Did you know that at least 5% of men are wearing engagement rings? While traditional views might have you believe that engagement rings are just for the gals, this custom is changing as more and more men opt to flaunt their love and commitment on their left hand.
History of Men’s Engagement Rings in the United States
Believe it or not, engagement rings for men aren’t some newfangled idea. In fact, they’ve existed in the U.S. for nearly 100 years with department store L. Bamberger & Co. (known today as Macy’s) releasing newspaper ads for the product back in 1926. The rings featured ultra-macho names like the Stag, the Pilot and the Master. The campaign never took hold.
Perhaps this had something to do with the fact that, at the time, men didn’t wear much jewelry at all. Many didn’t even don a wedding band until the 1940s when celebrity Humphrey Bogart, the first movie star to wear a wedding band, began to influence the public with his Old Hollywood-style jewels.
In 2014 the Pew Research Center released a study that found that by 2010 62% of Americans favored a household where couples shared domestic responsibilities. This was a big jump from 1997 when only 48% of the public favored these ideals.
The jewelry industry saw these trends and decided to take another stab at the men’s engagement ring.
In 2009 British jeweler H. Samuel designed the Tioro Ring, the style that kicked off the “mangagement ring” trend. The Tioro was fancier than the average men’s wedding band but cheaper than a women’s engagement ring featuring a titanium ring embedded with one to two tiny diamonds. The most expensive design topped out at around $204.
Why Men Wear Engagement Rings
Today, men wear engagement rings for several reasons. From personal preference to cultural purposes, these are some things to consider when deciding if a men’s engagement ring is right for you.
Commitment: Traditionally, a diamond engagement ring signals that someone (usually a woman) is “taken”. However, as younger generations begin to place more value behind the idea of equality within a relationship, the question is begged, why wouldn’t both members of the coupling show off their commitment in the form of a ring?
And many millennial men see no issue with this. In an interview with the Huffington Post regarding men’s engagement rings Jamie Raines said this, “After I proposed to my fiancé, she did a second “proposal” of sorts while we were on holiday. She said she wanted me to have a ring to show off too, and I see my ring as a sign of being equal with my fiancé Shaaba. I haven’t “claimed” her with the ring. We both wear one to show our commitment to each other.”
The simple fact is that engaged men are just as thrilled about this exciting step in their relationship as their fiancé. For many, wearing a ring is a source of pride, why should the ladies get to have all the fun?
Cultural Reasons: Some men wear an engagement ring as a homage to their heritage. In countries such as Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Sweden it is custom for both genders to wear an engagement ring after the proposal.
In Chile, both parties wear their engagement rings on the right hand and move them to the left after they are married. This represents the transition from engagement to marriage. In Argentina, engagement rings are made of silver, while a wedding ring is made from gold. Whereas in Sweden both people exchange rings but only the bride will add a second ring during the marriage ceremony.
Same-Sex Marriage: Gay marriage is also contributing to the rise in men’s engagement ring sales and popularity. Many gay men propose with an engagement ring and although a return proposal isn’t a requirement some partners choose to propose back using another ring.
Because legal same-sex marriage is so new to the U.S., there are fewer established norms for couples to follow. However, this can be exciting as gay couples have the freedom to create their own traditions and customs.
Breaking Tradition: Then there are the couples who are throwing tradition to the wind as more women step up to the plate to pop the question.
“There’s a leveling of the playing field,” said marriage therapist, Jane Greer in an interview with the Huffington Post. “Women are exercising more choice and control in their lives. They don’t have to wait for the man to propose and stay stuck in this limbo, not knowing if or when it’s going to happen. In relationships, modern women are now able to express their needs and desires more clearly.”
Approximately one in 20 women propose to their male partners. However, don’t expect the gender roles to be completely reversed any time soon as many women who give a ring still want to receive a ring of their own.
Fashion and Celebrity Influence: As mentioned above, the world of pop culture certainly has a say when it comes to jewelry trends. And with a recent slew of “mangagement” rings in the limelight as seen on celebrities like Ed Sheeran, Skylar Astin and Michael Buble, it will be interesting to see if men’s engagement rings rise in popularity among the public.
Choosing and Wearing a Men’s Engagement Ring
Is your interest piqued? Here are a few tips for choosing and wearing a men’s engagement ring.
Placement: Right or Left Hand?
When it comes to ring placement there are several options. The classic choice of course is to wear the ring on the left hand until the wedding ceremony. Upon getting married men can either use their original engagement ring as their wedding band or transfer the engagement ring to their right hand and wear a different band on their ring finger.
Same-sex couples might opt to wear their engagement ring on their right hand vs their left because this was already the custom before gay marriage was legalized in the U.S.
Styles and Materials
Typically less flashy than their feminine counterparts, a male engagement ring looks similar to a wedding band. Men’s engagement bands are commonly crafted using masculine materials such as wood, tungsten, stainless steel and stone. Precious metals like white gold, yellow gold and rose gold are also options when selecting your ring.
While many men’s engagement ring designs tend to be on the conservative side when it comes to bling, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t men’s rings that are covered in diamonds and gemstones. The options are limitless especially when you shop the online market and which ring you choose will come down to personal preference.
Where to Shop for Men’s Engagement Ring
Before purchasing a men’s engagement ring consider the person’s lifestyle, personality and taste. What’s their style? Which type of ring would they feel the most comfortable wearing? Does their career or certain hobbies limit which material they can wear?
After you’ve considered these questions you can begin your hunt for the perfect ring. Men’s engagement rings and wedding bands are available at brick and mortar shops and online.