Engagement rings as a symbol of love and loyalty have been in use since ancient times.
In ancient Egypt, rings and bracelets were mostly made out of hemp, leather, bone, or ivory. In ancient Greece, and then Rome, people wore metal rings. The first person to use a diamond ring for an engagement was the Archduke Maximilian, who presented one to his betrothed Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
So why is it customary to wear engagement rings on the left hand? Anthropologists believe that our Roman ancestors are to thank for this tradition.
Ancient Roman women used to wear “betrothal” rings on the third finger of their left hands. Those rings did not necessarily mean engagement, however: they were often used to symbolize friendship and affection. The reason they were worn on the left hand was because it was believed that “the vein of love”, or “vena amoris”, ran through it, connecting straight to the heart.
The funny thing is, in some cultures engagement rings are worn on the right hand – and they claim the very same reason. There is no agreement as to where exactly “vena amoris” is supposed to run, which is no wonder since its existence has been disproved scientifically. The tradition, however, remained. Amazing how the customs of the ancient times are preserved to this day!
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