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  • Digby Joplin

What's The Big Deal About The Engagement Ring

The history of the engagement ring is very complicated. The modern diamond engagement or betrothal ring can be traced back to 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy. However the custom of giving a bride a gift can be traced back over many thousand years. In middle eastern culture when a man wanted to marry a young women a friend (The Best Man), of the suitor would go and seek permission from the woman’s father (Father of the Bride). If the suitor was acceptable to the father, negotiations would begin as to how much the bride price would be. Sometimes this would be money, or jewellery, or livestock sheep and goats. Other times it might be land or labour. The reason for this, is a young women works in the family home or business thus she has some value / worth to the family and the bride price was paid to the family to compensate them for the loss of the valuable worker. In the economy of the time it makes perfect sense. Examples of this can be found in the old testament of the Bible. Once the bride price was agreed and paid then the marriage could proceed. A proportion of the bride price was given to the bride herself generally in the form of jewellery. This was hers to keep and was taken into the marriage. It was a form of insurance in that in the event that the marriage didn’t work out. The jewellery became her security for her future. This is in the days when women had few if any possessions or opportunities or independence. Over the years to simplify the process the custom came down to the suitor (The Bridegroom) giving directly to his betrothed a gift as part of the bride price. This then became a ring and then a ring of value. This custom was carried on in Roman times but the ring was just an iron ring which signified a betrothal.

This is a very brief history and different accounts have a different take on it. What is interesting is how many of today’s traditions and aspects of the getting married process can be traced back to ancient eastern customs. Asking the father of the bride permission to marry his daughter and the engagement party is a direct descendant of the feast held at the completion of the negotiations of the bride price and the agreement to the marriage.

Digby Joplin


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