Engagement rings, trends and traditions around the world

What does an engagement ring mean to you?

I think it’s an interesting question, because falling in love, getting engaged (and walking down the aisle) means something different to each of us. And your engagement jewellery should reflect this.

So, if you are just engaged, getting engaged, think the question is coming – or giving not so subtle hints it should be! – I thought you might enjoy a little slice of engagement history, traditions and jewellery ideas.

It’s all a bit of fun. But it may just help you and your partner discover, “What do we really want our engagement ring to symbolise?”

Who invented engagement rings?

In an odd way, ‘engagement rings’ have been around since the days when man arrived on the back of a woolly mammoth to collect his a lovely date:

  • Cavemen tied braided grass cords around the wrists, ankles and waist of his chosen mate, to bring her spirit under his control. Sacré bleu, he had a lot to learn!
  • The ancient Egyptians understood that a little romance was the way to a woman’s heart. They wore silver or gold wire rings on the third finger of their left hands, connecting it directly to the heart along the vena amoris (vein of love).
  • In the early centuries A.D, the Romans made brass, iron or bronze key engagement rings that represented the bride now sharing her husband’s possessions. Now we’re talking!
  • Over the centuries, keys were replaced by precious gemstones. And in the 1700s, diamonds, rubies and emeralds became the engagement and marriage bling of royalty.

How did diamond engagement rings become all the rage?

In 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria was the first man to pop the question using a diamond engagement ring.  The apple of his eye, Mary of Burgundy, took one look at that sparkling rock and squealed “Oh yes!” before he could finish his sentence.

Ok, it may not have been quite that quick and easy for Max, but a tradition was born. However, diamonds were still only affordable for the super wealthy for another 250 years.

Who made diamonds a girl’s best friend forever?

In the 1930s, diamonds flooded the market and the prices really dropped. Then, in the 1947, De Beers ran the famous ad campaign, “A Diamond is Forever”, portraying diamonds as the ultimate symbol of love. And a few years later, Marilyn Monroe told the world what every woman knew about diamonds.

For the next 50 years, few men in the West wooed himself a wife without her best friend moving in too.

We love diamond engagement rings, and they are still the most popular rings amongst brides-to-be.

At the same time, beautiful coloured gemstone engagement rings and antique engagement rings are classical, personal and very affordable options that are gaining in popularity.

Love shows in many forms

 When we talk about engagement jewellery in Australia, we tend to think about a sparkling ring on a woman’s finger.  But there’s no reason you can’t create something unique to symbolise your relationship, or borrow ideas from other cultures.

Traditional rings

In Ireland, Claddagh rings can be worn as engagement rings.  The hands represent friendship and the heart represents love. Worn on the left hand ring finger with the heart facing outward means you’re engaged. Once you get married, you turn it so the heart faces inward.

Jewellery for the body

You don’t have to wear a ring on your finger. Hindi women wear engagement rings (bichhiyas) on the second toe of each foot, where there’s a nerve that connects to the uterus and passes through the heart. They believe it increasing their chances of conceiving children. Bengalese women wear iron bangle bracelets, usually plated in gold or silver.

Engagement rings for women and men

In Scandinavia, men and women exchange simple gold engagement bands to wear on the right hand ring finger. What a lovely way to symbolise the beginning of life together. On their wedding day, they move them to the left hand ring fingers. Occasionally, a man will also give his wife a small diamond ring the morning after the wedding.

What’s really important?

When you ask yourself, “What do I want my engagement ring, or jewellery, to mean?” focus on what’s most important first. Not the size, price, bling or brag factor.

Choose or create something that both now, and in years to come, embodies that unique love, passion and devotion you and your partner share.

And if you need une petite romantique French inspiration, ideas or advice, you can always visit me at the studio.

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