Men! Have you ever given any thought to where that most expensive little piece of jewelry, the engagement ring, or its counterpart, the wedding ring, comes from? Or have you thought about what they symbolize, apart from the two months’ salary that the average couple in the United States forks over for them. And why diamonds? So many questions surround these rings. I don’t even really like diamonds all that much, I prefer ones like this promise ring pictured below.
Well, it was in 1477. King Maximilian I of Germany (1459-1519) proposed to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) and offered her a ring set with flat thin pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M” as a gift to mark their betrothal. This was the first recorded use of an engagement ring. So guys, you to have write to the dead letter department to complain.
But the uses of rings dates’ way back before old Maximillian. Rings can be found in the history of the Egyptians on the Nile River. This was about 4800 years ago. They used the reeds, rushes and papyrus that grew naturally along the river. Of course rings made of these materials tended not to last. Soon leather, bone and ivory were used to make rings. Naturally, the more expensive the material the more wealthy the giver of the ring was assumed to be.
The Romans put an interesting twist on the use of the wedding ring. The Romans used two rings. The first was to symbolize the marriage. The second was a ring made of iron. By putting it on, the bridge was acknowledging that she was now the property of her husband. See if that would fly in today environment.
Speaking of the rings symbolism, the fact that the ring is a circle, that it has no beginning and no end, implies eternity. The whole in the middle of the ring is not just a lack of something, it is considered a door or gateway leading to things unknown. Rings for women signify therefore, never ending and eternal love.
In more modern times, in 1867 actually, diamonds are discovered in South Africa, the supply of diamonds explodes and for the first time, diamonds are widely available to everyone. Then comes the diamond engagement ring. And it was in 1890 that diamond rings became available in mail order catalogs such as Sears and Roebuck. By the 1940’s, engagement rings had become the leading jewelry seller in most retail department stores and a slew of movies, such as “Breakfast at Tiffanies” and numerous celebrities, such as Humphrey Bogart (who wore his wedding band publicly to his fourth and final wife, Lauren Bacall) popularized the wearing of wedding and engagement rings. Thus forever sealing the need for couples everywhere to now have to have rings of their own.
In 2003, Wal-Mart introduced its “Keepsake” line of diamond rings. According to Wal-Mart they are now one of the leading sellers of diamonds in the world.
So what was once a symbol of love and eternity has been turned crassly commercial. One hopes that the power of the ring can one day be returned to what it was for Maximillian and Mary of Burgundy.