History of the Engagement Ring

The history of the engagement ring is a mixture of myth, fiction and guesswork – so rather than pretending to write a definitive history, here are the facts to the best of anyone’s knowledge!

  • The earliest record of a diamond engagement ring being given is in 1477 when Archduke Maximillian of Hamburg gave a betrothal ring to Mary of Burgundy a diamond betrothal ring.
  • The ancient Romans gave betrothal (Truth) rings that were worn on the 3rd finger of the left hand. It’s thought they were the first group to begin engraving their rings. Romans used iron rings to symbolise strength and permanence.
  • Greeks and Egyptians have both been credited with the modern ‘ring finger’ tradition.
  • Engagement rings are traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand, where the “vena amoris” or vein of love is supposed to connect to the heart.
  • Like the UK, engagement rings are traditionally worn on the left hand in most countries, but in countries including Spain, Poland, Greece, and Norway, they are worn on the right.
  • In the Middle Ages the Gimmal or “bond” ring became fashionable and would have been decorated with precious stones for the noble classes.
  • Diamond soon became the stone of preference in Europe due to its status as the strongest mineral, symbolic of the union of marriage. Now an estimated 78% of all engagement rings sold every year are diamond.
  • Pope Nicolas I made a gold ring a betrothal requirement to demonstrate the groom’s wealth and ability to care for a wife.
  • For centuries only women received engagement and wedding rings, but now most men wear wedding rings, and an increasing number also receive engagement rings…known in the US as Mangagement Rings…sorry, we bet you wish you didn’t know that one!
  • The trend for male engagement rings began during World War II, when many men wore simple rings as reminders of the people they left behind.
  • December is the most popular month for buying engagement rings, and approximately 15% of couples get engaged this month!
  • Sometimes wedding and engagement rings can be purchased as a set so that they definitely match and fit together after your big day.
  • In Victorian times people gave snake rings for engagements as it was believed that they symbolised eternity.