A look at history’s strange engagement traditions.
There are sky-diving weddings, circus weddings, and, of course, the Star Trek-themed weddings that take place in Las Vegas. But, for all the weird and wonderful weddings that make the headlines, there is very little press that surrounds engagements.
Of course, the engagement traditions that history has supplied are not nearly as strange as any of the aforementioned weddings, but why should weddings get all the attention?
Engagements come with understated parties, some very tasteful gifts, and, most importantly, diamond jewellery. For this very reason, we would like to give engagements the centre stage, and let them show us exactly how quirky their traditions can be, if they try. So, to help us appreciate our diamond jewellery even more, here is a look at the history’s traditions regarding engagement rings:
Unless ‘wedding-photographer’ is, in fact, the world’s oldest profession, we’re not sure how scientists know this. Nevertheless, we have it on good authority that Cro-Magnons used woven bonds to tie themselves together as an official act of commitment.
Ancient Egypt: Where it all started
We owe so much of our society to the ancient Egyptians, and engagement rings are no exception. Hieroglyphics show Egyptian women wearing gold or silver rings, albeit made from wire, on the third finger of their left hands, just as we do. The reason for this was their belief that the Vena Amoris vein ran from their third fingers directly to their hearts.
Ancient Rome: Iron and gold
Ancient Rome was nothing if not patriarchal. This is why marriage in Rome was essentially business. Men would have to buy their intended’s hands, and would thereafter give them two rings; a gold ring for public appearances and an iron one for wearing around the house.
The Middle East: Puzzle rings
Puzzle rings were very popular in the Middle East around 100 BC, especially amongst men who travelled often. They would give their intendeds these rings in order to keep them loyal while they were away. If a woman took a puzzle ring off her finger, it would disassemble, proving her unfaithfulness.
Middle Ages England: Thimbles
Although the first diamond jewellery had confirmed an engagement hundreds of years earlier, Englishmen in the 1700s would give their ladies thimbles. The ladies would then wear these on their fingers until their weddings, after which the ends would be cut off to make rings.
While it is traditional to wear diamond jewellery on the left hand ring-finger, some Scandinavian and Asian cultures wear their engagement rings on their right hands. The same goes for Chile, although Chileans swap their rings to their left hands after their weddings.
Traditional Hindus skip wearing rings on their fingers altogether, and confirm their engagements with either toe rings or wrist bracelets.
Some of the strange engagement traditions throughout history make us appreciate the Archduke of Austria, who gave the first diamond engagement ring in 1477. Without him we may not have the traditional diamond jewellery that we use to get engaged today, and could still be using thimbles.