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The Evolution of The Engagement Ring

vintage diamond engagement ring
photo credit: DeKaraDesigns on Etsy

Are you married? Take a look at your left hand (or right hand if you’re in some European countries). Chances are, there are two rings on your finger. One that you got the day you were married. And another that you’re beloved gave you prior – when they asked you to be theirs. Most of us call that an engagement ring. Be it antique, vintage, retro or modern, it matters not. You see, you’re a part of history. The history of the engagement ring.

Vintage 14kt Yellow Gold and Diamond Engagement Ring

You may not know it, but the engagement ring hasn’t always been around. Nope. Rumor has it that the Egyptians started the trend and the Greeks later followed along. But we can really only reliably trace the engagement ring as we know it today back to the ancient Romans. And even then, the rings (there were two of them, one for when the bride was out and about (in gold) and the other (made of iron) for when she was home slaving away at the household chores of the day), were simple bands made of metal.

Gimmal Engagement Ring
Gimmal Engagement Ring

We’ve come a long way since then. And we have Archduke Maximilian of Austria to thank, for it was he that proposed to Mary of Burgundy in 1477 with a diamond ring – the first documented use of a diamond ring as a promise of betrothal.

Posey Engagement Rings
Posey Engagement Rings

Over the years, the styles have changed considerable. Several hundred years ago, diamonds fell out of favor and instead, you may have been presented with a gimmal or posey ring. Eventually, diamonds worked their way back in fashion and have stuck around for the better part of at least the last 100 years.

Here’s a fun, quick peek at how engagement rings have evolved over the last century.

And if you want to read up on engagement rings and jewelry from antiquity to today, the book Jewelry: From Antiquity to the Present by Clare Phillips is a great resource!  


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