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Have you ever wondered where the idea of engagement rings stems from? Engagement rings are thought to have originated from Ancient Egypt somewhere between 3000 and 5000 years ago. Engaged couples would exchange braided reeds or hemp to wear on their 3rd finger of their left hand, as this is where a vein called the "vena amores", which runs from the finger directly to the heart, is said to be, symbolising eternal love and fidelity. Of course, rings made from these materials didn't last long, and so they moved on to rings made of leather, bone or ivory. Over time it was thought that the more costly the ring, the more love was in the relationship and also the more social status one received.
In western and many asian cultures these days, an engagement ring still symbolises undying love and commitment and is traditionally a diamond ring, but it is given to the woman only. However, modern engagement rings now consist of a variety of different gemstones, and the western traditions are different to many parts of the world, which you may want to think about if you are thinking of proposing.
The big difference in some parts of Europe and South America, is that most engagement rings land on the righthand 3rd finger instead of the left. This is common practice in Peru, Colombia, Portugal, Spain, Greece and even sometimes in the UK. It is thought that this may have arisen during the Roman Empire times as they believed the left hand was unreliable and sinister, whereas the right hand was strong and trustworthy. Similarly in India, they also where their ring on the right hand as the left is considered "impure". However it is becoming more common practice to wear it on the left. Traditionally, Hindus wore a toe ring to symbolise engagement, known as "bichiya". In Germany and the Netherlands, engagement rings are worn on the left hand, but then swapped to the right hand upon marriage. This is the opposite for those in the Middle East and Chile.
A unique tradition can be found in Ireland with a ring called the Claddagh Ring. This ring represents love, loyalty, and friendship, whereby the hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. When worn in a particular way it symbolises the woman's relationship status:
- On the right hand with the heart pointing toward the fingertips: the wearer is single.
- On the right hand with the heart pointing toward the wrist: the wearer is in a relationship
- On the left ring finger with the heart pointing toward the fingertips: the wearer is engaged.
- On the left ring finger with the heart pointing toward the wrist: the wearer is married
More information about the history of the Claddagh Ring can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claddagh_ring
The French tend to select an engagement ring with a gemstone other than the traditional diamond, such as sapphire, ruby or emerald. In Sweden, both men and woman exchange engagement rings, which are usually simple gold or silver bands.
In Africa, particularly Kenya, colourful ornate neck beading is used in place of an engagement ring as beads symbolise a range of things from beauty and strength to marital status in their culture. For detailed information about Kenyan bead traditions please click here https://shikhazuri.com/african-beaded-jewellery-symbolism-kenya/