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Which Came First: The Engagement Ring Or The Wedding Ring?

Posted Monday, April 03, 2017

If you guessed the wedding ring, you were correct! The tradition of the ring to symbolize a special bond between two people has dated back since the Egyptian times, 4800 years ago. Back then, the rings were braided and formed with reeds. These rings would not last long and were eventually replaced with strands of leather, bone or ivory. Through the years, the circular shape has maintained its same meaning since. It is a sign of the never-ending love and commitment between two individuals.

Later on, the Romans added a new material to the mix when they decided to make their rings out of iron and engrave them. The origin of the engagement ring came to be in the Third century in the shape of a key made out of brass, bronze or iron. The idea of the key ring was to unlock a new life for the woman. Some of the rings indeed opened up jewelry boxes with beautiful treasures inside.

A more traditional engagement ring style (more similar to rings you see today) made its way to the stage in the 15th century and was first worn by royal families. Brides in the upper class were given engagement rings with hidden messages. For example, a ring with a diamond and a ruby displayed would stand for commitment and passion.

Fast-forward to the Eighteenth century and you will spot the beginning of the Diamond Age. As diamonds in Brazil became more accessible for the upper classes, so did their popularity. It also was at this time that a second ring (aka a wedding band) was united with the engagement ring at the time of the ceremony. One of the lead trendsetters, Queen Charlotte, wife of George III of England, opted to nestle a diamond band with her engagement ring.

Fun Facts:

  • The earliest and smallest engagement ring was given to Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. She was two years old at the time.
  • The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany (1459-1519) proposed to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) and offered her a diamond to seal his vow. (So guys, you now know who to blame!)
  • The most popular month for engagement? December.
  • In 1886, the Tiffany setting took the engagement ring by storm. The design’s creator, Charles Lewis Tiffany, knew the importance of a diamond engagement ring and wished for a stage to display its prominence and symbolism of love.
  • Today, in Norway, Russia, Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand and not the left. In Jewish tradition, the groom places the ring on the bride’s index finger, and not the "ring” finger at all.

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By Lesa Catt
My name is Lesa, owner at Gold Definitions Inc. and I would love to share my personal story with you. I have been fortunate to do what I love for over 26 years, a bench jeweler (jewelry repair). I completed my jewelry repair training in 7 years—setting stones and refurbishing worn jewelry to make it look brand new again.

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