The History of Engagement Rings

The word “bethrothed” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “troweth,” which means truth.  In medieval England, a betrothed couple shared a “truth” or “pledge” to marry, and a ring served as the outward sign that a woman was promised to another.

While the ring itself, with no beginning or end, is an ancient symbol of eternal love, the story of the diamond engagement ring reaches back to the Middle Ages, when the invincible diamond, symbolising ”unquenchable” love, was considered ideal to seal a betrothal or marriage pledge, By the fifteenth century, the diamond ring was a feature of royal and noble weddings.

When, in 1475, Constanzo Sforza presented his bride, Camilla d’Aragona, with a diamond ring on their wedding day, a poem, in an illuminated manuscript, documented the ceremony: ‘Two torches in one ring of burning fire / Two wills, two hearts, two passions, all bonded in marriage by a diamond.’ The fire in the diamond was likened to the constant flame of love.

Placement of betrothal rings were also important, needing to be placed on the third finger of the left hand. This finger was believed to contain a vein leading directly to the heart, aka the vena amoris or vein of love.

These rings were all worn by Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.

 

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Audrey Hepburn’s rings given to her by Mel Ferrer in 1954.

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Elizabeth Taylor’s ring given to her by her 6th husband Richard Burton.

 

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Jacqueline Kennedy’s Emerald engagement ring.

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Marilyn Monroe’s ring given to her by Joe DiMaggio.

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