Knowledge Center » Engagement Guide » History and Lore
The practice of sealing the marriage contract with a ring is a time-honored tradition, dating back to ancient times. The predecessor to today's engagement rings, however, wouldn't have turned many heads: a simple iron hoop was de rigeur in early Roman times, followed by a plain gold band some centuries later. The significance of the ring was its symbolism, with its never-ending circular shape, an abstract representation of eternity.
Diamonds were first discovered in India 6,000 years ago and were prized by cultures throughout the world for their beauty and rarity; many believed them to possess magical powers. Kings wore diamonds as a symbol of strength and courage. Early societies were particularly impressed with the hardness of diamond; the name diamond comes from the Greek word "adamas," meaning unconquerable. Such an attribute made it the perfect choice to represent the marriage bond.
However, it was the 15th century before brides-to-be could look forward to a little sparkle on their ring fingers; and then, only if they were among the royalty, or very wealthy. The first recorded incidence of a diamond engagement ring was that given to Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg in 1477. History tells us that they were walking down the aisle in less than 24 hours.
A custom inherited by the Romans, the betrothal rings were worn on the third finger of the left hand. This practice came from the Ancient Egyptians belief that the vena amoris (the vein of love) leads from that finger directly to one's heart.
The wealth generated by the Industrial Revolution, coupled with newly discovered diamond mines in Kimberly, South Africa in 1867, made diamonds instantly more affordable and accessible to the wider public. Later in 1886, Tiffany introduced the six-prong solitaire diamond engagement ring as the gift of love and the symbol of everlasting romance.
The practice of offering an engagement ring, a gem whose purity and brilliance symbolizes everlasting love, is now in your hands. Follow your heart and make your own tradition something special.
Wishing you all the best on this momentous occasion.