Although we’re not as hard-stuck to wedding traditions as we used to be, one of the most enduring elements is the engagement ring. Considering the bride is given a wedding ring on the big day, you might be wondering why engagement rings are important at all. So why are they important?
Engagement rings were important in a historical sense because they showed the bride-to-be to be “unavailable” to new potential partners. In a modern sense, however, they’ve come to symbolize a partner’s commitment to their relationship and coming marriage.
The importance of engagement rings
The use of engagement rings can be traced back to ancient Egypt, but the idea was popularised by the ancient Romans, and it was from there that the symbol of the engagement ring became associated with the Christian tradition of marriage.
Back in those days, the engagement ring primarily marked the woman as “off the market” to other suitors. Remember, this was back in the times when marriages in upper classes were more for financial gain and power, and so many men would try and marry the daughter of a rich and powerful man.
As with many other customs, much of our modern interpretation comes from the Victorian era. While women were wearing engagement rings before this time, this was when many of the popular styles were invented, driven mainly by the rise of the middle class. More people with money meant more variety in the goods they were buying.
Styles such as cluster engagement rings were popular during this time, as were halo engagement rings with oval stones. During the 20th century, however, designers branched out into even more styles, with the art deco movement having a surprising impact on engagement ring style.
Although platinum took off as a popular metal for engagement rings in the 1920s, WW2 forced many jewellers to return to gold as their metal of choice. However, this changed again the 1950s and the latter half of the 20th century saw a drop in halo engagement rings in the UK, with designers again favouring square-cut stones.
What do engagement rings mean?
In the 21st century, the main purpose of engagement rings isn’t dissimilar from their historical meaning, although there’s definitely less of a sense of ownership attached. They now symbolize the commitment of both parties to the relationship: to the giver they show their desire to confirm the relationship, and to the wearer the ring symbolizes their agreement.
Effectively, engagement rings act as something of a contract between the two parties to someday (presumably in the not too distant future) to make the next step in their relationship: marriage.
Engagement rings can also be seen as a symbol of pride for both parties, particularly if the buyer does a good job in choosing the right ring. They of course also symbolize the love shared between both parties, and can act as a reminder of what they share, particularly if any difficulties arise in the relationship.
Engagement rings have always been a symbol of commitment between the two parties involved in a relationship, and act as confirmation for them taking the next steps. While some of their meaning might have changed in modern times, engagement rings will always act as a symbol of love and pride for both the buyer and the wearer.