Brief History of Engagement Rings

Luxurious rings and fine jewelry quite often steal the show.  Lately, however, one specific engagement ring has received an exuberant amount of attention. The price tag: $50 million. The material: canvas.


If you haven’t heard the details yet, Sotheby’s will be bringing a comic book style painting called ‘Engagement Ring’ to auction with a minimum price tag of $50 million on May 12th. The painting is by pop art pioneer Roy Lichtenstein and features his romantic period trademark which often included “a boy and a girl connected by romantic dialogue and action.”*

But what makes this painting so peculiar? Why are we so captivated by the visualization of this moment? Is it the red web-like pattern in the background that makes it so alluring, or the close-up of the two hands or the gold banded, diamond ring itself? We took a brief look at the history of engagement rings to get a better idea of Lichtenstein’s inspiration.

The engagement ring has long held a special place in Western Culture. Its beauty and allure is unparalleled, and is rarely outshined. Many young ladies have spent countless hours daydreaming of what their eventual engagement ring may look like, how it might feel to put it on, and how those around them will receive it. They often have a very specific idea of what they like most in an engagement ring, and what they feel represents them most accurately. But where does the engagement ring come from, and what is the ring’s significance?

The engagement ring has a long history. Some records reflect various versions of it being present in ancient Rome, Greece and even ancient Egypt. Many ancient cultures believed that the third finger on the left hand, had a special vein called Vena Amoris, the vein of “love”. This vein was thought to run directly to the heart. Thus, the origin of the ring finger came to be. The first recorded use of the diamond engagement ring appeared in 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a gold engagement ring with a diamond set in the shape of an “M”.

In the years to follow, the tradition of a man giving a woman an engagement ring has grown and evolved. Many feel that with the decline in dowries being given, the ring now represents that same concept. Depending on location, some women now wear their engagement rings on the annular or ring finger of their left hand, while it is customary in other cultures to wear it on the same finger of the right hand. Traditionally, women wore an engagement ring until her wedding day, and then took it off and replaced it with a wedding band. Nowadays, women usually wear both rings even after their wedding ceremony. Some women even have the two molded together.

The idea of the engagement ring has grown in popularity over the past centuries. It is now considered by many to be an integral part of the courting and marriage ceremony. With so much emphasis being placed on this all too important aspect of a couple’s union, the very best resources should be at your disposal in making such an important selection. ZYDO’s designer jewelry offers many options from which to choose. Fine jewelry with a mystique which is unparalleled throughout the industry can really serve to make the perfect engagement ring a reality! Be sure to explore our collection, Luminal, to discover extraordinary designs achieved with ZYDO’s cult stone of prestigious tradition, the diamond.ZYDO_18kt_White_Gold_With_Diamonds



*Source: Coplans, John, ed. (1972). “Introduction, Biographical Notes, Chronology of Imagery and Art”. Roy Lichtenstein. Praeger Publishers. p. 40.


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