A Short History of Engagement Rings
Diamonds are more than just a girl's best friend now. When a ring is presented on one knee and placed on your finger, people start to hear wedding bells!
There’s no doubt about it - rings have symbolized a man's token of love for centuries. For many, diamonds stand for love. However, its roots may not have been as glamorous as it is today.
Exchanging wedding rings was a tradition with humble beginnings dating back as far as 4,800 years to ancient Egypt. Instead of diamonds, however, a ring was made out of braided papyrus and reeds, though the sentiment stayed the same throughout the years. It was shaped out of pure admiration as many believed that eternity was captured in the form of an endless circle, while the hole presented an opening to the future. Using the 4th finger was perfect as many believed that its veins led straight to the heart; hence, now regarded as the ring finger.
The unabashed and somewhat whimsical presentation of marriage was skewed along the way, and by the time Romans adapted it, engagement rings became a sign of contract between two people. Iron rings were exchanged to transfer the ownership of the daughter from the father to the new husband, though some swapped gold rings that they reserved for special occasions.
Our perception of engagement rings retains bits and pieces of its history. While we aren't precisely transferring ownership nowadays, we follow a similar tradition wherein men ask permission from the father of the soon-to-be bride. Perhaps what rings were indeed for, despite the unimaginable centuries between its first creation, was the belief that it is a symbol of love.
Why are diamonds now the new face of love?
Although rings have dated back for a long time, the sudden association with diamonds was a relatively modern concept. Its popularity, however, hasn't exactly been as evident to many. Diamonds were believed to be scarce and expensive, though many may be surprised to know that it was abundant since its resources were discovered in South Africa back in 1870. Of course, the nature of business never changed even then, and its excessive quantity was pushed under the rug.
In that regard, the British businessmen that operated the mines twisted the facts, and now the world believes that diamonds are jewels that valued for its rarity. They were also the first who founded the diamond cartel called De Beers Consolidated Mines, Inc. Love comes at a high price for them, and so 80 years ago, engagement rings weren't as universal. In fact, only 10% of American women received one. What changed between now and then?
The Ad that changed the world
De Beers has always been reputable for their extraordinary ability to mold public perceptions. In the late 1940s, an Ayer copywriter created a slogan that has changed the way couples viewed engagement rings: "A Diamond is Forever." Although diamonds can be chipped, discolored, or shattered to pieces, the concept of eternal romance was captured in this clever ad, hooking thousands of brides-to-be.
Engagement rings reign as the ultimate symbol of love and commitment today
From being an emblem of ownership, engagement rings went through a long history before finally being universally accepted as a token of love. While the prices of diamonds remain at an all-time-high, men today still believe that every penny is worth it when it comes to marrying 'the one.' The modern tradition of saving up for it also entails that he is ready for a life-long commitment, and their relationship is indeed as precious as the gem itself.
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