A Little Bit of Engagement Ring History

If you think about it, the most important piece of wedding jewelry you’ll wear probably won’t be one you choose yourself. We’re talking about your engagement ring! We know that not every bride will wear – or even have – an engagement ring, but in most circles it’s still a must-have.

But why a ring, anyway?

When you go back far enough in history, brides wore wedding rings as part of their bridal jewlery and beyond but only on and after the wedding day. Historians think that the Romans were the first culture to practice giving a ring to signal one’s intention to marry, but their custom didn’t catch worldwide on until much later. The Ancient Greeks had their own version of the engagement ring, but the giving of these rings wasn’t necessarily linked to betrothal.

It was only in medieval times, in 1215 if you want to get specific, that engagement rings became a part of the lasting lexicon of matrimony. That was the year that Pope Innocent III declared a mandatory waiting period between a couple’s engagement and the wedding ceremony. And there was nothing like a ring to show that a bride-to-be was off the market. Not that you or I would recognize these rings as engagement rings by design.

If you’re wondering when ‘modern’ engagement rings hit the scene, you’d have to jump forward to the 1400s – and then visit a wealthy family with a wedding in the near future because the practice was typically limited to high society. It’s in this century that you’d start to see engagement rings with precious gems like emeralds, sapphires, or diamonds.

Today, engagement rings are still a traditional part of the betrothal process, but the common diamond solitaire isn’t the mainstay it once was. Sapphire engagement rings, the perfect complement to blue wedding jewelry, have been popular ever since Princess Diana’s day and are modish again thanks to the divine Kate M. Semi-precious stones and lab gems like moissanite give buyers more bang for their bucks. And some couples are replacing rings with necklaces, watches, and other alternatives!

What’s YOUR engagement ring history? Did you help shop for your own or was it a surprise? Are you even wearing an engagement ring?