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Historic Rings

A History of Engagement and Wedding Rings

Nowadays when one thinks of a classic engagement ring, they usually picture a gold or platinum ring with a solitaire diamond, or perhaps with more than one diamond. Wedding bands are usually a thicker band ring, some quite simple, while others have intricate designs or stones included. Although these styles of rings are considered ‘traditional’ they have actually only been in fashion for about the past 100 years. Today we will take a look at the styles and symbolism of wedding rings throughout history.

Walk like an Egyptian (Ancient Egypt 3050BC-30AD)

The always fashionable Ancient Egyptians are believed to be the first to wear engagement rings, as the circle symbolized eternity. The rings were fashioned out of plant material or silver or gold wire. They wore the ring on the third finger of the left hand because they believed that finger had a vein in it which connected directly to the heart (romantic if not anatomically correct).

When in Rome (Ancient Rome 753BC-476AD)

Ancient Rome was a society that prized their military domination, so it is no wonder their engagement rings were made of iron, which signified strength. A woman’s acceptance of the ring formed a legally binding agreement of the husband’s ownership of her (not very romantic).

By the Book (Byzantine Empire 330-1453)

In this deeply religious society, wedding rings traditionally incorporated a scene depicting a man and woman facing each other with a central figure blessing their union.

Stuck in the Middle with You (Middle Ages 500-1400)

It was a custom in medieval times for Jewish grooms to give their wives wedding rings that had elaborately detailed temples or houses on the top. These rings were oversized and not intended to actually be worn in everyday life. In Anatolia (modern day Turkey) husbands often gave their wives puzzle rings; sets of complex interlocking metal bands that arranged to form a single ring. It was given as a test of monogamy as it was believed that if a woman took off the ring she would not be able to put it back together again and would thus be caught (talk about no trust!). Another trend of the time was the posy ring. These rings had poems or mottos inside the band and the inscriptions were written in French, the international language of love. It was also during this time period, in 1447, that the first recorded diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy from the Archduke Maximilian of Austria (clearly ahead of his time).

Da Vinci a la Mode (Renaissance 1300-1600)

In the 1600’s the fashionable wedding ring was the Fede (faith) ring which showed two hands clasping. The Fede ring inspired the still popular Irish Claddagh ring, which has two hands clasping a heart topped with a crown. Another engagement ring which became in vogue during the renaissance was the Gimmel ring. This ring had two interlocking bands, one which the woman wore and one which the man wore during their betrothal. At the wedding ceremony they would take off their rings and lock them together to become one, which the woman would then wear.

All Work and No Play (Puritan New England 1630-1800)

The Puritans were definitely not the most fun group of people, in fact they went so far as to ban Christmas! So it’s not that surprising that they prohibited their members from wearing any jewellery due to its ‘moral worthlessness’. A common wedding gift from husband to wife was a practical thimble. However, after the wedding many women would remove the top of the thimble and wear it as a ring (when a woman wants jewellery she gets it!).

We are Not Amused (Victorian England 1837-1901)

Although Victorians are often portrayed as being uptight and stuffy they were actually quite sentimental, and Queen Victoria herself was very much in love with her husband Prince Albert. Rings during this era often had terms of endearment spelt out using the language of stones, which used the initials of gemstones. The word LOVE was often spelled out using lapis lazuli, opal, vermeil, and emerald. Another attractive engagement ring style was that of the serpent wrapping around the finger, often with rubies for eyes or an emerald for its head.

Diamonds are Forever (1867- Present)

In 1867 Diamonds were discovered in Africa, which opened up a huge supply of the precious gem. Before this time diamonds were very rare and only found in India and Brazil. In 1880 the DeBeers Mining Company was formed and within a decade they controlled 90% of the world diamond production. In 1886 Tiffany &Co. introduced the Tiffany setting, a 6 pronged ring designed to maximize the diamonds brilliance by raising it up from the band. In the 1900’s the princess ring with three to five large diamonds became a sought after engagement ring. The fashion in the 1920’s was to have one solitaire diamond set on a platinum band for durability. During WWII platinum was restricted for military use, and yellow gold rose to prominence. In 1947 DeBeers presented their brilliant marketing slogan “A diamond is forever” and since then the appetite for the strong and beautiful diamond has endured.

The Tradition Continues with Kimberfire

While the style, sentiment and symbolism of engagement and wedding rings has changed throughout history, the gesture of giving a permanent symbol of love and fidelity to ones beloved has remained. When deciding on a style for your special ring, whether it be a classic solitaire or something completely unique, Kimberfire can answer all your needs. We specialize in creating engagement and wedding rings which will endure and sparkle until the end of time.

 

(Photo Credit: Berganza)

Katie and Jon Engagement Photo with Graffiti Wall

A Toronto Engagement Ring Story: Jon & Katie

Part of our ongoing series profiling Kimberfire’s diamond engagement rings in Toronto, and the awesome people who wear them.

Will you be my partner in crime?

I’ve seen Katie pull off many a stylish ensemble – and pretty soon, she will be all dressed in white. Artistic, and a natural beauty, Katie describes her fiancé, Jon, as “sweet, rambunctious and caring … and he can always make me laugh.”

Jon was drawn to Katie’s easygoing, positive personality and fell in love with her adventurous spirit and ambitious drive, as well as her creative and silly side.

Katie and Jon Engagement Photo

The couple initially met through an online dating site. After a few emails back and forth, they realized that they worked in neighboring office towers and decided to grab a coffee and meet in person. After their coffee date ended, Jon wasted no time, and asked Katie out right away. On many of their dates, you could find them gallivanting across the city of Toronto, checking out funky restaurants, jazz clubs and art galleries.

Katie still remembers having their first kiss in the middle of David Pecaut Square. Jon must have remembered that kiss as well because that’s where he proposed to Katie.

Katie can’t pin point an exact moment when she realized that Jon was ‘the one’. What she does know however, is that over time, Jon went from being her goofy boyfriend, to best friend, to true love.

“I’m lucky to have him as my partner in crime for the rest of my life.”

Katie would say that her engagement ring buying process (rather than just the ring itself) represents her relationship with Jon, ‘to a tee!’ Jon and Katie started discussing diamond rings a few months before he proposed. Being the artistic type, Katie had many ideas on the cut she wanted.  Initially she desired a marquise diamond with baguette diamonds on the side. Then, she had her sights set on an emerald cut diamond with a skinny band.  “Poor Jon, I basically made him so confused. So, just as he does with everything else, Jon tried to ground my decision making process by taking me to try on a few rings.  That’s when I realized that I wanted something simple – round cut with a halo.”

Enter Kimberfire

Jon and Katie are both ‘entrepreneurial wannabes’ and do their part to support small businesses. When they found out that Jonathan Goldberg had left investment banking to launch a fine jewelry business, they just knew they had to get their ring from him.

Jon went to Jonathan Goldberg with an idea or three… for a ring design. After a few design tweaks and some recommendations on clarity, colour and carat, Jonathan Goldberg brought the idea to life! The end result was a beautiful 19k white gold ring with a round diamond in the middle and a single halo around the perimeter. The diamonds sit in a beautiful vintage setting that sports a skinny band with diamond embedded throughout. Instead of traditional nickel, palladium was used for the alloy, ensuring a very bright white finish. Katie couldn’t be happier and said, “I absolutely LOVE my ring!”

Katie's Kimberfire Engagement Ring in Toronto

Katie also commented that, “even after I received the ring, Jonathan provided nothing but top notch customer service. When I mentioned that my ring felt a bit loose, he got it sized for me right away. Additionally, he added two sizing balls to the inside of my band to stop my ring from twisting on my finger! Such a great idea!”.

Katie says her ring definitely reflects her personal style, which she describes as ‘sophisticated and classy.’  Katie prefers her style to always be timeless as opposed to trendy. Katie’s timeless taste reflects the vintage setting and classic cut of her engagement ring.

We wish this happy couple all of the joys and happiness in their journey together and appreciate them sharing their story with us (and you!).

 

(Photo Credits: Laura Nicholson Photography)

 

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