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When did it become so important to have a ring?
Beyoncee's 2008 hit song, the myriad of movies and television shows, advertisements and cultural trend toward the getting down on one knee and the presenting of "the ring" puts Gollum to shame as a cultural fixation on something which is supposed to represent so many things simultaneously:
1 - the true intentions of the person asking for the hand of the other person
2 - the financial stability of the person doing the asking and presenting the ring
3 - the promise, or binding feeling of the ring as a sort of collar or token, as if this circle attached to this body part means - "You're mine, don't take it off or that will no longer be true."
So where does all of this ring symbolism and importance come from and why is the engagement ring such a talisman of authenticity now? And why is it also so simultaneously fake as people lie to obtain it, lie while giving it, and even lose it and upgrade it at will, ignoring the sentimental value and emphasizing the monetary, status-seeking aspect only?
Click here for further information regarding the significance of the engagement ring.
While engagement rings began in Europe as symbols of the wholeness of a relationship - the circle represents eternity - it is also a type of ownership. The woman (or, of course, for some, the man) wears the engagment ring as a symbol of being "taken," meaning that she or he is no longer available to date or to be sexually or romantically involved with anyone else; the promise of marriage has been made.
Wealth has always been part of the marriage contract as well; people wanted their daughters to marry a man who could support a family and, as women were historically not considered wage earners, of course they had to be married off; otherwise they would be a financial drain on the family (see any of Jane Austen's work on the subject). Thus, the sparkle and shine of the engagment ring became a symbol of the weath of the groom and his family, the value of the ring of course representing the value of the man's income.