When Katy Perry got engaged this past New Year’s Eve, the web was a-buzz about her ring. And what a gorgeous ring indeed – I was half expecting her to receive some sort of cupcake-bubblegum-pink toy jewel but the rock on her finger today is a fine alternative.
But what’s all the hubbub about? Why are modern engagements so ring-obsessed? These days, when a woman gets engaged, it’s all about THE RING! How big is the diamond? What cut? What’s the band look like? The obsession over Katy Perry’s new ring made us curious – how did this ring tradition begin? A little research turned up a lot of interesting, little-known facts.
The tradition of giving and receiving engagement rings originated in Ancient Egypt, only in those days, the rings were made of plants or flowers that fiancés looped around their fingers (no Tiffany & Co. down the road from the Sphinx – they had to make due).
These rings symbolized commitment, love, eternity, fidelity, and honor, and today they essentially stand for the same thing. The Egyptians placed the ring on the fourth finger because they believed that this finger had a vein that connected straight to the heart. This vein is located on the fourth finger on the left hand because the heart is located on the left side of the body. Pretty cute, huh?
In the Middle East, engagement rings acted as puzzles that needed to be deconstructed and reconstructed. The idea behind this came about when the Middle Eastern men had to leave their wives for extended periods of time. In order to make sure their wives did not act disloyal while they were away, the puzzle rings were fitted perfectly around the wives’ fingers, and if removed, immediately collapsed. Reconstructing the puzzle rings required lots of skill and knowledge, and therefore kept the women faithful.
In the United States, it is more common for only women to wear engagement rings. However, in Brazil, both men and women wear plain engagement rings on their right hands. After the wedding, they move the rings to the left hand. Women do the same in Germany – rings are worn on the right hand until the wedding, when they are shifted onto the left hand.
Although some ancient traditions have been significantly upgraded in modern times, the original sentiment of the engagement ring remains the same. The never-ending loop around your finger, the gorgeous band that holds your diamond in place, represents your eternal love for your fiancé and your commitment to one another – certainly a sentiment worth keeping alive throughout the centuries.