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The History and Symbolism of the Wedding Ring

Exchanging wedding rings is a time-honored tradition that dates back centuries. The symbolism and custom of wearing wedding rings have become engrained in many cultures around the world.

Wedding Ring History: The First Exchange

The first recorded evidence of what we would consider the forerunner of the modern custom of exchanging rings is found in ancient Egyptian scrolls dating back more than 3,000 years. The writings depict couples presenting each other with braided rings fashioned from hemp or reeds. As these materials did not last long, couples eventually replaced the fragile band with one made from leather, bone or ivory. The more expensive the material, the more love was being shown. The value of the ring also demonstrated the net worth of the giver. The translation of hieroglyphics show that Egyptians believe that the rings symbolized undying commitment and eternal love between the couple because the circle has no beginning or end. The center opening is a door to the future. This symbolism still applies today.

Wedding Ring History: Ancient Rome

In Ancient Rome, the groom would present his bride with an iron ring, which is the origin of today’s metal wedding bands. The durable material symbolized strength and permanence. It is believed that the Romans were the first to have their rings engraved. The Romans, as well as the Greeks, placed the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand because they believed that the finger contained the vena amoris, or the vein of love. Another theory behind the tradition is based on the Christian marriage ceremony. As the minister recited the binding prayer, he touched the thumb, forefinger and middle finger while saying “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” When the word “amen” was spoken, the minister placed the wedding band on the ring finger to seal the union. Rings still symbolize the union of two people and identify them as a couple. Although couples in many European countries wear their rings on the right hand, there is a theory that the left ring finger was selected as the preferred choice because the ring would receive less damage since most people are right handed.

Wedding Ring History: The Renaissance

During the 16th and 17th centuries, gimmel rings were popular. The ring is comprised of two interlocking parts. After their engagement, the future bride and groom each wore one part. During the wedding, the groom would place his ring on the bride’s finger, reuniting the matched set. The Renaissance saw the introduction of the highly ornate sterling silver poesy ring. In Puritan Colonial America, the husband would give his wife a thimble because jewelry was seen as frivolous. Women would often remove the top of the thimble creating a ring. In addition to a traditional wedding band, some religions and cultures encourage the exchange of additional rings, including the Hindu bichiya toe ring and the iron bangle of West Bengal.

Wedding Ring History: Modern Day

In many cultures, it was traditional for only the woman to wear a wedding ring. This was also true in the United States prior to World War II. During the war, many servicemen wore their wedding rings as a sign of commitment and as a way to remember their wives while stationed overseas. The tradition continued during the Korean War. After this, wedding ring sets became more popular among civilians as well. The popularity of wedding rings has brought about many diverse styles. In addition to gold, silver and platinum, you can now get durable silicone rings, which are ideal for active couples. Boasting stylish, contemporary designs, the rings are a fashionable and functional way for couples to display their eternal love.