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Particularly in Western cultures, an engagement ring is a ring that signifies the wearer’s engagement to the wedding. It stands for a legal commitment to a future union. When a partner proposes marriage or just after a marriage proposal is approved, they give their future spouse a ring as an engagement gift. Engagement rings can include diamonds or jewels, often worn by women in Western nations. Men’s engagement rings are occasionally referred to as “management rings” in neologisms. In some cultures, men and women may wear complementary rings, and engagement rings may also be worn as wedding bands.

A wedding ring represents one of the few objects that crossed centuries and remain with the same meaning. In a world where everything seems to not last for long, there is a genuine interest in engagement rings. It becomes a sort of reassurance about the future and the hope that some things are meant to last forever. Here is a flashback on the history of these rings and how they have evolved in time.

It all started with the Romans.

Even though it is frequently claimed that the ancient Egyptians invented the engagement ring and that the ancient Greeks adopted it, the history of the engagement ring can only be securely traced back to ancient Rome.

A contemporary study has questioned the widely held notion that an engagement ring was initially included in the bride price and symbolized the purchase and possession of the bride.

Roman people once wore iron rings. A gold ring, which the Roman bride-to-be wore in public, and an iron ring, which she wore at home while taking care of domestic responsibilities, were handed to her in the second century BC. Later, senators appointed as ambassadors were given gold seal rings to use on official business when travelling. Later, additional government officials were allowed to wear gold rings, followed by knights, then all freeborn, and lastly, under Justinian, freedmen. Romans were expected to wear iron rings at home and gold in public for centuries. During this time, a girl or woman may get two engagement rings, one made of iron and the other of gold.

The Archduke Maximilian of Austria in the imperial court of Vienna in 1477, upon his marriage to Mary of Burgundy, was the first well-documented usage of a diamond ring to signal engagement. This prompted individuals of better social standing and high income to offer diamond rings to their loved ones. If he could afford it, the average Western groom in the twentieth century privately picked and purchased an engagement ring, which he subsequently presented to his intended wife when he proposed marriage. Matching rings can be chosen and purchased jointly in nations where both couples wear engagement rings. Women in the United States and Canada, where only women usually wear engagement rings, will occasionally deliver an engagement gift to their spouses.

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The 20th century and the modern trend

The notion that a man should spend a considerable portion of his annual salary on an engagement ring originated in De Beers’ marketing materials in the mid-twentieth century to enhance diamond sales. They recommended that a guy spend the equivalent of one month’s salary on an engagement ring in the 1930s. They advised him to spend two months’ salary on it in the 1980s (three months in Japan). According to industry reports, the average cost of an engagement ring in the United States in 2012 was US$4,000. According to a 2015 research survey, over a quarter of couples did not purchase a ring, and another third spent less than US$2000. Fewer than 15% of couples spent $4,000 or more. The typical cost of an engagement ring in the United Kingdom is estimated to be between £1200 and £2000. According to an academic study, costly engagement rings are linked to early divorces, probably because buying more than US$2,000 on an engagement ring is highly correlated to debt-related stress. Couples who spend less money on engagement rings and wedding ceremonies enjoy longer marriages and are less likely to divorce.

Nowadays: back to tradition and hope

The 20th century hit immensely challenging most social institutions like family, the army, religion, politics, etc. New models appeared, and people felt strongly disconnected from the past and any “social obligation”. Nevertheless, in a world where we talk more about virtual reality, the metaverse and other digital ways of “life”, younger generations have a solid appetite to reconnect with real life. Humans are social beasts; therefore, the need to connect and establish an authentic relationship with others is essential. In a study done by McKinsey in 2021, it is said that 98% of people under 24 consider authenticity and loyalty as primary values. The notion of engagement is something interesting to explore as it circles back to the idea of authenticity and loyalty. No cheating, no fakes.

This is why engagement rings are back on-trend. People feel that being engaged with someone means a strong statement in their lives, and they hope to transform a promise of happiness into something concrete and solid. Popular culture tends to say that “diamonds are forever”. Therefore it becomes a promise of an extraordinarily long life of sharing and love. Certain brands like Gabriel and company engagement rings try to get you easier access to high-quality engagement rings and offer a great moment to their customers. Online shopping is also more accessible and secure; therefore, people do not hesitate to connect and make choices.

Engagement rings, like any other type of jewellery, come in various designs. Gold (available in Yellow Gold, White Gold, and Rose Gold) and platinum are favoured metals for engagement rings, but titanium, silver, and stainless steel are also used. This allows the bride-to-be to easily incorporate her style into the ring. Diamonds still represent the celebration of a union and a treasured memory, but different cuts make more styles available to diamond lovers. The round brilliant has long been the most popular cut for diamond engagement rings, with 58 facets that divide the stone into a top and bottom half. The princess, emerald, and oval cut are runners-up, with the cushion cut swiftly gaining favour as a current trend.

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Every day, around 200 engagement and wedding rings are purchased by males in the United States. Every year, about 5,000 marriage proposals are made in the United States. However, the international per capita marriage rate is significantly lower than in the United States. Given that the United States has over 2 million weddings each year, it stands to reason that at least a few thousand rings are sold daily, and at least a million proposals are made yearly.

Are you convinced now about the importance of an engagement ring? Get yourself a true promise of hope and happiness and enjoy your life to the fullest.

José Amorim
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