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The History of Traditional Wedding and Engagement Rings

“But it’s tradition.” It has to be the number one reason that people continue to pick diamonds and gold for their wedding and engagement rings. But what if we told you that this tradition hasn’t been a tradition for very long? And, in fact, most countries around the world don’t use diamond rings to seal the engagement at all. Here’s a look at the truth behind the customary rings. The truth to the legend might just surprise you.

The earliest mention of wedding bands dates back more than 5,000 years to Egypt, where couples would weave hemp around their fingers to show that they were married. Later, ancient Romans would upgrade from hemp to iron, and eventually, Europeans turned it into an ornate work of art made from gold.

Fun fact? Early Americans thought wedding bands were pointless and frivolous. So instead, they exchanged thimbles, which were seen as practical. Over time, the trend became to cut the top off of the thimble, creating the first American wedding band.

Yes, some engagement rings may have used diamonds in early America, but it didn’t catch on as a trend until the late 1930s.  That’s when large mines filled with diamonds were found in South Africa. The diamond industry knew that if they were to protect their long-term value, they needed to make the stones seem scarce, rare, and desirable. So, following a lengthy marketing research project, the floundering diamond giant De Beers launched a wildly successful campaign to boost diamond sales. It’s a campaign you probably still know about.

DeBeers debuted the four “C’s” of diamonds (Carat, Cut, Clarity, & Color), and then decided to educate young grooms-to-be on exactly how much the right diamond should cost him. Hence the two and a half months salary guideline. The well-worn phrase, “a diamond is forever” was also a product of this campaign.

The campaign went on to give diamonds to celebrities, and ask magazines and newspapers to reinforce the size of diamonds as being synonymous with romance, love, commitment, and status. The end result was a new generation of American women who now believed that true love could mean only one thing – a diamond, and a big one at that. It was a raging success and a new American tradition was born. In 1939. Less than 80 years ago. In the 1940’s fewer than 10% of brides-to-be received a diamond ring. In the 1990s, more than 80% received one.

A few more interesting facts? Many countries wear their wedding rings on the right hand since that’s the hand used to take vows traditionally. The left hand was chosen by some since it is believed that a vein runs directly from the fourth finger of the left hand to the heart. This is a widely publicized myth.

And when it comes to American men wearing wedding bands, that’s a tradition that only dates back to World War 2. Men began wearing rings as a sign of affection, to remind them of their wives back home.

We know times are changing and honestly, we like the idea of shaking tradition up a bit, but keeping the symbolism the same, of course. At QALO, all of our silicone rings are made to represent the commitment between you and your loved ones.