History of Wedding and Engagement Rings

Giving and Exchanging Rings

The giving of engagement and wedding rings are symbols of devotion,  faithfulness and love.   The giving of a wedding and engagement ring  for marriage is still so very popular that today and it has grown to be a multi-million dollar business.   The complete history of  ring giving is not known, however, there are records that it was practiced as long as 4800 years ago by the Ancient Egyptians.  At that time It,  seems that in Egypt  rushes and reeds were braided into circular rings and put on the fingers of the women as ornaments.

Putting Silver Ring on Her Finger preview imageIn many cultures the circle of the ring ( having no beginning or end) has been considered a symbol of eternity; a symbol of eternal love.  The hole in the centre of the ring has also carried  significance.  It symbolises a gateway or door leading to events in the couple’s future life and the unseen joys and even the hidden sorrows they will share in love together.

It didn’t take long before the easily damaged and easily worn out rings made of reeds and rushes were replaced by longer lasting rings made of  leather, bone or ivory.   The rings also were made of increasingly more expensive materials to symbolize and demonstrate the greatness of the love the giver had for his love.   An expensive ring also symbolized the social status of the giver.

In the second century BC, the Roman bride-to-be was given two rings, a gold one which she wore in public, and one made of iron which she wore at home while attending to household duties.  At one time Roman citizens wore rings made of iron. In later years senators who served as ambassadors were given gold seal rings for official use when abroad. Later the privilege of wearing gold rings was extended to other public officials, then to the knights, later to all freeborn, and finally under Justinian, to freedmen. For several centuries it was the custom for Romans to wear iron rings at home, gold rings in public. During this period a girl or woman might receive two engagement rings, one of iron and one of gold.

Maximillian and Mary of Burgandy

Maximillian and Mary of Burgandy

The first well-documented use of a diamond ring to signify engagement was by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in imperial court of Vienna in 1477 AD.  The diamond ring was given upon his betrothal to Mary of Burgundy.   This event influenced those of higher social class and of significant wealth to give diamond rings to their loved ones.

The early Christians didn’t incorporate the wedding ring into their marriage ceremonies as symbols of love and commitment until late in the 19th century.    At first these rings were often grandiose and  highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres, or two linked hands.   The church leaders discouraged the use of such flamboyant bands calling them proud, ostentatious and heathen and so under pressure of church leaders by the late 19th century they had become to be much simplified.

During the Protestant reformation the wedding ring replaced the betrothal ring as the primary ring associated with marriage.  In Catholic countries the transition took place somewhat later.  Now, in the 21st Century, especially within Western civilization, it has become a common expectation for the bride-to-be to permanently wear her ring as a means of showing her commitment.

The price for an engagement or wedding ring varies considerably depending on the materials used and the design of the ring.  Rings including gemstones are more expensive.   The price of the gemstones, if any, in the ring depends on the type and quality of the gem.  Diamonds have values according to their carat weight, color, clarity and cut.  Other gemstones, such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds, have different systems.  Synthetic stones and diamond substitutes such as cubic zirconias, differing and  very beautiful stones can today be obtained at a much reduced price from reputable jewelers .  At the same time, today there is a fantastic range of choices of exquisitely beautiful stones that can be purchased for people who want something ‘really classy’. bendedknee22222

A request for marriage while on bended knee is symbolic of the commitment of one’s own life to another person.  The proposal being on bended knee also allows the hands of the partner to be at eye level making it easy to place a ring on the finger and allowing for optimal light.   Most women no doubt prefer this romantic gesture of kneeling which puts the woman in an exalted position and creating the feeling of respect and gratitude for her honour.

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