The origin of engagement rings and wedding bands isn't as rooted in love as you might've assumed. The tradition of rings as symbols of marriage in general traces back to the ancient Egyptians, who linked circles with the concept of eternity. Married couples typically wore braided reeds on their left ring finger because they believed it had a vein connecting to the heart. Though we now know that anatomical connection doesn't exist, the original idea is sweet and still followed today. The remaining history, however, isn't so romantic.
In second century BC, it's said that the ancient Romans gave their brides rings as a sign of ownership, not necessarily love. "According to Pliny the Elder, the groom first gave the bride a gold ring to wear during the betrothal ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home, signifying her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her," said Reader's Digest. But it wasn't until the 1300s when the Greek Orthodox Church introduced the tradition of rings for both the bride and groom.
Fast-forward to World War II when Americans adopted the same tradition of dual rings. Men going off to war didn't know if they'd ever see their wives again, so each partner wore a ring as a reminder of one another. Archduke Maximilian of Austria was the first documented person to propose with a diamond ring in 1477, but diamond engagement rings weren't a popular tradition in the West until after the Great Depression. De Beers Mining Company introduced the concept as an ad campaign, and it quickly caught on, making engagement rings the leading jewelry in department stores by the 1940s.
As to whether or not you need separate engagement and wedding rings today, it's all about personal preference. More couples are choosing to opt out of individual pieces to save money and instead settling for one ring each. The choice is ultimately up to you and your partner.