It is officially wedding season, whether you like it or not. The perfect late spring/early summer temperatures, the constant Facebook announcements and the empty wallets of millions of couples all around the world who pour their life savings into a single day of celebration. So much money is spent on venues and food and decor—even transportation for those who opt to have destination weddings. But nothing quite compares to the cost of the engagement ring that comes first.
Men around the world make the trek to Cartier, Tiffany’s, Harry Winston and more to show their fiancées they love them with expensive stones. Gasps, tears and that “Yes!” are [hopefully] soon to follow—future wives get rings and men get some hefty bills… and of course the women of their dreams.
That said, there has been a growing trend recently: More and more men are wearing engagement rings, too. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because the concept of engagement rings has essentially been the same since day one and, like all things in life, will eventually evolve with the times.
Engagement rings have a very long history, first showing up during the times of the Egyptian pharaohs. They believed that circles (the shape of rings) symbolize eternity, and they would place them the left hand on the fourth finger, which has a vein called vena amoris (Latin for vein of love) that connects directly to the heart.
Fast forward to 1477: The modern idea of the engagement ring was born. Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposed to Mary of Burgundy with the first-ever diamond engagement ring. Then, during the depression era, N.W. Ayer and Son launched the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign.
Back in the 1920s, the jewelry industry made a solid attempt to market engagement bands for dudes… alas, to no avail. Advertisements ran in east coast newspapers featuring black and white photos of a man’s left hand holding a cigarette and showing off a large rock. The rings had names like the Pilot, the Stag and the Master—all super macho. But people just thought rings were simply too feminine. In fact, even a groom’s wedding band wasn’t a thing, really, until the 1940s and 50s.
With today’s evermore egalitarian marriages, the “mangagement ring” (as the industry is calling it) is becoming socially acceptable. And it should be.
The idea of receiving an engagement ring was something for which I’ve, personally, always longed. To me, it signifies love. And, as a young gay man, I have always been jealous that women receive beautiful stones to wear for the rest of their lives. There is magic and a mystique to that little box with a diamond ring inside, after all.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Jennifer Hudson gave her man an engagement ring and Michael Buble wore one when engaged to his then-fiancée, noting that it was tradition. According to a 2014 survey by XO Group Inc.—parent company of leading wedding site The Knot—five percent of engaged men were wearing them and almost three quarters of dudes were open to it. And that was three years ago.
I understand I may be more outlandish than most men, so if you don’t want to dawn a diamond on your left hand, I don’t blame you. But why not aim for a fantastical watch? They do call the Rolex the “Engagement Ring for Men.” Simple and understated, it will cost the same as some engagement rings, and it will stand the test of time to be passed on from generation to generation.
Photo: iStock/Ekkasit Jokthong