“Congrats on your engagement! Let’s see the ring.”
Marriage has changed a lot in the past few decades, and yet we still often expect to see just one engagement ring rather than a pair.
The diamond engagement ring comes from an era when men wanted to offer something of value to show they could be a good provider. The ring was also a sign that a woman was spoken for, while her fiance’s ring finger would remain bare till their wedding day.
For many couples, that tradition no longer fits. Couples are getting married later, as established adults who are capable of providing for themselves and buying a pricey gift for a loved one.
In gay couples, both partners might want sparkly signs of their intentions. And men aren’t the only ones proposing marriage these days: Women pop the question, too. They might want a ring to go with the ask.
Last month, Tiffany & Co. unveiled a new jewelry line that acknowledges all of these shifts: a men’s diamond engagement ring, of up to 5 carats with a price tag of US$15,600 to US$278,500. The company says its new collection of men’s rings “honours the jeweler’s long-standing legacy in love and inclusivity, paving the way for new traditions to celebrate our unique love stories and honor our most cherished commitments to one another.”
The iconic jewellery brand has been selling the women’s solitaire diamond engagement ring since 1886. It only took 135 years for men to get their own version, a “man-gagement ring” as some like to call it.
Sure, this could just be an opportunity for Tiffany’s to make more money “and pass it off as inclusivity,” as a recent “Daily Show” sketch posited. But the move also acknowledges that the “man-gagement” ring’s moment has arrived. And guys seem to be into it.
Some men have been wearing engagement rings for years. Pop star Ed Sheeran wore one. Michael Bublé has one. But the style offerings have been scant.
A 2019 wedding trend report from Britain found that Internet searches for men’s engagement rings rose 66% from the year prior and proclaimed men’s rings “a new tradition that is set to become even more popular with time.”
“When a super-traditional jewellery brand like Tiffany’s launches something as alternative as men’s engagement rings, it’s saying that couples are moving away from tradition,” says Shelley Brown, the Knot’s senior beauty and fashion editor, adding that the rise in same-sex marriages probably also played a role in the decision.
The jewellery industry tried to make the men’s engagement ring into a trend in the 1920s, but it didn’t catch on. The ring was still seen as a feminine thing. But by the 21st century, as gender roles within marriage became more equal and the legalisation of same-sex marriage created new customers, jewellers started giving men’s engagement rings another shot.
Although Stephen Secules, a 35-year-old gay man in Miami, doesn’t like the style of the Tiffany’s ring — saying “it feels a little like it’s imitating my mother’s ring” — he thinks the move is a positive one.
“It’s good to just have more options for expressing commitment,” he says, noting that wider acceptance of gay relationships has made his straight friends question some relationship traditions.
While a woman wearing an engagement ring signals she’s “promised” to her fiance, Secules ponders: “Wouldn’t it be more equal and symbolic if we’re both promised to each other?”
This article, which first appeared in The Washington Post, has been edited for length.