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The History of Engagement Rings

Q Report Team
Updated on November 11, 2022
3 min read

The History of Engagement Rings

When we think of a diamond engagement ring, we think of love. They’re a physical representation of the fact that we want to spend the rest of lives with another human, and we want the world to know about it but it hasn’t always been this way. Our fascination and love of a physical (and now sparkly) symbol to mark our commitment to another person started many, many centuries ago and it was very different to the tradition we have now.




The story of the engagement ring starts way back in the caveman era. The men would tie cords made of braided grass around their chosen love’s wrists, ankles and waist, to bring her spirit under his control - how romantic! While the Egyptians were buried wearing wire rings on the third finger of their left hands, believed to be connected directly to the heart.




Roman Iron ring with gold clasped hands intaglio.

A Roman Philosopher known as Pliny the Elder first gave his bride a gold ring to wear during their 2nd century ceremony (aw), but then an iron ring to wear at home (less, aw). The rings were a symbol of her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her (even less aw).


A puzzle ring - very difficult to put back together once removed!

Sultans and Sheiks in Asia were a little more sneaky. They gave their multiple wives Puzzle rings which fell apart when removed from the finger. This way, the men could guarantee the fidelity of their women.


Mary of Burgundy's engagement ring - the earliest engagement ring as we know them today

The first known example of an engagement or wedding ring we know today came in 1477 when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a ring set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M”. Cute.


In the 1700s Puritans would use thimbles in place of engagement rings

By the 1700s, the Puritans in Europe tried to make the practice a little more, well, practical. Young women were given thimbles as a kind-of engagement ring which she would use while making linen and clothing for her dowry. After the wedding, the top of the thimble was cut off and the remainder worn as a ring.


Victorian Era DEAREST Ring - Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz

The current tradition of both husband and wife wearing rings traces back to World War II when women gave their husbands rings to signify their unbroken connection. The rings would also act as a reminder of their wives and family while they were away.

Diamonds really started coming into play in the 1800s when the Victorians started using them to spell out names or words like, DEAREST with gemstones in jewellery. Then in 1867, Diamonds were discovered in the Cape Colony and there was a huge increase in the diamond supply.

The rest, as they say, is history.

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