The giving of engagement rings has a history that goes back thousands of years. It’s not always clear and often conflicting but here are some agreed upon ideas about how the engagement ring got its start. The ancient Greeks are generally credited with the giving of rings in a betrothal ceremony. While it wasn’t a requirement it was an act that was looked upon favorably. The ancient Romans who adopted much of the Greek culture adopted the practice of exchanging gifts upon marriage. However instead of giving rings the ancient Romans gave keys to their bride. The symbolism of the key is a debatable subject, some claim this was an invitation to the woman to share everything in the household while other historians believe it was symbolic of the keys to her husband’s heart.
It wasn’t until the 1500’s in medieval Europe that engagement rings started to resemble the engagement rings of today. As craftsman ship in metallurgy, gemology and jewelry making advanced the concept of putting a precious stone on a ring was born. However due to scarcity of the gems prices were very high, so high in fact that only royalty, noblemen, or affluent merchants could afford the rings. During the war years in the United States the giving of engagement rings fell out of fashion. As materials were being reserved for the war effort very few women of the time were given engagement rings.
After World War II the diamond industry began to develop and Hollywood became one of their main advertising vehicles. Starlets and movie production companies were often loaned or given expensive engagement rings to be featured on the hands of beautiful actresses. The most famous of these paid placements is the Marilyn Monroe Movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the song Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.
Today the engagement ring industry is huge business and couples getting engaged have more choices than before. While some traditional relationships where the man picks out the ring still exist it is much more likely the future bride is part of the engagement ring selection process.