History of Engagement Rings
The tradition of giving a ring for marriage purposes appears to be as old as humanity itself. The cavemen would tie bands woven out of grass onto the wrists, ankles and waists of their mates. There is indication that ancient Egyptians used rings for marriage purposes as well.
The rings were initially made out of hemp, leather, bone, ivory, etc., and eventually out of precious metals. The early Egyptians were found buried wearing rings fashioned out of a single silver or gold wire. They were worn on the left ring finger, because the Egyptians believed that the ring finger contained the "vein of love"" that led to the heart. In the Bible, Abraham's servant, Eliezer, gave Rebekkah a gold nose ring and two gold armbands upon meeting her at the well to signify his master's desire for her to become his son Isaac's bride."
The ancient Greeks continued the tradition of engagement rings, although their rings were not required to be given before marriage. Their rings were made out of iron, copper, silver and eventually gold. The giving of a ring was eventually adopted by the Romans, however they were not always used for marriage purposes, but sometimes to signify affection and friendship. In the 2nd century B.C., the Roman brides were often given two rings, one made of gold, to be worn in public, and another one made of iron, to be worn at home, while doing chores. The Romans followed the ancient tradition of wearing it on the left ring finger, and named the vein of love as Ã¯Â¿Â½Vena AmorisÃ¯Â¿Â½. Some Roman men would give their fiancÃ¯Â¿Â½s rings with an engraving of a small key on them, believed to be the key to their husbandsÃ¯Â¿Â½ hearts. According to other sources, the rings held actual keys to the house.
In the first century of B.C., puzzle rings began appearing in Asia, then spread to the Arab world, where sultans and sheiks used them to keep track of their many wives. The puzzle rings would fall apart when taken off, and can only be put back together by the ring's creator, so the husband be able to tell if the wife had taken the ring off to be disloyal.
Similarly, in the Middle Ages, the husbands would insist that their wives wear their rings at all times, especially if the husbands were away on a long journey or fighting in a war. When the husband returned and saw the ring on the wife's finger, it would prove that she had been loyal to him.
During the time of the Renaissance, Poesy Rings became extremely popular in Europe. These rings had a love poem or message inscribed on the inside. In fact, Shakespeare often mentioned them in his writings. Upon engagement, a silver betrothal poesy ring would be given to the bride; it was replaced with an identical poesy ring in gold following marriage. The poesy ring was used in English, French, Gaelic, Latin, Christian, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, and Spanish traditions.
In colonial America, circa 1600, the Puritans tried to abolish the tradition of a wedding ring, since they shunned jewelry as having no moral value. At that time, some brides-to-be received thimbles instead of engagement rings. After the wedding, the bottom part of the thimble would be taken off, leaving a thin band on the finger that resembled a wedding band.
Engagement Rings around the World
Engagement rings don't always have to be worn on the finger. In the Hindu tradition, women wear toe rings, or "bichiya"" to describe their newly engaged status. These toe rings are traditionally made out of silver because gold is a respected material and cannot be worn below the waist."
In West Bengal, women are offered iron bangle bracelets that are plated with silver or gold as a sign of love and commitment. Romanian couples exchange silver anniversary bands on their 25th or silver anniversary. They then wear it together with their gold wedding bands. Russian and French women may sport rings made out 3 bands of white, yellow, and rose gold intertwined together.