There are several trains of thought as to the true origins of the engagement ring, including Romans, Greeks and Egyptians.
In Ancient Egypt, both barter (payment in the form of food, clothing etc.) and money rings, forged of bronze, silver, copper and gold were used as currency. Archaeologists have found several mummies from around 2800 BC that have been buried with silver and gold rings on the ring fingers of their left hand. It is thought that affluent Ancient Egyptians would present their betrothed with one of these rings. Cynics could see this as a payment for the bride, however we prefer a more romantic view that this ring represented the grooms commitment to the bride by putting all his money and everything he owns at their joint disposal.
Since ancient times, rings have been traditionally placed on the fourth finger of the left hand as it was believed to contain a vein leading straight to the heart (vena amoris). Romans believed the ring to be a symbol of ownership rather than love. It meant that the husband would “claim” his wife.
Modern history of engagement rings begins in 1215 when Pope Innocent III established a waiting period between the promise of marriage, and the actual marriage ceremony. The giving of rings signified the couple's devotion to one another. During this period in history engagement rings would often represent the couple's social and economic position in society with only the very rich incorporating precious metals and jewels.
However our real love affair with Diamond Engagement Rings has been attributed to Archduke Maximilian of Austria. In 1477 he was smitten and proposed to Mary of Burgundy with a stunning diamond ring. He blazed a fashion for diamond engagement rings amongst his contemporary European Aristocracy.
In the 1920's this trend spread to a broader section of society after De Beers (one of the most influential diamond companies in the world) featured ads stating that a man should spend two months' of his salary on a diamond engagement ring. The modern era of the Diamond Engagement Ring was born!