The Evolution of Diamond Engagement Rings

It’s a common tradition to give a diamond engagment ring as a symbol of commitment. Where did this tradition come from? Rings were traditionally used as ornaments that also served as an indicator of a person’s wealth. The exact history of placing rings on the finger is hard to trace, however, although early rings were found worn by the Hittites and the Greeks.

Early civilizations were already using metals for rings with the earliest using bronze before making the shift to more expensive metals such as silver and gold. Rings are placed on any finger on the hand for decorative purposes. However, engagement and wedding rings are placed precisely on the fourth finger of either the left or the right hand.

The Ring Finger

The practice of placing the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand began with the publication of Henry Swinburne’s book about marriage. This finger, according to Swinburne, is connected by a vein that leads to the heart. The romantic notion was carried on until past WWII and even until today, although in some countries engagement or wedding rings can be placed in the fourth finger of either hand. By wearing the ring on this finger, a couple is thought to be symbolically declaring their love for each other. In some countries, the ring given by a man to a woman is worn on the left hand and transferred to the right hand during the wedding ceremony.

Countries vary in the practice of placing the ring on the left or right hand. Rings placed on the finger of the right hand are more noticeable due to the practice of shaking hands with the right hand. In Muslim countries, a wedding ring placed on the left or right hand is becoming more common although this is not found in traditional Muslim culture.

Engagement Rings and the Use of Diamonds

Diamonds have long been used to adorn rings. The Greeks believed diamonds best expressed a couple’s undying love. However, diamonds were not the first stones to adorn engagement or wedding rings. This honor belongs to emeralds and sapphires. The tradition of putting diamonds on engagement rings began with the Europeans who wanted to give a new twist to the engagement ring tradition. Diamonds were chosen because they were known to be the hardest material there is and were virtually unbreakable. They are also brilliant and attractive, features that endeared them to women. Due to the cost of diamonds, they also became a status symbol. The cost of getting a diamond for one’s lady love was seen as symbolic of the man’s willingness to give everything that he has to prove his love, even if it meant burning a hole through his pocket.

Today, diamonds typically adorn engagement and wedding rings. They are often the first choices for wedding rings although the many variations in color and cut means that couples can customize any ring according to their personal preference.