Our world is changing, and rapidly. From climate to technological to tectonic shifts, there are many new ways of living necessarily on the horizon. What follows from these are cultural and societal shifts. For us, who are clearly obsessed with all things wedding, you can find the numbers anywhere: millennials are getting married less frequently, and later. They're having fewer kids. They're abandoning traditions which have underpinned the structure and ritual of marriage for hundreds of years. While it seems we are surrounded by uncertainty, the new traditions and practices that people are taking up in their marriages (and in all parts of life!) give us so much hope. We are finding new ways to celebrate each other and reaffirm what this new version of marriage looks like.
One of the top trends that we're picking up on? Men's engagement rings.
While men's engagement rings have always played an important part of the proposal or engagement process for all sorts of different couples, they occupied a "niche" part of the wedding market. This statement in itself is revealing of the weight we assign to the differing roles that men's engagement rings might play in same sex or gender non conforming couples—realistically, men's engagement rings have never just been 'niche,' as in, a whimsical purchase of quirky heterosexual couples; they have probably been a fundamental part of millions of relationships for centuries. But nonetheless, men's engagement rings have indeed become much more popular in "mainstream," or heterosexual traditions, in recent years.
In Lyst's 2019 Wedding Report, a climb of 66% is noted in the popularity of men's engagement rings. Lyst writes this up to Ed Sheeran's decision to wear an engagement ring, but we can safely entertain the idea instead that the general attitude toward proposals and engagement rings is shifting. According to the Huffington Post, Pinterest noted a 280% surge in searches pertaining to engagement rings for men. Tiffany & Co also just launched a ring lined designed to be unisex. Awfully hard to call this a niche market now!
A very brief history of engagement rings
The traditional perspective on engagement rings is rooted in centuries of history. According to the American Gem Society, engagement rings first appeared as part of a Roman tradition in which women would wear rings attached to small keys, which indicated their husband's ownership. It was in 1477 that Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned a diamond engagement ring for his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy. This sparked a trend amid other clergy members and aristocrats, which inevitably became intertwined with the very religious ceremony of marriage. Over time, despite De Beers' capitalist intervention in the mid 20th century with their hugely successful slogan "Diamonds are forever," the engagement ring remained a symbol of religion, of tradition, and in many cases, of ownership.
While today, many couples feel that if a person, especially a woman, accepts a marriage proposal, they are still an independent agent and not a possession of their fiancé(e), the roots of the engagement ring tradition are deeply sexist. Think about it: the three month salary rule? It was established in the 1950s, and predicated on the premise that one partner, often the man, makes more money and thus should provide for his partner. That only a woman wears an engagement ring? This means that only she is "marked" to the rest of the world as being "taken," while her partner has ostensibly made the exact same commitment. Then, of course, why shouldn't male partners receive a beautiful piece of jewelry to commemorate the day they entered into an engagement? That's not fair either.
New traditions and new standards
It's for these reasons and more that couples are opting to purchase engagement rings for both partners. This suggests an equity in how couples' regard each other's financial, social, and romantic agencies. What's not to love about that?
We love this new traditions because it centres the proposal and the engagement on the health and happiness of the whole relationship. It doesn't overly prioritize the bride-to-be (as though she needs to be convinced to marry her beloved with a shiny ring) at the expense (financial and emotional!) of her partner, and it gives the couple the opportunity to celebrate each other individually. Many couples seem to opt now for one proposal, where one partner gets down on one knee, and then later, a second proposal, after another engagement ring has been purchased. Two proposals?! Count us in.
Other couples are opting for a highly collaborative engagement, in which they purchase both engagement rings together, and create a wonderful opportunity for both to propose. Others will have parties to announce their engagement, without necessarily doing the whole down-on-one-knee thing.
Wearing an engagement ring with a wedding band
There is, of course, the issue, of how to wear the engagement ring and the wedding band. For people wearing traditionally "feminine" rings, this is no big deal—most often, a wedding band will be chosen to complement the engagement ring, and both will be worn on the same finger (at least in North American culture). Men's rings however are often quite large, and wearing both on one finger is not always feasible or comfortable. We've been doing some research, and we've found several romantic ways to ensure your engagement ring and wedding band mesh well together.
Purchase a slimmer engagement ring
Purchasing a narrow engagement ring ensures that the "stacking" effect of wearing both rings together won't overwhelm the look of either ring or feel uncomfortable to wear. We love the idea of pairing rings with varying looks or textures: satin and polished, for example, or one rounded and one crisp and straight, or one thick and one thin. We even recommend pairing silver and gold metals for a really modern look.
If you're the type of person that prefers thicker bands, there's a simple solution, too: on your wedding day, move your engagement ring from your left hand to your right, and wear your wedding band on your left hand. With the rise of men wearing more jewelry in recent decades, this is a great and really fashionable option.
Wear it as a necklace
If wearing two rings is too much for your preferences, try slinging your engagement ring on a nice matching chain and wearing it around your neck. This allows you to keep your engagement ring close to your heart without having to wear two rings.
Have them combined
If you prefer to have only one ring after the wedding but you still want to treasure and honour your engagement ring, consider having the two combined. Any talented jeweller (like our Master jeweller, Himi!) will be able to work with you to design a custom ring which incorporates both your wedding band and your engagement ring. Picture a gold engagement ring threaded into a thicker tungsten band, or two gold rings twisted together.
Have it engraved
The tradition in Argentina is for couples to only exchange rings at the engagement, and not at the wedding day. If this appeals to you, but you still want to mark your engagement ring to inaugurate it into your married life, consider having it engraved, or having a small diamond set inside the band. We love this option because it is really cost effective to have small engravings done, and because it honours your engagement ring but also allows you to celebrate your wedding day. Consider engraving your wedding date, your anniversary date, your initials, or a brief but important passage which you want to keep close to your heart.
If you're unsure about your stance on wearing an engagement ring as the proposer, or as a man, come in to our shop to try on some of our bands! It's definitely a feeling you need to get used to at first—but you have also put so much work into your relationship. You deserve a beautiful ring as well.
Did you wear an engagement ring? Do you want your partner to? Let us know below!