When you think of engagement rings, what image comes to mind? If you think of a sparkling diamond on a smiling woman's left hand, you're not alone. But in this modern era, a new tradition has taken root. Men's engagement rings are becoming increasingly popular, with men wearing them to show off their love for and commitment to the person they're about to marry.
In fact, at least 5% of men are now wearing men's engagement rings, and the trend is catching on rapidly. As it turns into a new tradition and ritual across the country and around the world, take a look at some facts you may not have known about men's engagement rings.
The History of Men's Engagement Rings
You may think men's engagement rings are a new trend, but they've actually been a thing, in the United States at least, for almost 100 years. All the way back in 1926, the New Jersey department store L. Bamberger & Co. advertised men's engagement rings with a string of macho newspaper ads. (You probably know Bamberger's more readily by its current name, adopted in 1986: Macy's.)
Okay, the male engagement ring didn't really catch on at the time. But remember, in the 1920s, men weren't even wearing wedding rings all that often — something that started to change when celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart started to wear them in the 1940s.
In the early 2000s, the men's engagement ring started the first steps of a comeback. A jeweler in Great Britain designed a handsome ring made of titanium, with some very small diamonds embedded in it, marketing it as a man's engagement ring — and a new trend got its start. In fact, in 2013, a survey showed that up to two-thirds of men would consider wearing an engagement ring — they're just waiting for their fiancées to make the first move.
While women's engagement rings are often sold as part of a stacked set that also includes the wedding band, with the pair fitting together neatly, men's engagement and wedding rings are sold separately. Some men just transition their engagement bands into use as their wedding ring. Others, wanting to preserve the idea of separate rings, shift their engagement rings to their right hands on their wedding day, glorying in the idea that each of their hands now sends a message about their love and commitment. Depending on the style of the ring, some men will hang their engagement ring on a long chain and wear it around their neck.
Engagement Rings for Same-Sex Couples
The legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States in 2015 has led to explosive growth in the area of men's engagement rings. It only makes sense that someone getting ready to marry his boyfriend would want to celebrate that commitment with an engagement ring — and if one man in the couple is wearing an engagement ring, why wouldn't both of them?
In fact, about half of all gay men getting married opt for an engagement ring, and in 40% of gay couples, both men wear an engagement ring.
In some cases, gay men opt for diamond rings that have a lot in common with the rings that engaged women typically wear. Often, though, gay men choose engagement rings that are similar in style to men's traditional wedding rings. Jewelry designers are now creating engagement rings specifically for same-sex couples.
Men's Engagement Rings Across Cultures
Some men who wear engagement rings aren't doing so because they're following a recent trend. Instead, they're honoring long-standing traditions from their own home cultures. Many Latin American countries, notably Argentina and Chile, have embraced the tradition of male engagement rings for generations. Men coming out of those cultures often choose to wear men's engagement rings as a statement of their own heritage — and some men marrying brides from those cultures adopt engagement rings to honor their fiancée's family traditions.
Male Celebrities Showing Off Their Engagement Rings
It's not surprising that many well-known names have jumped on the male engagement ring trend, following in the footsteps of Humphrey Bogart and his groundbreaking men's wedding ring in the 1940s. Ed Sheeran made headlines when he showed up in public wearing an engagement ring and explaining why he was wearing it.
Among other celebrities who have been spotted wearing men's engagement rings are Skylar Astin, Michael Bublé, Johnny Depp, and Charlie Sheen. In some of these cases, their girlfriends proposed to them and offered them an engagement ring. In other cases, the couple decided mutually to exchange engagement rings. Jennifer Hudson made news a few years back when, in response to her fiancé's proposal and gift of an engagement ring, she proposed right back to him, giving him a 5-carat diamond ring to wear as a sign of their love and commitment.
The Reasons More Men Are Opting for Men's Engagement Rings
There are a lot of reasons men are increasingly choosing to wear engagement rings. Take a look at some of the most popular reasons.
Men want to make a statement about their egalitarian relationship.
Traditionally, an engagement ring or a wedding ring sat on a woman's hand (and only a woman's hand) to indicate that she "belonged" to a certain man. When men started wearing wedding rings, they did so in part to demonstrate that the sense of belonging that comes with marriage works both ways. Now many men wear engagement rings to make a similar statement. An engagement ring is no longer a sign that warns off other guys and tells them that a woman is "taken." Instead, it's an egalitarian statement of commitment.
Their fiancées like the idea, too.
Plenty of women have noticed the inequity of them wearing a ring that signifies that they're "off the market," while their husbands-to-be still look fancy free and not engaged. So they feel a sense of sharing and equality when their fiancés choose to wear a male engagement ring. And many Millennials and Generation Z couples don't even understand why one of them would wear a ring and not the other — which would indicate a healthy growth in this trend is coming. In most cases, these young couples buy each other's rings together — and the young engaged men are proud to show them off to their friends.
Men want to show off their commitment.
Women have long been proud to wear their engagement rings, showing that they're in love and have made a commitment. Now men are wondering why the women get all the fun on that account. Why shouldn't they get an engagement ring as well? Given the novelty of wearing an engagement ring for men, they can strike up some great conversations while they show the world that they're engaged.
Men want to be in the forefront of a growing trend.
Couples who don't find any real value in traditional gender roles often look for ways to show that they're ready to start some new traditions that promote equality. Often couples who make a decision together to both wear engagement rings don't care much about conformity. These are the people who are more likely to eschew white wedding gowns and church ceremonies, opting instead for designing weddings that reflect their own personalities and values. Often they also opt for male engagement rings to make a statement along these lines.
Men want a keepsake to pass down to their own children.
Women have long enjoyed the emotional link to history and to their husband's family that they receive when presented with an antique engagement ring that has been handed down for generations. Some younger men, looking to the future, want to be able to share in that type of enduring tradition, passing down their own engagement rings to their daughters to be presented to their future sons-in-law — or for their own sons to wear as a memory of their parents' love.
What Do Men's Engagement Rings Look Like?
While some men choose engagement rings covered in diamonds and other bling, most men opt for engagement rings that look very much like wedding bands. If you're shopping for a men's engagement ring, your best bet is actually to look at wedding bands, since most jewelers don't yet offer separate selections of men's engagement rings. The good news is that today's men can pretty much create and choose engagement rings that suit their own personal style, since no real traditions have developed yet to tell them what an engagement ring "should" look like.
In most cases, the aesthetics of men's engagement rings tend toward the simple and elegant, sometimes with simple engraving or texturing to add a touch of visual interest to the ring. Sometimes the rings have the sparkle of diamonds, paralleling the engagement ring choices common to women, but typically the men's rings aren't flashy at all. It's the gesture that really matters, along with the wearing of the ring to show commitment, rather than the arbitrary rules that govern the purchase of women's engagement rings ("Spend two months' salary on her ring!").
Men's engagement rings are typically made of materials that many people view as masculine: wood, metal, stone, and even bone. Wooden engagement rings often lean toward the exotic, with the glowing tropical beauty of koa wood and the unique patterning of zebra wood coming to the forefront. These wooden rings can stand on their own as both engagement rings and wedding bands, as can clean, handsome bands made of strong, long-lasting metals such as the traditional choices of gold and platinum as well as more cutting-edge materials such as titanium, stainless steel, or tungsten.
Many men prefer to combine materials to create a unique looking engagement ring. Those exotic woods really pop when they're paired with sleek metal bands. Additions of sustainably harvested deer antler create a truly one-of-a-kind look in an engagement band, and they're ideal for men who are passionate about the outdoors. Others choose to add a dash of color by bringing turquoise into the mix, pairing it with metal and wood to create a ring that's a thing of beauty.
Whether you're male or female, wearing an engagement ring is a sign of love that makes it clear to the rest of the world that you've made a lifelong commitment. Choose a men's engagement ring to stand out from the crowd in the best possible way.