Rings featuring twin central elements are very likely the oldest form of engagement jewellery. The Ancient Romans are believed to have been the first to use a ring to mark the betrothal of a man and woman, this contract sealed with the joining of the right hands of the bride and groom, called the dextrarum iunct. An allusion to this impending gesture, many such rings, which date from the second century AD onward, feature a bezel composed of two hands engaged in a handshake.
Over the following centuries this form, which eventually came to be known as a fede ring (‘fede’ meaning ‘faith’ in Italian) became popular throughout Europe, often with the addition of a heart or pair of hearts placed between the hands. Another variation on this theme was the ‘gimmel’ ring (derived from the Latin ‘gemellus’, meaning ‘twin’), the bezel formed of two gemstones of equal size, very often two diamonds, due to their symbolic association with consistency and eternal love.
With the eighteenth century came additional embellishment of the two central forms. Often the two stones were pierced with Cupid’s arrow, or surmounted with flames, a crown or a bow, the latter representative of a binding together of two hearts with a love knot. In the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, with a greater preference for more minimalist silhouettes, the format became more generalised, typically featuring two round faceted diamonds, the ornament instead appearing on the intricately pierced and engraved galleries, shoulders and shanks. Today they are charmingly referred to as toi et moi rings, French for ‘you and me’, and are ever a romantic alternative to the solitaire diamond engagement ring.