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Gold Engagement Rings for Eternal Love


It's that special moment for two lovers, when he slips a gold engagement ring on her finger. But did you ever wonder how gold rings became the symbol of enduring love?

One story says the ancient Egyptians started the tradition with their "eternity rings," continuous bands of metal, sometimes studded with precious stones, to represent everlasting love. The Greeks supposedly started the practice of placing the engagement ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, because they thought a vein, the vena amoris, ran from that finger straight to the heart.

Even a pope got into engagement history. In 1215, Pope Innocent III decided that couples should wait longer between their betrothal, as engagements were called back then, and their marriage. Why? Who knows? But giving a ring to show commitment became a symbol of this waiting period, and the practice began to spread from the aristocracy to ordinary people – although it would be centuries before the jewels worn by nobles became available to us everyday folks.

We can thank the Archduke Maximilian of Austria for the tradition of topping a golden engagement ring with a diamond. Max gave such a ring to Mary of Burgundy when he proposed in 1477. Trouble was, diamonds were extremely rare back then, so it was hard for anyone but the richest nobility to afford them.

Today, engagement rings can be made of titanium or platinum, but a gold engagement ring remains the time-honored tradition, and with good reason. Gold is the world's most precious metal. It resists rust and tarnish. Few people are allergic to gold, and it can be used to create durable jewelry.

To make jewelry, gold (which is really is kind of soft as metals go) is combined with nickel, silver, zinc or copper to make it stronger. When gold is mixed – "alloyed" – with another metal, the amount of gold in the jewelry is measured by karats. That's why you see rings marked as 10K, 14K, 18K and 24K, the purest form of gold. You can find a gold ring's "quality mark," telling you how pure the gold is, engraved on the inside of your engagement ring.

If you tend to be allergic to some metal, especially nickel, it's important to look for an engagement ring that's at least 18K gold. Rings made from 14K gold, which are a little more than half gold, often cause allergic reactions and are more likely to tarnish.

Some jewelers think that yellow or white gold settings– whether you choose a colorless diamond or a colored gem – are the best choice for engagement rings, because they show off the stone well. Many jewelers recommend regularly cleaning gold engagement rings with jewelry cleansers or a mild solution of soap and water.

And if you're going swimming, be sure to take off your gold engagement ring to keep it from being discolored by pool chlorine. You don't want that eternal love to tarnish, do you?