The History of Engagement Rings

The History of Engagement Rings
November 4, 2015 Northwood Rings

It could be easy to think that engagements and weddings are a modern invention and that the ceremonies that go along with them are mostly the product of royalty and the people that try to emulate them; however, weddings and engagements go back much further than that. Of course, this means that the tradition of rings goes back just as far. While we will never know exactly when it started, we do have a lot of clues and evidence to support the history of the engagement ring. Here is what we know so far.

An ancient tradition

Artefacts and even ancient story tellers and traditions point to wedding ceremonies being performed thousands of years ago into prehistory. We know that people have been joined together into both legal and spiritual bonds for as long as there has been society. There is evidence that ancient people used grass, wood, and other natural elements as props during their ceremonies. Ancient Egyptians tied wire made of silver or gold around their third fingers much like we do today to symbolize their bonds.

The Middle Ages to recent history

As technology became more advanced so too did ring making. Rings made of gold and other metals or materials were given at wedding ceremonies. Archduke Maximillian gave his bride a diamond wedding ring that was the talk of Europe at the time. This gave birth to a new tradition albeit one that was not very popular until modern times. Within the next few centuries everyone from the Puritans in the Americas to the Victorians in Europe would start giving rings made of materials including wood, gold, and even human hair! The diamond supply rapidly increased due to the discovery of diamonds in Africa, leading to the modern industry that currently dominates the trend.

Modern Times

Despite the tradition of giving a ring made out of whatever materials were available or suited the fancy of the recipient, the control of the diamond industry and the increased supply lead to gold rings with diamonds becoming the norm. New styles were dreamt up, new traditions born, and retailers even tried to launch the idea of engagement rings for men. Sadly, people were pushed to believe they should spend a certain amount of money on rings or get rings of a certain kind by the media. In reality, wedding rings had always been of all different kinds of materials, and have never had to be a certain price. That is why we take pride in making affordable, beautiful, hand-crafted wooden ones.

Despite what some would have you think, it is important to know that the history of providing a symbol of your marriage to your partner is one that is as old as mankind. We have always given something, and rings are just a modern embodiment of this tradition. That is why we sell traditional, natural, hand-made wooden rings. We are proud to continue this tradition in a safe and honest way.

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Macassar Ebony - Southeast Asia: A beautiful dark red to black toned wood. Great with vibrant colours like turquoise or malachite.
English Oak
*We are currently using the lighter woods from our Macassar Ebony to achieve this color as Roasted English Oak that is workable for bentwood has become hard to find. Colors range from medium to dark brown and nearly black tones.
Grey Maple
Sugar Maple - Canada: We use the same maple as our regular maple listing, but achieve a beautiful greyed colour by soaking the wood in iron acetate to achieve a weathered silver look.
Santos Rosewood
South America (Brazil and Bolivia): Not a true rosewood, and the same wood as our Pau Ferro, we use the santos name to differentiate the more red tone of this wood from the yellow tones of our Pau Ferro.
Pau Ferro
South America (Brazil and Bolivia): The same as our Santos Rosewood (although not a true rosewood), we use the Pau Ferro name to differentiate the more yellow tone of this wood from the red tones of our Santos.
Central and South America: Beautiful deep purple tones that range to nearly black, but show up brilliant in natural light.
American Elm
Eastern to Midwest United States: Tones range from a toasted caramel to light creamy white in the sapwood
Hawaiian Golden Koa
Hawaii: Vibrant golden tones ranging to reddish hues make this one of our customers most favorite wood choices.
American Black Walnut
Eastern United States: Walnut ranges from a pale brown to a deep chocolate brown and every shade between. Can have color casts of yellow, grey, purple or red.
Elm Burl
Western Europe: The grain in a burled tree is caused by some form of stress or injury to the tree, but creates a pattern that is beautiful to look at. Colors range from medium to dark brown with small figures of color patterns changing throughout.
Canadian Maple
Sugar Maple - Canada: Light and bright in color, our sugar maple comes from Canada and is a beautiful warm creamy white tone ranging to a light honey shade.

None of the woods we use are listed in the CITES appendices as being threatened or endangered. Macassar Ebony is listed on the IUCN Red List as being vulnerable due to a decline in it’s natural range. 

We source most of our woods from craftspeople and artisans with pieces too small for their own use. In this way we feel we can create beautiful rings without contributing to their decline.

Lapis Lazuli
"Blue Mix"
Made from Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli and Malachite
Synthetic Coral
Coral Sand
Natural Sand
Mother of Pearl
Synthetic Opal