The Engagement Ring

It used to be when a man wanted to get married, he would give his intended’s family something of great value as a sign of his wish to marry her. If the woman accepted his gift, it signified their pledge to marry and it was considered a legally binding contract. In ancient times, the betrothal gift was of a more practical nature, usually livestock, fabrics, herbs, spices, arid land; something the family could actually use. The Greeks are credited with beginning the tradition of the betrothal (or engagement) ring. The groom-to-be presented a ring to his intended as a promise of marriage.

Early Roman engagement rings were simple bands with a carved key. There are two theories surrounding this particular style. The romantic version states that the key was to "unlock" her husband’s heart. The more practical version was that the key represented the wife’s ownership of her husband’s estate. When a Roman woman married, she received half of her husband’s wealth,

In 860 A.D., Pope Nicholas I ordained that an engagement ring was a requirement as a statement of nuptial intent. He insisted that they be made of gold to show financial sacrifice on the part of the prospective husband,

In Renaissance Italy, silver became a popular metal for engagement and wedding rings. These rings were often very ornate and inlaid with niello, a method of decorating metal objects with engraving techniques. An alloy of silver, copper, lead and sulfur is rubbed into an engraved pattern on silver or gold and then fired. Darkened areas remained in the crevices after the object is polished.

Elaborate engagement rings of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and other precious gems became commonplace among the wealthy. Many rings would feature a group of stones to spell out a sentimental word. For example, if one wanted to spell out LOVE on their ring, they would use Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Verde Antique and Emerald, Some husbands-to-be would have a ring fashioned featuring his and his fiance’s birthstones. Since the color blue symbolized purity and fidelity, Sapphire engagement rings were quite popular, especially during the Victorian era.

The ancient Greeks believed the fire of the diamond reflected the flame of love, while the Romans thought diamonds to be splinters from falling stars that tipped the arrows of Eros, the god of love. In the Middle Ages, these gems were looked upon as charms that had the power to enhance the love between a husband and a wife. However, diamonds were quite rare and only the wealthy could afford them.

The tradition of giving a diamond engagement ring began in 1477 with the Archduke Maximilllan of Austria, who presented his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, with a simple gold band with a diamond. Since diamonds are the hardest, natural substance in nature, it was considered an appropriate symbol of enduring love. From that time forward, the royal tradition of giving a diamond engagement ring began to be embraced by people around the world,

In the 1939, a brilliant: advertising campaign by the De Beers Company, the world’s largest miner and marketer of diamonds, made the diamond THE engagement ring to have and the only socially correct option.

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