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The ancient Greeks are thought to have been forerunners in rising of traditional engagement ring. Given as a token of care and affection, rings used by Greeks were known as betrothal rings and were given before marriage. However, giving of these rings was not always a pre-requisite to marriage and was often given in same way as a friendship ring might be given today.
As seen by their use of wedding ring, ancient Romans weren't most sentimental of people, and early version of their "engagement ring" were thought to have carved keys on them. It has been debated that this could have been to symbolise woman's right to access and own half of everything following marriage. However, more sentimental like to think that key may have been a key to her husband's heart.
ROYALTY AND THE AFFLUENT
Engagement rings as we know them today - stunning gems encased in precious metals - became popular in around fourteenth or fifteenth century, when affluent and royals began to exchange and wear these jewels. However, these items were so expensive that nobody other than royals and rich could afford to exchange them. It was to be many centuries before these engagement rings would become more popular or traditional.
Why a ring?
The purpose of engagement rings and wedding bands is to convey deep emotions of eternal love, eternal happiness, eternal commitment, and eternal togetherness. In fact, these rings signify eternity - between giver and recipient. A ring, of course, is a complete circle with no break and no end or beginning, which means that it just goes on and on - it is eternal.
And, since folklore has it that fourth finger of left hand has a vein leading directly to heart, it is only natural that both engagement and wedding rings would be worn on this particular finger, which was once reputed to be a direct route to heart.
In short, it is clear that giving of a ring in honour of a union, betrothal, and marriage has been going on since ancient times, and although it may not always have been as glamorous and romantic as it is today, it was still a way of exchanging a contract of betrothal or marriage.
Thankfully, today's wedding bands and engagement rings are not made of hair, grass, plants or twine as they may have been in ancient times, but of beautiful metals set with stunning gems, such as platinum, titanium, white gold, gold, sapphires, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. These incredible items of jewellery are likely to remain as popular as ever as centuries go by, and even as rest of world advances in to a futuristic and technological age, it's hard to imagine a day where a beautiful diamond engagement ring doesn't melt heart of its recipient.
Reno Charlton is an award-winning author and freelance writer providing consumer information on such topics as wedding bands, jewelry boxes and promise rings.