Located in the historic Pike Place Market, Isadora’s has specialized in exquisite antique jewelry for 38 years. Our discriminating collection includes pieces from the early 1800’s through the 1950’s, without a reproduction to be found. Our precious pieces are sent to North American Gem Lab for independent appraisals. We invite you to call our toll free number for applicable discounts. On many of our pieces, we are able to offer between 10-25% off of appraisal value.

Friday, January 22, 2010


"The visit went off successfully, as was to have been expected. Old Mrs. Mingott was delighted with the engagement, which, being long foreseen by watchful relatives, had been carefully passed upon in family council; and the engagement ring, a large thick sapphire set in invisible claws, met with her unqualified admiration.”

This passage from Edith Wharton’s 1920’s novel “The Age of Innocence” set in the world of late Victorian wealthy New York refers to the sapphire engagement ring given by an oh so proper upper class gentleman to his lady love.

Working in an antique jewelry store I spend a lot of time around engagement rings and so, inspired by Edith Wharton’s quote, I set to thinking about engagement rings: their history, their symbolism, their beauty.

The ring goes back to ancient Egypt of if legend holds true, our oldest ancestors, cavemen. It is said a caveman would wrap a string around the finger of the woman he desired for his mate. Perhaps it is a legend less romantic than a man on one knee but it is perhaps not untrue.

The ancient Egyptians, Romans and Chinese all considered the ring a symbol of eternity, although each culture gave this symbolism its own nuance. The Egyptians saw the circle as something without end. And therefore love and life as symbolized by the ring had no end. The Romans saw eternity in a ring and also the circle of life. And the Chinese thought of the ring as an endless cycle of unbroken continuity.

And while retaining these initial meanings the ring evolved to encompass more as it came to be a part of the marriage ceremony. It became a manifestation of a promise: It became a covenant, a vow, a commitment to a common fate, a physical symbol of affection freely given.

The look of the engagement ring has had many permutations over the centuries: To the caveman it was a piece of string; to the Romans a band of iron. During the Medieval era gemstones were introduced. The wealthy chose symbolic tokens to layer with the rings essential meaning. A man might give a ruby ring to symbolize love or a sapphire ring to symbolize the heavens. And in 1477 Maximilian of Austria gave a diamond ring to Mary of Burgundy on the announcement of their engagement. This is the first recorded history of a diamond ring used as an engagement ring although certainly not the last.

It is said for a time the Puritans tried to vanquish the engagement ring in their quest for a more austere world but they were unsuccessful. I think a couple, not all couples, but most, need a symbol something to announce to the world that they have made a public commitment to each other and that they have chosen the most beautiful thing they can to symbolize it.

And so I’ve decided I like the symbol of the engagement ring in all its permutations and I am fiercely glad that we have found such beautiful ring to express lasting commitment, whether it be a diamond, sapphire or a lovingly engraved band.

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