Why Do You Wear an Engagement Ring? A Brief History Behind Precious Stones

Engagement Rings, Etiquette
Engagement Ring History

Photo: Getty Images

Presenting an engagement ring during a proposal — be it a diamond, gemstone, or totally unique metal band — has been a custom for so many generations that no one really knows why we even do it. Thanks to our etiquette experts, we've uncovered some fun facts about that oh-so-special piece of jewelry. Here, a basic history of the engagement ring.

Engagement rings have been credited all the way back to Ancient Egypt, but instances of exchanging rings goes back to Ancient Greece and Rome, too.
In ancient Greece married couples weren't the only people who gifted each other gold jewels for their fingers — lovers did too (but with the inclination that they'd tie the knot soon enough)! In Ancient Egypt, men wore rings to symbolize their wealth, hence sharing one with their wife to represent the joint ownership of riches. Ancient Rome took the exchange one step further by having a betrothed couple's parents exchange tokens too.

In the 11th century, the church sanctified the importance of rings.
And then in the mid-16th century, it was incorporated in the wedding ceremony to take on a crucial role.

Way back when, only kings and queens wore precious stones.
There were even legends created about the gems!

Colorful birthstones as engagement rings have been popular since the Middle Ages.
Sorry celebs. But these vibrantly-hued gems really gained traction during the Victorian era.

Diamonds were only discovered in the mid-1800s and were worn by the social elite.
Unsurprisingly, between World War I and the Depression, people stopped toting around diamonds as much. By the late 1940s, though, they became a permanent fixture in engagement rings again once De Beers created one of the most lucrative ad campaigns in history with the catchphrase "A Diamond Is Forever."

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