Why Do Women Traditionally Wear Engagement Rings Instead of Men?

Why do women traditionally wear engagement rings instead of men?

It’s been said that the only constant in life is change. As societal norms, behavior, beliefs, and customs continue to evolve and shift, one thing (and clearly a staple of the patriarchal tradition) almost seems destined to forever remain the same:

When you meet an engaged opposite-sex couple, you’ll always find the woman wearing the engagement ring. And seemingly never one on…the man.

But why is this the case, exactly? What’s the reason behind this tradition? What’s the story behind society’s insistence that the man purchase the dazzling diamond ring (or alternative gemstone engagement ring) for the woman—and the woman proudly, publicly displays the ring?

Turns out, it might not be exactly what you’re thinking. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

A Different Kind of Insurance…

To go way, way, way back in time, many scholars cite the ancient Romans as having initiated the now time-honored custom of presenting rings as a high-priced, high-gloss engagement gift. Believe it or not, other scholars insist that an engagement ring originally served as a form of insurance. No, not engagement ring insurance (we’ll get to that later). But rather…

“Fidelity insurance.”

(Though “loyalty insurance” could also work here…)

Yes, you read that right. You see, the OG engagement ring signified that a woman “belonged” to a man. She was “taken” or “spoken for” and thus “off the market”—terms we still, quite often, use today. More recently (but still quite some time ago) here in America, an engagement ring was presented by a man to his prospective bride-to-be as a symbolic “paying of the dowry” to her father in exchange for her hand in marriage.

The engagement ring also served as a kind of “collateral”–or “down payment” of sorts–in case the husband-to-be went back on his promise to wed his prospective bride. Speaking of…

Promises, Promises…

Things changed a good bit in 1945, when the “Breach of Promise to Marry” law was enacted. This common law tort has since been eradicated in many U.S. jurisdictions. But when written into law nearly 80 years ago, it empowered women to sue a man if he decided to break off their engagement. Oh, and if he did pull the ripcord and eject from the coupling? She would get to keep the diamond engagement ring!

(Since all of us here at the Zillion team live, breathe, deliver, and innovate around jewelry insurance, that last part is easily our favorite part of the story.)

Earlier on, in the 1920s, the then-monolithic department store chain Macy’s (then known as L. Bamburger & Co.) debuted an aggressive, ambitious advertising campaign promoting men’s engagement rings. Alas, the idea didn’t really resonate with too many Americans—even though the ads featured diamonds, cigarettes, manly hands, and manlier names like Master, Stag, and Pilot.

The Next Best Thing?

Of course, men didn’t also always wear wedding rings in America, either. This same period of post-World War II prosperity was when a groom’s wedding band became more of a staple (or as the cool kids today might say, “a thing”). Jewelers wisely promoted large, lavish, flashy, costly weddings as shining symbols of successful achievement of the American Dream. Classic Hollywood film icon and renowned rake Humphrey Bogart even began wearing his wedding ring everywhere he went—on and off screen.

(Side note: You can visit the myzillion site to get a fast, quick quote on either engagement or wedding ring insurance—or both. You can also read all about the history of the wedding ring at our Zillion blog!)

Exceptions to the Rule (Including “Mangagement” Rings)

Of course, customs, traditions, and practices vary from country to country and culture to culture. In Chile and Sweden, it’s actually long been customary for men to wear engagement rings. And even here in the United States, recent years have seen some men wearing engagement rings—including a handful of high-profile artists and celebrities like Ed Sheeran and Michael Bublé. In 2009, actress Jennifer Hudson also made news by paying her boyfriend’s proposal back by presenting him with a beautiful, five-carat Neil Lane diamond engagement ring. Many in the press dubbed it a “mangagement” ring.

Of course, we’ve also seen serious surges in same-sex marriages over the past few decades, so it’s not uncommon to see “non-traditional” couples both rocking engagement rings—quite often engagement rings that don’t feature diamonds.

The times, they are a-changing. Somewhat. Sort of.

Another Exciting Evolution: Engagement Ring Insurance

Here at Zillion, we never really were comfortable with the Old School concept of “fidelity insurance.” But ask us about jewelry insurance–especially engagement ring insurance–and you’ll have a hard time getting us to stop raving about the advantages.

Of course, as we mentioned earlier, we also provide fast, affordable, easy-to-activate, easier-to-appreciate jewelry insurance policies on wedding rings—along with diamond, gold, or silver pendants, tennis bracelets, earrings, heirloom rings, and more!

Get your fast, free engagement ring insurance quote online right now. Or if you want to take other peoples’ word for it first, feel free to dig into the many Zillion online reviews. We hope to work with you soon!


Zillion partners with jewelers to offer their customers lower rates on jewelry insurance. If you don’t see your jeweler on our list, we’re sorry, we won’t be able to offer you a quote for insurance. If you purchased from a Preferred Jewelers International retailer please email us at partners@myzillion.com and let us know the name of the retailer. Thank you.