Engagement rings might seem as old as the institution of marriage itself however, not too long ago, other tokens of love served to signify the guarantee to wed..
By way of example, throughout the 1800s, a few American guys gave thimbles; after the wedding, the thimble’s suggestion could be cut away to create a ring, based on Mental Floss. One English habit involved the few splitting a part of gold or silver into two bits, one per spouse to maintain, then drinking a glass of wine into formalize the engagement.
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We could trace betrothal rings back into 13th-century Rome, when Christians adopted the tradition following Pope Innocent III declared a mandatory waiting period between betrothal and marriage. Their rings were simple bands of iron and also, later, gold. The habit of wearing wedding rings around the left hand supposedly comes from the Roman and Greek belief that a distinctive strand, the “Vena Amoris,” runs directly from the ring finger to the center.
Diamonds have been also a later addition. Archduke Maximillian of Austria has been the first person on record to present his bride-to-be using a sparkler, in 1477, but glistening rocks did not become popular for non-aristocracy before a massive marketing push by DeBeers in the 1930s.
As stated by the Atlantic, De Beers exploited both supply and demand after massive diamond mines have been discovered in South Africa in the late 19th century. “Just by keeping up the fiction that diamonds were scarce and inherently beneficial could they protect their investments and buoy diamond prices,” writes Uri Friedman. So the company started a cartel to control all parts of the diamond business, and hired a New York advertising agency to strengthen the bead as status symbol.
In the late 1940s, a copywriter from the N.W. Ayer advertisement agency composed the famous motto, “A Diamond is Forever,” for its brand. The ad campaign encouraged consumers to look at diamond rings as family heirlooms. (A eternally pearl, the Atlantic notes, isn’t resold, and so, doesn’t “undermine public confidence in the inherent worth of diamonds.”)
So there you have it: If our grandparents had not been susceptible to marketing, we might be walking round with thimbles in our palms.