On One Knee: The
Engagement rings and wedding bands have existed for the longest time due
to their enduring tradition. History provides several accounts on the trends of
jewelry and matrimonial exchanges. The tradition began in the Roman Era.
Macrobius promulgated the belief that a vein released blood from the heart
and directly to the fourth finger of the left hand, where the Romans began
wearing the rings.
Modern science has proven this belief to be wrong, but during the time, the
Romans believed the anatomical information and associated this with the
wedding tradition of exchanging rings. Roman women received two rings, one
of iron and another of gold. The latter served for women to wear outside and
impress people. Both rings, though, would sport simplistic fabrication
techniques, devoid of any intricate crafting.
In the Third Century CE, the Romans began to introduce elaborate designs in
the fabrication of engagement rings. The band grew wider through the use of
more gold, providing enough surface area for figurative designs relating to
marriage. And going into 860 CE, during the Middle Ages, engagement rings
had grown to be a cultural norm in society. Its significance, then, relied on its
material, such as the issuance of an edict by Pope Nicholas, that gold
legitimized the engagement.
During the medieval period in Europe, engagement rings began to sport
gemstones, like rubies, sapphires, and emeralds — turning jewelry into
treasure-like relics. Moving forward, the use of gemstones spread. The
Renaissance exemplified the beginnings of extravagance. The Italians, during
this time, had to provide three rings to the bride at an engagement ceremony
wherein the groom had to swear his intent under a sword. This was also the
era that first saw a diamond engagement ring.
From extravagance in crafting, engagement rings began to take on more
symbolisms in design. During the Victorian Era, rings began to bear hearts,
hands, and other symbols of fidelity while still fashioning colorful gemstones.
Until finally, in the early 20 th century, tiny gems formed large jewel shapes
and angular shapes took over. It wasn’t until during the 1950s that
engagement rings returned to the traditional and simple band with a central
gem — a diamond.