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Engagement Rings Around the World

By Mike Fried,

The exchange of rings can be traced back to ancient Egypt, when rings woven from reeds and other natural materials were given as a symbol of eternity. The tradition of giving engagement rings has evolved over time, but the gift of a ring endures as a symbolic token of everlasting love all around the world. Here’s a look at a few of the ways that people give engagement rings in different countries and cultures.

United States

In the United States, diamond engagement rings have long been the most popular choice for a couple declaring their love and intent to marry. The durability and classic beauty of diamonds is an icon of American culture when it comes to romance and love everlasting.

While there is still a very strong tradition of one partner choosing a ring and getting down on one knee to “pop the question”, today, around a third of American couples shop for a ring together. As more and more couples opt for equality over tradition, the idea of both partners in a couple wearing an engagement ring is catching on quickly.

Getting realy to propose in America

Native American

In some Native American communities, engagement rings are made of sterling silver and semiprecious stones such as turquoise, coral and lapis. They are also sometimes engraved with symbols and natural elements that have spiritual significance.

Nordic Countries

In some Nordic countries, including Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland, both partners wear engagement rings. In these countries, it is common to go with a simple, classic band of gold or silver, and the rings usually double as wedding rings. 

France

In France, a classic diamond solitaire is the most popular kind of engagement ring. We have to agree, the simple elegance of a solitaire certainly conveys a certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi.” Rather than choosing a ring with the biggest, flashiest diamond they can find, the French tend to prefer a ring with a special history and meaning, like a family heirloom ring, or one with personal significance. While diamond engagement rings are quite popular in France, it is also very common to give an engagement ring with alternative precious stones such as rubies, emeralds, or sapphires.

Germany

In Germany, the exchange of rings between partners is a traditional sign of engagement, and couples typically use the same rings for the wedding. In recent years, it has become more common for one partner to propose with a ring that features a small gemstone or diamond. Like the French, Germans often opt for sapphires, emeralds and rubies when choosing an engagement ring. Additionally,  in Germany people will typically wear their wedding band on its own after the wedding rather than wearing both the engagement ring and wedding band stacked together.

Some German couples choose poesy rings, or rings that are engraved with poetry or something that is particularly meaningful to the couple. In some regions, the rings are engraved with both partner’s names.

A custom engraved engagement ring
An example of a custom engraving on an engagement ring from Blue Nile

UK

In the UK, wedding and engagement culture is heavily influenced by the royal family. When Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with Princess Diana’s stunning blue sapphire and diamond ring, sapphire ring sales skyrocketed.

While tradition still plays a big part in UK marriage proposals, progressive thinking has definitely had an impact on the way that the British are getting engaged. Today, about a third of British women pick out their own engagement ring.

Ireland

In Ireland, many couples choose claddagh rings for their engagement or wedding rings. Claddagh rings are said to originate in Galway, but their symbolism can be traced back to ancient Rome. A classic claddagh ring consists of two hands holding a crowned heart. The hands symbolize friendship, the heart symbolizes love, and the crown atop symbolizes loyalty. But the symbolism doesn’t end there- these rings can also be used to indicate the wearer’s relationship status. If a person is single, the claddagh is worn on the right hand facing outward. If the ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing the wearer, it indicates the person is in a relationship. To signify engagement, the claddagh can be moved to the left hand and worn on the ring finger with the heart facing outward, and finally, once a person is married, the claddagh is worn on the ring finger with the heart facing the wearer.

Italy

The original use of engagement rings in ancient Rome was  actually to make the contract between two families publicly visible. In those times, a promise of engagement was legally binding. These Roman rings were made of iron to symbolize the unbreakable contract between the families of the betrothed. Today, it remains a part of Italian wedding tradition for the groom to carry a small piece of iron in his pocket, or for the bride to be given a horseshoe made of iron. The horseshoe is for good luck, but the iron is a symbol of the strength of the bond between spouses.

Another Italian engagement tradition that alludes to the idea of an alliance between two families is the “Fede” ring. In Italian “Fede” means faith, or fidelity, and these rings feature two hands clasped, or two hands holding a heart. With their roots in Roman history, “Fede” rings are still used as engagement and wedding rings by some couples in Italy today. The fede ring has evolved over time, and the traditional Irish Claddagh is one very popular iteration of the fede ring.

A claddagh rign or fede ring from Ancient Rome

Morocco

In Morocco, rings are exchanged between partners to celebrate engagement, and the engaged pair give each other milk to drink and dates to eat to symbolize the sweetness of life together.

Turkey

In Turkey, family is integral to the exchange of rings.  The rings are tied together with a red ribbon or cord. A respected elder in the family places the rings on the right hand ring finger of each partner, at this point, the family member cuts the ribbon and the couple is officially engaged. Once the wedding ceremony has taken place, the rings are moved from the right hand to the left.

Greek Orthodox:

In some faith traditions, it is customary to have a religious betrothal ceremony to formalize the engagement between two persons. In the Greek Orthodox tradition, the exchange of rings between the betrothed takes place in the presence of a priest, who blesses the rings and the engaged couple.

India

In India, there is a longstanding tradition of the brides wearing engagement rings- but on her toes rather than her fingers! Traditional toe rings, known as bichiya, are typically ornate and most often made of silver. They are given as a pair to the bride by her husband, and one is worn on the second toe of each foot. But these rings may be more than a symbol; according to Ayurveda, the toe rings contribute to health and fertility. While the western tradition of an engagement ring worn on the ring finger has also emerged in India, especially among the younger generations, toe rings are still an important part of Indian wedding culture.

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Blue Nile Blue Nile is the largest and most well-known internet jewelry seller. They have a very large exclusive online inventory. Their high-quality images are catching up to James Allens' and their prices are amazing. 
What we love about them:
  • No questions asked returns within 30 days of shipment. Blue Nile will send you a paid shipping label to return the ring.
  • Lifetime Warranty
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  • Free prong tightening, repolishing, rhodium plating and cleaning every 6 months
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