Love, Marriage & Friendship
In this modern day and age, when a man is purchasing an engagement ring, the norm is to spend about 25% of the yearly salary. Well, I am sorry ladies, but for engagement rings, you are living in the wrong time period. During the early to middle part of the Victorian period (1840 - 1870), it would be customary for the fiance to buy the most expensive engagement ring he could afford, even if it meant going without for himself.
The type of engagement rings that were popular in the Victorian period varied. The publication Queen informed its readers in 1876, “Engagement rings are usually pearls. Last year the pattern was two medium-sized pearls separated by small diamonds, this year it is a single pearl of great size and without diamonds.”
Another type of engagement ring that was popular in this time period was the symbolic “fede” ring. These rings were mainly in gold, and consisted of a man and a ladies hand clasped together, and of course were symbolic of the bond between a fiance and his betrothed, interestingly the “fede” style engagement ring had been popular right back to the Georgian period of the 1830's.The double-heart ring was also very popular as a betrothal ring. Very often, the hearts in these engagement rings were in different colored gemstones; the male was mainly sapphire, but could also be emerald or diamond, the lady was always represented by a red ruby. These main gemstones were surrounded by diamonds in a cluster design. Again the symbolism of these engagement rings was very romantic in symbolizing the words of the 'old Church' wedding ceremonies, “And the two shall become one.” This theme was also expanded upon throughout this time period. The antique jeweler Castellani hand made an engagement ring, which combined both fede and heart engagement rings, by designing a ruby heart offered by a gold hand. Again, ladies, for rings I am afraid you lived in the wrong time period, as very often such rings were not reserved exclusively for the pledge of engagement. Close friends exchanged them as keepsakes, at the wedding of Louisa Wilkinson and the Viscount Maidstone in 1887, each bridesmaid was presented with a heart-shaped pearl and diamond ring as a memento of the occasion.As I have mentioned in previous blogs, the snake ring was very popular in the Victorian period as an engagement ring. Symbolism was very prominent in Victorian thinking, and the snake was the symbol for timelessness and eternity, so the thinking was when you gave a serpent engagement ring, you were saying that your marriage was going to stand the test of time, you were making the declaration that it would last forever. Also, in Victorian times, large families were very much the norm, and with the “phallic” shape of the snakes head, it was also a symbol of fertility. Snake engagement rings were made very popular at this time period when Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a serpent engagement ring; it had emeralds and diamonds in its head. Again the snake symbolism developed, and very often the snake engagement ring went from a single to a double serpent.In my next blog, I will again be covering later Victorian and also Edwardian engagement rings. I have all these styles already mentioned at my shop Beverley R. in Chicago.