In Western culture, it's considered customary for a man to present his bride-to-be with an engagement ring when he asks for her hand in marriage. With the engagement ring playing such a prominent role in society today, it can be easy to forget that the giving of an engagement ring wasn't always required. To appreciate the evolution of the engagement ring tradition you must take a closer look at the role the engagement ring has played throughout the ages.
The Birth Of The Engagement Ring: Ancient Egypt
The story of the modern engagement ring dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt, where rings crafted from hemp or rushes were used to signal a couple's eternal love for one another.
The tradition of wearing the engagement ring on the fourth finger is also attributed to the Egyptians, who believed that the vena amoris (a vein thought to connect directly to the heart) ran through this finger. Although modern science has proven the vena amoris does not exist, the tradition of wearing engagement rings on the fourth finger has persisted.
The Engagement Ring And Christianity: Pope Innocent III
The engagement ring became popular among Christians when Pope Innocent III instituted a mandatory waiting period for Catholics between betrothal and marriage in the Fourth Lateran Council in an effort to strike down clandestine marriages. In order to ensure that everyone knew a woman was betrothed, her beloved presented her with a ring to wear throughout the mandatory waiting period.
Although it is not required to couples wait a prescribed amount of time to exchange vows today, the engagement ring still serves as a symbol letting everyone know that the bride-to-be is off the market.
Engagement Rings At Their Most Extreme: The Victorian Era
While the large stones and flashy settings of today's engagement rings might seem extreme, few have taken engagement rings to the extreme levels common in the Victorian Era. Up until 1925, hair work, the art of crafting jewelry containing human hair, was all the rage.
Many Victorian brides were presented wedding rings containing snippets of their beloved's hair. While the practice may sound strange, receiving a hair work engagement ring would have ensured the bride-to-be remained at the height of fashion during the Victorian Era.
The engagement ring has served as a symbol of love and devotion since it was introduced by the Ancient Egyptians, and it continues to play an important role in modern wedding traditions. The next time you glimpse an engagement ring, knowing the evolution of the engagement ring tradition will help you have a greater appreciation for these tokens of affection.
To learn more, contact a company like Jackson Jewelers with any questions or concerns you might have.