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The History of Engagement Rings

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What's an engagement without an engagement ring? These special wedding bands are such an important part of one of our marriage custom that it's difficult to imagine asking someone to marry you without one. Still, given our modern fascination with "bling," one might be forgiven for thinking that engagement rings are a relatively modern phenomenon, surely no more than a century or so old; but the truth is, the exchange of engagement rings is a tradition stretching back into the dim mists of history.

The symbolism of both wedding and engagement rings is clear: they form a circle, which has no end and so may be considered endless. Ideally, a couple's love should be the same. The circle can also be seen as a symbol of unity. Where the tradition began is argued, but probably the first engagement rings weren't made of metal. The first engagement ring, given by Ug the caveman to the girl in the cave next door, may well have been made of woven grasses or leather. Some say that it took the form of a cord he used to tie her hands so she couldn't escape; more romantic commentators offer the possibility that the cord was bound to both their hands in a ceremony, to indicate the couple's newfound unity. Either way, it has evolved rather far, from what was basically a handcuff to a mere ring. The again, there's the possibility that rings of precious metal were included in some cultures as part of a dowry -- that is, a kind of bribe to the family of the bride to pay for the loss of her services. These evolved, over time, into engagement rings.


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It's hard to say when the first true engagement rings were exchanged. We do know that the ancient Greeks often exchanged what they called "betrothal rings," but they were casually given -- more friendship rings than engagement rings -- and were not a required or expected part of the betrothal process. Later on, Roman men gave their intendeds engagement rings decorated with a carved key. The same romantics who came up with the "unity handcuff" idea like to think that this was meant as a symbolic key to her husband's heart, but more than likely it was a functional key -- one that unlocked the bride's share of the husband's wealth (usually half). In the 12th century, well after Rome's fall and the subsequent Dark Ages, Pope Innocent III decreed that all wedding ceremonies required a wedding ring. Since the Church was an absolute authority back then, what the Pope said went. Historians of the subject speculate that this decree may have stimulated the subsequent popularity of engagement rings as well.

Engagement rings in what we consider the classic form -- that is, made of a precious metal (gold or platinum) showcasing one of more bright jewels -- first came to light in the early years of the Renaissance. The first recorded diamond engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximillian of Hamburg to her ladyship Mary of Burgundy in 1477. No one but the rich and powerful could afford such engagement rings, but like wealth itself, they were something to aspire to. With the growth of the middle class in the 18th century and beyond, extravagant engagement rings such as these became the norm -- much to the dismay of cash-strapped young men everywhere.

Today, engagement rings are an integral part of any wedding engagement and have become the ultimate gift to show ones love for each other. Fortunately the ability to shop for a top quality certified diamond and engagement ring is easier than ever before with online shopping stores like Novori Jewelry. We are the engagement ring experts and are here to help you find the ring of your dreams. If you need assistance call us toll free at 1-877-877-4141.

 

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