Since Roman times, men have been giving engagement rings to their blushing brides-to-be. Cultural practices vary, but the tradition of wearing an engagement ring on the fourth digit of the left hand stems from the ancient Egyptian belief that the vena amoris (Latin for vein of love) runs directly from this finger to the heart.
In the Victorian era, platinum or gold engagement rings, crowned with a diamond or amethyst, were common. Both types of stones were sometimes paired with seed pearls, while small diamonds were often used to frame a center stone of aquamarine or a sapphire. The antique engagement rings from this era also featured bands with detailed filigree.
Edwardian rings from the early years of the 20th century fairly shimmered with diamonds. Some especially stunning examples boasted pairs of large-carat stones set in platinum and surrounded by rows of smaller sparklers. In the 1920s, firms such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels became the jewelers of choice for young men with deep pockets looking to express their boundless love.
The Art Deco era was especially good for diamond engagement rings, and the vintage bands from that time period are prized by men wishing to purchase a ring that will become a future family heirloom. A large diamond set in a platinum filigree dome studded with smaller jewels was typical of the era. Other vintage engagement Art Deco rings had geometric step-down settings. And when diamonds were not enough, rectangular sapphire baguettes were often used to highlight a ring’s hexagonal center design.