Engagement ring

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Wedding_and_Engagement_Rings_500.jpg
A diamond studded yellow gold engagement ring with a white gold wedding ring.

In the British-American tradition, an engagement ring is a ring worn by a woman on her left-hand ring finger indicating her engagement to be married. By modern convention, the ring is usually presented as a betrothal gift by a man to his prospective bride while or directly after she accepts his marriage proposal. It represents a formal agreement to chastity and a future marriage.

Similar traditions seem to date at least to the ancient Greeks,Romans, and Egyptians. In Egypt it was believed that the "vein of love" was located on the fourth finger of the left hand.

In the United States, it is more common today than it used to be for a woman also to buy the man an engagement or promise ring at the time of the engagement.

In Germany, both the man and the woman wear engagement rings.

In some societies, it is traditional for the engagement ring to cost the equivalent of one month's pay of the man's wages. In the United States, diamond industry advertisements advocate two months' pay. A spokesperson from Tiffany’s Australia, quoted on the television program A Current Affair (February 1, 2005), suggested that a man should spend two to three month's salary on an engagement ring.

Contents

Refusing the gift

Women traditionally refuse offers of marriage by refusing to take the offered engagement ring.

A woman who accepts an engagement ring, and then does not marry the man but keeps the ring, is considered grasping and dishonest in some cases, although an alternative argument is that the ring was a gift to which the woman is entitled; because an engagement is also a period for evaluating one's commitment to the relationship, it is not uncommon for either the man or the woman to break off the engagement.

An engagement ring is often intentionally expensive as a sign of the man's permanency of interest. It is generally held that if the betrothal fails because the man pursues other women or himself breaks off the engagement, the woman is not obliged to return the ring. In the United States, this moral argument usually does not hold up in court.

Material and design

Designs of such rings have varied greatly over the years. It traditionally is a precious band, and mounts a diamond or other gem. Current fashions for engagement rings are for a gold, platinum, or silver band with a single diamond. This trend dates from advertising campaigns in the 1940s by de Beers, the world's leading diamond producer.

The argument for a diamond is that it is the most enduring, beautiful, and expensive gem. Many women, however, prefer different gems or semiprecious stones to the stark clarity of a diamond. Many women prefer colored stones. Sapphires, star sapphires, emeralds, and rubies are often used in engagement rings. Pearls and opals are rare, because these are soft stones.

In some European countries (for example, Germany), engagement rings are usually plain gold bands without a diamond.

History

The inception of the engagement ring itself can be tied to the Fourth Lateran Council presided over by Pope Innocent III in 1215. Innocent declared a longer waiting period between betrothal and marriage; plain rings of gold, silver or iron were used earliest. Gems were more than baubles; they were important and reassuring status symbols to the aristocracy. Laws were passed to preserve a visible division of social rank, ensuring only the privileged wore florid jewels. As time passed and laws relaxed, diamonds and other gems became obtainable to the middle class.

At one time, engagement rings mounted sets of stones. One traditional sentimental pattern mounted six to celebrate the joining of two families: The birthstones of the bride's parents and the bride (on the left), and the birth stones of the groom and his parents (on the right). The parents' stones were mounted with the mother to the left of the father. The bride and groom's birthstones would be adjacent in the center. Another similar pattern, for four stones, mounted the birthstone of the parents' marriages, and the birthstones of the bride and groom. These token rings often disassembled, to expose a channel in which a lock of the suitor's hair could be treasured.

A Victorian tradition was the Regards ring, in which the initials of the precious gems used spelled out the word 'regards'.

See also

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