice to wear a wedding ring on the ring finger of the left hand.


Engagement Rings Should Cost 3 Months Salary

Some people say you should spend between one to three months' wages on an engagement ring, and when the average salary earned in the UK is £28,000, which means that the average spent on an engagement ring falls anywhere between £1750 - £5250. This ideology was created by diamond cartel DeBeers in 1939. Their ad shaped the future of the diamond engagement ring industry. After it was revealed that George Clooney allegedly spent £450,000 on Amal's engagement ring it begged the question of whether that ring really mirrored a month to three month's salary. So, spend one month's, three months' or two weeks salary on an engagement ring. As long as it is done with love the cost shouldn't really matter.  


The First Diamond Ring was Given in 1477

The first recorded gift of diamond engagement ring was recorded in 1477. Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a diamond engagement ring comprised of thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an "M." If you lived a wealthy and affluent lifestyle, giving a gemstone to your betrothed would symbolise this.


Have a look at our stunning diamond engagement rings here.