Engagement Rings: a history

Signifying a commitment to marry with a ring is second nature to to-be-weds, but where did the tradition originate, and are colourful gems better than diamonds? We find out…

It is believed that the tradition of wearing an engagement ring originated from a Roman custom, which saw ladies wear rings attached to keys to signify their intention to commit to marriage. The rings were often made from twisted copper or braided hair and were worn on the third finger of the left hand, the finger which Roman’s believed carried a vein (the vena amorous) straight do the heard.

Diamonds are no longer the sole choice for engagement rings.

The rings, however, were given as a sign of affection or friendship, not necessarily indicating a commitment to marriage.In 1215, Pope Innocent III, announced that there was a waiting period between a betrothal and the marriage ceremony – rings were used to show a couple’s commitment during this period.

The First Engagement Ring

The world’s first ever recorded commission for a diamond engagement ring dates back to 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria ask for a bespoke ring to be made for his wife – Mary of Burgundy. It was set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of his wife’s first initial, ‘M’. Cute.

Diamonds in Rings

The earliest diamonds were found in India in the 4th century BC; then in 1729, diamonds were found in Brazil in 1729. Over a century later – sometime between late 1866 and early 1867 – Erasmus Jacobs discovered South Africa’s first ever diamond; and soon afterwards, South Africa’s first diamond mine opened. Although it saw a huge increase in the commercial supply of diamonds, it wasn’t until the 1930s that diamond engagement rings became popular. Not only were they considered beautiful, as they still are today, but they were known to be the world’s most durable precious stone, which made them the perfect choice for an engagement ring.

Today’s Engagement Ring

Times move on, and so too do trends. According to jeweller Catherine Best, diamonds are no longer the sole choice for engagement rings. In fact, sparkling colourful gemstones are becoming increasingly popular:”More and more, couples are looking for truly unique engagement rings, and many are opting for dazzling, coloured gemstones.”

Catherine Best has a luxurious selection of both diamond and coloured gemstone rings to suit all tastes. Discover the full collection at catherinebest.com.

Your Engagement Stories

Do you have an engagement story to share? What does your engagement ring look like? Do share your stories – we’d love to hear from you. Tweet us or send us an email.

What do you think? (5 seconds feedback)

We'd love to hear you thoughts about this article. It takes less than 5 seconds but helps us a lot!