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Do I Have to Have an Engagement Ring to be Engaged?

An engagement ring is a symbol of the promise of marriage. It is also a symbol of the commitment to join as one in a lifelong relationship as husband and wife. An engagement ring is not an absolute necessity in order to be married. However, in American culture engagement rings are common because it is a pledge of love and is a symbol that a woman is no longer available to be courted by other men. The act of wearing an engagement ring lets other men know that the woman’s feelings are “engaged by somebody else.”

Many people feel that the engagement and the offering of an engagement ring to a woman are extremely important. In western society a woman wears the engagement ring on her left hand, on the second last finger. This is the same finger that her wedding ring will be placed on during the wedding ceremony. The engagement ring is given after a marriage proposal is accepted and it is representative of the agreement or pledge to marry in the future. In some countries the second last finger of the right hand is where the engagement ring is worn.

The tradition of the engagement ring dates back many years. It was once believed that the fourth finger of the left hand contained the vena amoris (or vein of love) and that this vein connected directly to the heart. This tradition has endured and that is why today both engagement rings and wedding rings are placed on this particular finger. In this way then the wedded couple was believed to be “joined at the heart.”

Most men today buy diamond rings for their beloved. The tradition of diamond engagement rings began with the Italians. In Italy it was once believed that diamonds were derived from the “flames of love” and therefore clearly represented the bonds of everlasting love.

The first people to make use of rings for a romantic purpose were the French. In the sixteenth century Frenchmen presented their beloved's with what was known as gimmal rings. Gimmal rings were intertwined but were designed with a tiny slit in the gold. The purpose of the slit was that once a man proposed marriage and a woman accepted, each wore one of the rings during the period of engagement. On the wedding day during the ceremony the groom would remove his ring and give it to the bride who would then wear the two rings together as one. This constituted her wedding band.

Engagement rings can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Thanks to the DeBeers marketing strategy for diamonds in the early part of the 20th century, it has become an adage that an engagement ring should equal two month’s of the man’s salary.

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