The oldest record of wedding rings being used was about 4800 years ago in ancient Egypt. Various plants such as grasses, reeds, rushes, and sedges, would be twisted and braided into rings for fingers and other decorative ornaments. More permanent materials, such as leather, bone, and ivory, were later used.
The Romans adopted this tradition but with a somewhat more chauvinistic purpose than a symbol of love. A woman was given a ring as a claim of ownership. Roman wedding rings were later made of iron and called "Annulus Pronubus," symbolizing strength and permanence. The Romans were also one of the first to engrave their rings.
In the Roman Empire, jewelry was expressive of the owners' religious and aesthetic preferences. It reflected their socioeconomic status or, in other words, their financial standing and their position in the social hierarchy. The finger ring was an indicator of the owner's personal beliefs and adorned with a carefully chosen artifact.
It could be a good luck charm (amuletum) or a seal ring, or just an adornment. A particular ring could represent the person's religious beliefs, express their reverence for particular gods, superstition, protect them against evil, and aesthetic preferences.
They wore the ring on the left hand's third finger because of the belief in a 'vena amoris' - the vein of love, a vein that was believed to run from the finger directly to the heart. Although most people no longer believe in this superstitious idea, married couples to this day still wear wedding rings on the left hand's third finger.
However, a more practical and less romantic reason for this tradition could be the simple fact that most people are right-handed. Wearing a ring on the left-hand resulted in less wear-and-tear on the ring and damage risk.
The first diamond engagement rings
The word "diamond" comes from the Greek "Adamo," or "l subdue," referring not to a chauvinist attitude towards marriage but to the diamond's hardness and its ability to scratch any surface without being scratched. The word "Adamas" was used for diamonds for centuries, although it is not always clear that the gem being referred to was diamond, or if it was sapphire, the next hardest mineral.
Long ago, a diamond wasn't associated with romance. Diamonds were thought of as something magical, offering power and protection. The diamond's history is a long one, starting from ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians and finally ending up on a ring.
Diamonds have been used in finger rings since the 3rd Century BCE. The oldest known example is a ring from Ai Khanoumt, Afghanistan. The ring was fashioned in a Greek Hellenistic style suggesting Greek jewelers working in the region. No diamond jewelry dating to antiquity has been found in Greece, and Europe's oldest diamond set rings are Roman, dating to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries CE.
Rings have been used for engagement and wedding ceremonies since antiquity, but it is not until the late 15th century that we find betrothal rings set with diamonds. During the late Middle Ages, diamonds were still scarce, but diamond-set jewelry gifts became more common among Europe's nobles.
History shows The Duke of Burgundy gave a gift of a brooch set with diamonds and rubies to his mother. King Richard IIs gave diamond jewelry gifts to his second wife, the then seven-year-old Isabella of France. Also, Etienne de Chevaliers presented diamond jewelry gifts to Agnes Sorel, known as 'Dame de Beauté,' the French King Charles Vll's favorite mistress.
In 1475 for the first time, a diamond played a central role in a marriage, during the wedding between Constanzo Sforza and Camilla D'Aragona. It is unknown if a ring set with diamonds was exchanged in the ceremony, but it seems very likely.
There was a series of portrait miniatures made for the occasion, with one having a picture of the Greek God of marriage, Hymen, wearing a robe with a pattern of rings with diamonds. Another has Hymen standing next to a table with torches held together by a large ring with a diamond.
The picture includes the text in French translated to English that says:
"Two torches in one ring of burning fire
Two wills, two hearts, two passions
are bonded in marriage by a diamond"
The rise of diamond rings
In the 1720s, diamonds were discovered in Brazil, and the supply increased, and a demand for larger diamonds for engagement and wedding purposes rose. The technical development of tools and techniques for diamonds paved the way for new designs, and many diamonds started to be cut in ways resembling the modern brilliant. In 1761, King George Ill presented Queen Charlotte with a solitaire diamond ring, a style of engagement and wedding ring still popular today.
Modern wedding rings
Today, the solitaire diamond and gold wedding band in a Tiffany-style setting is the most popular engagement ring. However, you don't have to buy an expensive diamond ring for your engagement ring.
For many, in the modern world, a diamond represents romance and glamour, wealth and status, so offering a diamond ring to our beloved carries a lot of emotional value. Ostensibly, the more expensive the material, the more love is shown to the receiver; the ring's value also demonstrates the giver’s wealth.
Wedding rings are not just a mere gift from the groom to the bride and vice versa. It is a symbol of eternity and commitment. The wedding ring's roundness represents eternity and symbolizes eternal love, devotion, and that the couple is forever united in the marriage bond.
The common perception of society understands the symbolism. If a woman wears a usually solitaire diamond ring on her left-hand ring finger, it's an engagement ring.
If a gold band is worn, then it means she's married.
This is a culture that began in western society, but a tradition of great value for many other societies have adapted. Some women prefer to wear both engagement and wedding rings together. Whether one wants or not to wear the ring is a personal one, to be made according to the conscientious views one holds.