What is an Engagement Ring?

What is an Engagement Ring?

A Symbol of Love.

An engagement ring is a ring that indicates that the person wearing it is due to be married, in Western cultures.  It symbolizes an agreement to marriage and is usually presented to one of the couple by the other during a proposal.  In some cultures, the engagement ring is then worn as the wedding ring too, although many couples choose to buy separate ones. Typically, it is worn on the left hand’s ring finger.

Man and woman exchanging wedding bands at a wedding.Man and woman's hand in a wedding photo on their wedding day with wedding rings on.

Diamonds are Forever.

Historically, the origin of the engagement ring can be traced back to Ancient Rome, although some historians believe the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks may have had similar traditions. Roman women would receive two engagement rings, one made of gold, for wearing in public, and one made of iron, for wearing at home.

Roman texts suggest that engagement rings were worn of on the ring finger of the left hand because it was believed to contain a vein that led to the heart, a theory that was reiterated in other texts until the 17th Century AD.

Evidence that engagement rings were used as a symbol of betrothal have been found throughout the Middle Ages, Renaissance period, and in the 18th Century too.

Diamond engagement rings increased in popularity in the Victorian era, with the discovery of diamonds in South Africa in 1866. They later decreased in popularity until after both World War I and World War II.

A single marketing campaign with the famous slogan ‘diamonds are forever’ is credited with being responsible for reviving the popularity of diamond engagement rings, and they’ve been the default option for many ever since.


The Structure of the Ring.

A beautiful oval engagement ring with white gold band on woman in white sweater's hand

The Setting

The ‘setting’ (or ‘mount’) of a ring is the whole ring, excluding the center stone. It can be plain or set with gemstones, with a variety of different embellishments depending on the style. The ‘head’ is the setting that holds the main gemstone, typically a diamond.

The ‘shoulder’ of a ring is a part of the setting that describes the side of the mount, leading up to the head. ‘Side stones’ can be used to embellish the shoulder, and they’re held in place by the ‘prongs’. The prongs are pieces of metal that are designed to hold the center stone or side stones in place.

The Band

The ‘band’ is the part of the ring that fits around the finger. It’s typically made of a metal, commonly white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, silver, platinum or titanium. The band (also known as the ‘shank’) will be individually sized to fit different ring measurements, and can be resized throughout the lifetime of the ring.


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