Men’s Engagement Rings

Time was when it was only the female half of the pact that wore an engagement ring. It is a way to tell would-be wooers that she had already been bespoken for. It is like saying “ You can look but you cannot touch”. Now it is becoming increasingly common to have the male half of the pact wear an engagement ring, too. It is one way for the man to declare that he had already gotten this far in the nuptial sweepstakes. It is like saying “See you at the wedding”.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines engagement, among other things, as to bind oneself to do something, especially to bind by a pledge to marry or to deal with especially at length. This definition delineates the meaning of an engagement in more ways than one. First, it is a pledge. Second, it is a long-term commitment.

During the engagement period, the couple is said to be affianced, betrothed, engaged to be married, or simply engaged. The bride and bridegroom -to-be is often referred to as fiancee and fiance, respectively. Said word being borrowed from the French who are knowledgeable when it comes to matters of the heart.

At one time, the length of an engagement was measured in years and years. Reason being, it was not uncommon for parents to betroth their children when said children could not even put on their own pants by themselves. As time passed, the engagement period shortened somewhat. In 2007, it was reported that the engagement time in the United States was only 17 months, on the average.

It is generally accepted that the idea of an official engagement period in Western culture could have been established in 1215 at the Fourth Lateran Council which was chaired by the His Imminent Holiness, Pope Innocent III. At the conclusion of the ecclesial conference, it was concluded that “marriages are to be … announced publicly in the churches by the priests during a suitable and fixed time, so that if legitimate impediments exist, they may be made known.”

This formal church announcement of the intent to marry became duly known as the banns. Said banns to be pronounced to rhyme with “bands” and not with “barns”, notwithstanding the fact that bands and barns played fairly large roles in banns. Actually, the banns is not just to tell all and sundry that so-and-so are going to be married in due time. It is also to tell any detractors and claimants to the contrary to come forth and say their piece. Like saying “Speak up now or shut up forever more”.

The modern Western tradition of giving or exchanging engagement rings could be traced to the year 1477 when Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, gave Mary of Burgundy, a diamond ring to seal his proposal. There is no data as to whether Mary of Burgundy reciprocated in kind or otherwise.

As a symbol of romantic expression, the ring has been in use since the time of the Roman Empire. As far back as 4 AD, rings bearing the Celtic Claddagh symbol of two hands clasping a heart were given as tokens of love and commitment between two people. It is like the romantic refrain “Two hearts that beat like one”.

In the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia and many other countries, an engagement ring is often placed on the fourth digit of the left hand. This strategic position was derived from the belief of the Romans who averred that this fourth digit of the left hand is the starting point of the vena amoris, meaning “vein of love”, which leads to the heart. It is also possible that the Romans had some idea about the other venues of love that givers and wearers of engagement rings are wont to wander into.

In Continental Europe and other countries, the customary position of the engagement ring is also the fourth digit but on the right hand instead. Perhaps the continentals held the view that it is the right hand that is used to shake on a deal.

Engagement rings, for women, originally, and now, even for men, are normally worn by those who had never taken a walk down the church aisle together. In the case where one or both partners had been previously a member of a marital arrangement, the engagement is bypassed by a quick trip to the wedding registrar.

Celebrities, notably in the entertainment business, are, however, not often found zipping by on this marital expressway. For these people, the engagement may, at times, be even more of an event than the actual wedding itself. A good example, not the only one, though, is the engagement of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Unfortunately, after all the publicity and media mileage generated by the $1.2 million 6.1 carat pink diamond engagement ring which Ben Affleck gave to Jennifer Lopez, the commitment was not carried through to its natural conclusion.

Although some couples would buy and wear matching engagement rings, it is more the norm for the man’s engagement ring to be more subdued in design than that of his partner’s. Not that it would be any less cheap or any less elegant.

A cursory perusal of men’s engagement rings found through Google found some very attractive items, both in design and in price.

A diamond titanium and white gold Dora ring in a three-band design is $1,626. Another three-band design with a diamond embedded in the middle lane, the Tioro titanium diamond ring, is only $150. The amount of gold in the first ring as well as the size of the diamond involved being the reason for the disparity in price.

A 14K two-tone Milgrain ring of white gold trimmed with yellow gold is $299 and a 14K white gold with fine braided design is $405. Another one, an 18K Principle diamond Celtic ring with fine trellis pattern is $1.975 while a two-tone Claddagh ring of white gold with the Celtic Claddagh symbol in yellow gold is $641.

So it seems that for the modern woman who is considering proposing to the man in her life, there are a lot of different men’s engagement rings to choose from. Maybe even much more than there are different types of men.

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