The Origin of Wedding Rings
The exchange of rings in a matrimonial ceremony is one of the oldest and most recognizable aspects of a wedding. It’s a revered tradition that dates back centuries, and one that is woven through many cultures around the world.
But where did the idea come from?
Where Did the Concept of Wedding Rings Originate?
Before we begin, we should acknowledge that since this tradition is so old, records about its conception can differ. The following is what many experts accept as being most likely.
The origin of wedding rings can be traced back almost 5000 years to Ancient Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians exchanged rings made of reeds or leather woven together into a circle. To the Egyptians, this circle symbolized true love’s infinity and eternity, since a circle neither begins nor ends. The space in the middle of the circle represented a doorway into the unknown future and all its possibilities.
As the Egyptians discovered, the trouble with woven reeds is they fall apart. (Not a great symbol for eternal love!) Over time, the rings exchanged began to be made out of more durable materials such as ivory or bone, and later metal. If the material used to fashion the ring was particularly valuable, it demonstrated how deep the love was between the couple. It also denoted the economic rank of the giver. (Much like the common culture today!)
What is the significance of the “Ring Finger”?
There are a few different theories on why such significance is placed on the fourth finger (or third finger if you don’t count the thumb), of the left hand.
The most popular theory surrounds what the Romans dubbed the “Vena Amoris” or “Vein of Love”. The Ancient Egyptians believed there to be a vein in the fourth finger connected directly to the heart. This was a belief shared by both the Greeks and the Romans. And although there is no scientific evidence to prove this, the tradition has carried on.
The ring finger is also connected to Christian history. Early Christian marriage ceremonies had the ring placed on the fourth finger of the left hand as well. During the wedding ceremony, the Reverend would say a prayer to seal the marriage, concluding with the words “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.” As the Reverend recited the words, he would touch the ring to the fingers of the bride. The thumb was “Father,” the index finger “Son”, the middle finger “The Holy Ghost” and as he concluded with “Amen,” he placed the ring on the bride’s finger.
Another more practical possibility is the fourth finger of the left hand is the least used. Since the material of a ring is valuable and most people are right-handed, the fourth finger of the left hand is the relatively safest place for it.
The Origin of Wedding Rings in Other Parts of the World
For the Ancient Romans, a ring did not symbolize unending love, but rather a contractual agreement usually made by the groom and the bride’s father. The ring, (unfortunately,) signified that the bride was now owned by the husband.
The woman was presented with two rings. A gold one, which she was to wear in public, and an iron one (Anulus Pronubus) she wore at home as she carried out the household chores. The iron ring was both practical and symbolic: it would not be damaged scrubbing the floors, and the durable material represented the strength of the bond between husband and wife.
It is believed that Roman rings were the first to be engraved, and in the case of the Anulus Pronubus, the engraving would be of a key, which represented the woman’s unlocking of the man’s heart and wealth. It signified that the husband trusted his wife with his possessions and his love.
Why Are Diamonds Used in Wedding Rings?
Diamonds were highly prized in both Greek and Roman culture. The word ‘diamond’ itself derives from the Greek word “adamus” which means invincible/unbreakable. Both ancient cultures believed diamonds to have magical properties and to come from somewhere other than Earth. They were not mere carbon but shattered stars fallen to earth or a god’s tears. Warriors carried diamonds into battle with the belief they would protect them from harm and even poisoning.
However, the origin of diamond wedding rings is a lot more recent than you might imagine.
While the first recorded use of a diamond engagement ring was given to Mary, the Duchess of Burgundy, by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477, the tradition as we know it today didn’t begin in earnest until the 1940s.
In the 1940s, the diamond company De Beers was struggling to sell diamonds after the Great Depression and World War II. They hired the Philadelphia based ad agency NW Ayer. In 1947, a female copy editor by the name of Frances Gerety came up with the iconic slogan “a diamond is forever”.
Coupled with the increased availability and accessibility of diamonds, this romantic sentiment changed marriage proposals into what we know them today.
A diamond represents the beauty of your partner, as well as the eternal promise of marriage.
The Ancient Egyptians believed a circle represented love with no beginning or end. The Ancient Romans and Greeks believed a diamond to be indestructible. What better symbol represents the enduring love and passion you have for your partner than a diamond engagement ring?
Choosing a Wedding Ring That’s Right For You
Wedding rings symbolize a union of two hearts and serve as a constant reminder of the bond you share with your partner.
Remember that the rings you each wear are for life, so take as much time as you need and look at as many different styles as you can to find the one that best represents the love you both share. And the one that looks best!
We’re happy to help you through the entire process. Contact us today and let’s get started on discussing the micro pave engagement rings of her dreams!