Engagement rings may seem
as old as the institution of marriage itself but, not too long ago,
other tokens of love served to symbolize the promise to wed.

example, during the 1800s, some American men gave thimbles; after the
wedding, the thimble's tip would be cut off to create a ring, according
to Mental Floss. One
English custom involved the couple splitting a piece of gold or silver
into two pieces, one for each partner to keep, then drinking a glass of
wine to formalize the engagement.

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We can trace betrothal rings back to 13th-century Rome, when Christians adopted the tradition
after Pope Innocent III declared a mandatory waiting period between
betrothal and marriage. Their rings were simple bands of iron and,
later, gold. The custom of wearing wedding rings on the left hand
supposedly comes from the Greek and Roman belief that a special vein,
the "Vena Amoris," runs directly from the ring finger to the heart.

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were a later addition. Archduke Maximillian of Austria was the first
man on record to present his bride-to-be with a sparkler, in 1477, but
shiny rocks didn't become popular for non-aristocracy until a massive
marketing push by DeBeers in the 1930s.

According to the Atlantic,
De Beers manipulated both supply and demand after massive diamond mines
were discovered in South Africa in the late 19th century. "Only by
maintaining the fiction that diamonds were scarce and inherently
valuable could they protect their investments and buoy diamond prices,"
writes Uri Friedman. So the company launched a cartel to control all
aspects of the diamond industry, and hired a New York ad agency to
bolster the diamond as status symbol.

the late 1940s, a copywriter from the N.W. Ayer ad agency wrote the
famous slogan, "A Diamond is Forever," for the brand. The ad campaign
encouraged consumers to view diamond rings as family heirlooms. (A
forever diamond, the Atlantic notes, is not resold, and therefore, does not "undermine public confidence in the intrinsic value of diamonds.")

there you have it: If our grandparents hadn't been susceptible to
advertising, we could be walking around with thimbles on our fingertips.

What do you think?