Celebrating a Special Occasion with Jewelry
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Engagement and Wedding Rings, The Buying Guide
Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings through the Ages
“With this ring, I thee wed.”
These are the words a woman and a man will say to each other, and the words that you will also be saying one day soon. These rings have been a symbol of your love and commitment to each other and of your hopes and dreams for the future.
To acquire gems and create distinctive rings in which to set them, the purchase of your engagement and wedding rings is one of the most significant purchases you’ll ever make, both financially and emotionally. No other single piece of jewelry will ever be as important. No matter how successful you become, no matter how magnificent other jewelry purchases might be, nothing carries with it the same excitement and magic.
But today’s couple have many more choices than did couples in earlier generations. To begin with, there are more jewelers than before; each anxious for your business, and more internet vendors and auction sites. These are more gemstones from which to make a selection, and a wider, and a wider range of sizes, shapes, qualities, and prices.
The Romance of the ring
The romantic traditions associated with rings, especially those containing diamonds and precious gems, resound throughout history. In fact evidence of the engagement tradition dates back as far as the caveman. The Pharaohs of Egypt, however, are credited with being the first to use a ring in the form of a circular band as a symbol of eternity. The Egyptians regarded the circle, a shape that has no beginning and no end, as heavenly reminder that life, happiness, and love have no beginning and no end.
By Roman times, it was an established tradition to give a ring, a symbol of the cycle of life and eternity, as a public pledge that the marriage contract between a man and woman would be honored. These early rings were made of iron, according to the accounts of Roman historians. Gold was introduced some times in the second century A. D. Soon, the Christian adopted the custom, and the ring became an integral part of the marriage service.
It was not long before the symbolism of circular ring was further enhanced by the addition of gems. By medieval days, wealthy citizens were married with gem-set rings; diamonds, colored gems, and diamonds combined with colored gems became fashion. Colored gems were often used because it was the color of the heart. Sapphire was also popular since it was the color of the heavens. Other colored gems believed to hold certain magical properties also become popular choices for betrothal rings.
Diamond held a particularly regal position at this time. It was one of the rarest and costliest of gems. And it was prized above other gems for marriage because of the unique properties described below, and the, many special powers attributed to it. While reserved for only the most privileged, it became the choice for those fortunate enough; or powerful enough, to acquire one.
The Allure of Diamond
Diamond, nature’s hardest substance; uniquely able to resist both fire and steel, and therefore all of man’s early efforts to alter it; epitomized unyielding power and invincible strength. It seemed truly indestructible. What more natural symbol for the marriage covenant, and for the edict “what God has Joined Together, Let No Man Put Asunder.” If the many properties of diamond and its indestructibility were in fact transferred to the wearer, a marriage sealed with the diamond would certainly last forever.
Indeed, throughout history, the diamond has been one of the most coveted gems. Uncut diamonds have appeared in the crowns of kings and queens all through the ages. Legends of the diamond’s mythical properties have been passed along for centuries.
In India, where diamonds were first discovered hundreds years before Christ the diamond was valued even more for its strength and magic than for its great beauty. The diamond was thought to protect its wearer from snakes, fire, poison, illness, thieves, and all the combined forces of evil. It was a favorite choice for rings given in love, some of which date back to earliest Indian history.
As the gemstone of the Zodiac House of Aries, symbolized by the Ram, the diamond was believed by ancient astrologers to be powerful for people born under the planet Mars. They thought the diamond could provide fortitude, strength of mind, and continuous love in marriage, as well as ward off witchcraft, poisons, and nightmares.
Each culture has prized the diamond for its unique properties. The Roman believed a diamond worn against the skin of their left arm would help them remain brave and daring in battle and give them strength over their enemies. An ancient passage reads: “He who carries a diamond on the left side shall be hardy and manly; it will guard him from accidents to the limbs; but nevertheless a good diamond will lose its power and virtue if worn by one who is incontinent, or drunken.” Another Roman practice was to set diamonds in fine steel that would then serve as a charm against insanity.
The word diamond derives from the Greek “adamas,” meaning “the unconquerable”; its Latin equivalent is “diamas.” The diamond has a long extensive history in books of importance to mankind, with the earliest references occurring in the Bible, Book of Exodus. Here, in describing the details of the tabernacle and its furnishings, a description is given of the High Priest’s breastplate: “And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.” It was believed that the diamond worn by the Jewish High Priest had special powers to prove innocence or guilt; if the accused was guilty, the stone grew dim; if innocent, it shone more brilliantly than ever! Thus diamonds came to be associated with innocence, justice, faith, and strength. early Christian also endowed the diamond with special powers, believing it to be antidote against both moral and physical evil.
Hindus classed diamonds according to the four castes of their social strata: The Brahmin diamond (colorless) gave power, friends, riches, and good luck; the Kshatriya (brow/champagne) prevented old age; Vaisya (the color of a “kodali flower”) brought success; and Sudra (a diamond with the sheen of a polished blade, probably gray or black) brought all types of good fortune. Red and yellow diamonds were exclusively royal gems, for kings alone. The Chinese treasured the diamond as an engraving tool, while the Italians trusted it to protect against poison.
Through the ages, diamonds have been associated with almost everything from sleepwalking to producing invincibility and spiritual ecstasy. In the 1500s it was believed that diamond would enhance the love of a husband for his wife. To dream of diamonds was considered symbolic of success, wealth, happiness, and victory. Even sexual power has been strongly attributed to the diamond. There is a catch, however, to the powers associated with it; some believe that one must find the diamond “naturally” to experience its magic, that it loses its powers if acquired by purchase. However, when offered as apledge of love or friendship, it powers return!