Engagement rings have been known in Europe since the early Roman era, c.200 BC. Known as the ‘Anulus Pronubus’, these early engagements rings were made of iron, as were their wedding rings.
The custom of iron engagement rings continued for over 400 years until around 200 AD when gold was worn by the general public. Even then, the iron wedding rings were still worn in the home.
Fashion in Engagement Rings
Betrothal rings went through many variations in metal type and style over the years. Sometimes these changes were dictated by fashion while at other times the metals and styles were legislated by the church or the state, silver or gold, simple or elaborate.
In general, engagement rings were considered as a symbol of the earnest money due the bride from the groom. This was not universal though, in Germany the approved espousal form read more like a transaction,
“I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1000 Reichsthalers.”
Almost as varied as style and metal? The finger and hand upon which the engagement rings and wedding rings are worn.
The ancient Romans wore their betrothal and nuptial rings on the forth finger of the left hand, as is common in this era. The belief existed that a vein or nerve ran directly through that finger to the heart. This idea was acquired from the magicians of Egypt, where Rome ruled for centuries.
The Gauls and Britons of the 1st century wore their wedding rings on the middle finger of the right hand. During the 7th century the English began wearing wedding rings as the Romans did, on the left hand ring finger, but the Fench did not alter their fashion until the 1600’s when it became stylish to wear the nuptial ring on the index or even the little finger.
Much of Europe and India wore wedding rings on the thumb. Puritans tried to purge rings from the wedding customs of the time, as indicated by their spokesman Samuel Butler when he wrote,
“Others were for abolishing
That tool of matrimony – a ring
With which the unsanctify’ed bridegroom
Is marry’d only to a thumb.”
Inscribed Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings
Posie rings are engagement rings and wedding rings that have short inscriptions to express a sentiment. Popular with the ancient Romans, they did not fall out of fashion until the early 1900’s.
A posie from the time of the Roman Empire reads,
“Pignus Amoris Habes” – A Pledge of Love
Another antique posie, this time in Old French, expresses an affectionate sentiment from one who is absent,
“Je suis ici en lieu d’ami” – I am here in place of a friend
In 17th century England a booklet was available titled,
“Loves Garland; or Posies for Rings, Handkerchiefs and Gloves, and Such Pretty Tokens as Lovers Send Their Loves”
Here are two gems from that source,
“The sight of this deserves a kiss”
“In thee a flame, in me the same”
Some posies from earlier authors convey much in few words,
“Semper Amemus” – Forever Lovers
“Amor Vincit Om” – Love Conquers All
“In Bone Fay” – In Good Faith
“Mon Cur Avez” – My Heart is Yours
There exist many examples of posies, some simple ones,
“This and My Heart”
Some verbose and humorous,
“Love him who gave thee this ring of gold,
‘Tis he must kiss thee when thou art old”
View the interesting and fun videos; http://www.jewelrybirthstoneswizard.com/engagement_rings
Engagement rings and wedding rings will always carry their sentimental pledges of love, symbolized by the unending circle of the ring and by posies such as this;
“This hath no end, my sweetest friend”