Shopping for engagement rings is incredibly exciting. If you intend to surprise your partner with a proposal, this is one of the most important steps to take. These rings are the ultimate symbol of love and commitment, but when did we start wearing them? How has the design or meaning of the engagement ring changed over time? How do you find the perfect engagement ring?

The Origin and Evolution of Engagement Rings

Tracing Back the History of Engagement Rings

The history of engagement rings goes back further than you might think. The engagement ring tradition has changed over time, but it started as early as 27 BC in the Roman Empire and the Visigoth Kingdom. While engagement rings still symbolize commitment and a promise to marry, their meaning differs quite a bit across time and cultures.

When Did Engagement Rings Start?

Though the first engagement rings as we know them today were exchanged during the Roman Empire, it’s likely many rings made of natural materials, like woven reeds, predate them. It wasn’t until 1477 that the first diamond engagement ring was commissioned by Archduke Maximillian of Austria. It would then take until the 1800s for diamond engagement rings to be the norm across Europe and America. 

The Meaning Behind the Ring

The Symbolism of Engagement Rings

What does an engagement ring mean? The meaning of engagement rings is different for everyone, but traditionally, an engagement ring represents the love and commitment shared by two people. There was a time when the ring symbolized some degree of ownership that a man had over a woman. Today, however, it’s much more representative of equal commitment and devotion in a relationship, regardless of gender.

What Is an Engagement Ring Today?

People are much more open-minded about engagement rings today. In a modern relationship, you can prioritize purchasing a ring that you find beautiful and representative of your relationship rather than one that perfectly fits societal norms.

You can wear the ring on any finger, a woman can propose to a man, and you can spend as much or as little as you feel appropriate. No matter how much you deviate from the engagement ring tradition, however, the meaning of the ring has mostly remained the same. It is a promise to take the relationship to the next level.

Engagement Rings Through the Ages

Iconic Engagement Rings and Their Stories

The most iconic engagement ring in history may be Princess Diana’s sapphire ring. This widely recognizable engagement ring is estimated to be worth approximately $400,000 today and features a 12-carat oval sapphire as its centerpiece. Princess Diana broke from tradition by ordering from a catalog rather than having it custom-made.

Elizabeth Taylor had many iconic engagement rings, as the legendary actress was engaged 10 times. Her engagement ring collection included a 4-carat diamond platinum-set ring, a 16-carat sapphire ring, and another featuring various rubies, emeralds, and diamonds.

The Evolution of Engagement Ring Designs

The engagement ring has undergone some big changes over the decades. The Art Deco style of the 1920s was represented in their eye-catching engagement rings, though they became much less opulent given the economic turmoil in the 1930s. 

By the 1970s, engagement rings were chunky, then colorful in the ’80s, and more demure in the ’90s. Unsure as to which of these styles suits you? Check out our informative diamond engagement ring shopping guide.

Choosing Your Dream Engagement Ring

Factors to Consider When Selecting an Engagement Ring

It’s important to consider the significance of an engagement ring before buying one. Taking the time to weigh the different style options, along with your budget, will help you make a more informed decision on this major purchase. We encourage you to browse different stones, styles, band colors, and more to ensure you find a ring you’ll be proud to wear or give.

Engagement Ring Trends for the Modern Couple

Modern trends in engagement ring design include colored gemstones like sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Other trends are the use of sustainably sourced materials and the return of Art Deco elements.

The Ultimate Symbol of Your Love

Engagement rings have long been the ultimate symbols of love and commitment. Envision your dream engagement ring and reflect on what it would symbolize for you and your partner.