From the Egyptians to the Romans, Where Did the Engagement Ring Come From?


Perhaps one of the most expensive pieces of jewelry today is an engagement ring. Some experts say that the cost of it should be around two months’ worth of the person’s salary. 

Despite the cost, why are some people flocking to buy jewelry pieces? It is largely because of the value engagement rings have. 

This could be largely attributed to the Diamonds Are Forever campaign in the 1940s. But where did the giving of engagement rings start? Some say it was during the time of ancient Egypt. But are they correct? 

Love and Marriage among Ancient Egyptians 

Several, from historians to jewelers, believe that engagement rings started during the old days of Egypt. The Egyptians followed many beliefs, and one of these is that the circle is a symbol of eternity. Thus, couples might have given reed rings to their partner. 

But people these days also equate engagement rings to love? Is it the same with Egypt back then? You will be surprised to know that it is. 

Perhaps by reading history, you learn that many monarchs might have said I Do for politics or strategy. Some even suggest that this was the case with Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. 

When the two met, Caesar was already 50+years old while Cleopatra was still young. However, Cleopatra might have gotten together with Caesar as a way to consolidate their power and shield her rulership from the Roman Empire. 

In reality, though, historians believe that many Egyptians married out of love. One proof is the inscription in an old papyrus dating back to circa 1200 BCE. In it, a man seemed to shower praises for his “sister,” whom history experts think does not refer to a blood relative. Back then, it was customary for Egyptians to call older women mother and the younger ones sister. 

No Marriage 

Despite the love, marriage was out of the radar of old Egypt. At least, the union isn’t similar to what people think these days. 

According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, families spent a lot of time in the prenuptial stage. Parents of both sides would agree on the gifts. For example, the parents of the bride would determine the price and the presents she would carry to the family of the groom. 

The marriage happened as soon as the bride entered the home of the groom with the goods in her hands. However, to solidify the relationship, the fathers of the bride and groom would then draw up an agreement that needed to be signed by two witnesses. 

If marriage is as simple as this, does this mean that the idea that the engagement ring began in their time isn’t true? It’s hard to say. Even if their history is well-documented, not everything has been written. 

However, it might still be possible. Reeds are incredibly abundant in Egypt because of its location. The simplicity of the design can also reflect the practicality and ease of the union. 

Lastly, the shape and the position of the ring when worn, which is on the third finger since it contains a blood vessel that connects to the heart, can speak of the people’s customs that affect different areas of their lives, including relationships and marriage. 

Enter the Romans 

Another reason to believe that the wearing of the engagement ring began during the times of the Egyptians is the marriage customs of the Romans. 

In 30 BC, the Romans conquered Egypt and ruled there for over 500 years. It is, therefore, not surprising if the European colonizers also learned and copied some traditions of the Egyptians, such as engagement rings. 

As expected, the engagement rings of the Romans were more glamorous than the reed rings of the Egyptians. They were already made of iron and gold since they already had access to these elements. 

However, it’s also possible that since elements were expensive during that time, the Romans might have bought them only when they could afford the jewelry piece. They might also figure heavily among prominent people in society back then. 

Increasing the Ring’s Value 

These are all conjectures one can glean from a history that spans thousands of years. However, the meaning or the value of the ring doesn’t have to diminish over time. Even back then, engagement rings have long been a symbol of love and union. 

In your relationship, you can increase the worth of the ring not by buying the most expensive one but by using it to honor the love of your life.

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