We all understand the importance of engagement rings and how they are one of the most precious items of jewellery we will own throughout our lives. Though there are many styles to choose from, most of us know exactly what we are looking for when it comes to the perfect ring. But have you ever wondered why they are so important and where this tradition comes from? Maybe you have pondered if it is the same all over the world. Throughout this article, we will discuss the history of engagement rings and take a look at different cultural practices around the world.
The History of the engagement ringThroughout much of the Western world, the use of engagement rings is used to signify the love between two people. This tradition has become so ingrained in our culture that many people don’t remember where it comes from.
It has arguably been around since the beginning of civilisation, but the Western concept of engagement rings has evolved from traditions practised throughout Egypt and Rome during the classical period.
The modern-day wedding ring became popular in ancient Egypt and was referred to as a ‘money ring’ that would declare that a woman now has ownership of the man’s possessions. It was later adapted in a much more romantic way by the Romans.
The Romans would use a gold or silver ring that was placed on the left ring finger because they believed that this finger had a vein that led straight to the heart. They would also use keys in their wedding practices to show that as well as gaining joint ownership of a man’s possessions, the woman has also unlocked his heart.
So from this moment, the engagement ring has evolved to become the cherished item of jewellery in Western culture that it is today. Seeing that the concept of engagement rings has been around for so long, it is understandable why their significance is so prominent in our lives today.
How do different cultures view engagement rings?Let’s take a look at how some different cultures and traditions around the world celebrate the love between two people. Although engagement rings are important to us, do they hold the same importance for everyone else around the world? If not, what traditions do they hold as dear to their hearts?
South American traditions – In many countries across South and Central America, both the bride and groom traditionally wear an engagement ring. Not only this, but it is also part of the tradition to wear them on the right hand. The rings are often made to match, so whereas we often go for sparkle, the designs are usually more subtle in this part of the world. Furthermore, once the wedding ceremony has taken place, the rings are moved from the right hand to the left.
Indian traditions – Being such a vast place, there are many traditions throughout India when it comes to marriage. One that is common amongst the Hindu population is wearing an engagement ring on the toe instead of a finger. The toe ring is believed to press against a nerve that promotes good health for the reproductive organs. In other parts of India, women don’t wear engagement rings at all. Instead, they wear a collection of bangles around their wrists made from various materials.
Native American traditions – Similar to the Western tradition, native Americans also use engagement rings. However, the style of rings is very different. Instead of gold, they are usually silver; instead of diamonds, they use a mixture of semi-precious stones. These rings are often highly decorative, with intricate patterns and made with incredible craftsmanship. There is much more focus on the design than the price of the materials used.
Scandinavian traditions – Scandinavian engagement ring traditions have subtle variations from country to country, but most follow the same concept. The ring is usually a gold or silver simplistic and elegant band that is worn on the right hand. It is also part of the tradition that both the bride and groom wear them; this is to represent equality between both men and women. In countries such as Norway, it is also common practice to only use one ring for both the engagement and the wedding.
Irish tradition – This is actually one of the more thought-out and complex engagement ring traditions. It is called the Claddagh ring; the design encompasses a heart, a crown, and a pair of hands. The heart represents love, the crown, loyalty, and the hand’s friendship. These rings can be worn by anyone, whether single, in a relationship, engaged, or married.
What matters the most about the Claddagh ring is how you wear it. For single people, the ring must be worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward from the body. However, if you are in a relationship, the ring remains on the right hand, but the heart faces inward. For those who are engaged, the ring is placed on the left hand with the heart facing outward, and when the Claddagh ring becomes a wedding ring, it is placed with the heart facing toward the body and on the left hand.
This tradition is believed to come from Irish folklore, but the exact history has a few variations depending on whom you are talking to. It is possibly one of the most beautiful ways to show the growth of someone’s relationship through the use of a ring.