Engagement rings have changed dramatically through the centuries. Ancient Egyptians were the first recorded culture to give engagement rings. They used various plants and grasses twisted into a ring to symbolize the eternal and unchanging nature of love and commitment. This is a far cry from the gold engagement ring modern women have come to expect. It was also the Egyptians who popularized wearing the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, as they believed a vein ran from that finger straight to the heart. The Romans adopted the tradition of giving an engagement ring however, they were a little less sentimental about the whole thing. For Romans, an engagement ring was a way the man showed his ownership of the bride-to-be. Luckily, time went by, and the idea of the ring, an endless circle, expressing love, fidelity, honor, and commitment, once again became the norm. In the middle ages, the engagement ring was also used to display the wealth of the prospective husband, signifying his ability to provide for his wife and future heirs.
In America, the Puritans had banned all jewelry as being morally worthless. Instead of giving a ring, the bridegroom gave his future wife a thimble. After the wedding, she would then remove the bottom part turning the thimble into a wedding ring. Gradually those Puritanical mores relaxed, and once again, the ring became the way for a man to ask a lady for her hand in marriage. It must have been with great relief that beautiful, intricate rings came into style. Louis Comfort Tiffany at the turn of the Twentieth Century became our most celebrated jewelry designer.
Then came the Roaring 20s, with all its excesses. This was the height of the diamond art deco ring. At this time ring designers used an excess of platinum and diamonds, without regard to the cost. Strong geometrical patterns and angular shapes were all the rage. Triangles, pentagons and emerald cut, the bigger the diamond the better. Often these diamonds were offset with other precious stones in strong colors rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and onyx. When America entered World War II precious metals, such as platinum, were needed to fund the war. American designers then became creative with the gold engagement ring and introduced colored metals. Yellow, pink, and green gold were often combined to make bi- or tri-colored rings. Thankfully the world has come a long way from rings made of vines and grass, and a time were the engagement ring meant possession, rather than eternal love and commitment.