Wedding rings today are a billion-dollar industry, but no one can really say for sure when this age-old tradition actually started. Who were the first to use wedding rings? Why do we wear them on our left ring finger? And why do we exchange them?
Some believe that the oldest recorded exchange of wedding rings comes from ancient Egypt, about 6,000 years ago. Plants growing along the well-known Papyrus were twisted and braided into rings for fingers and other decorative ornaments worn by the women in those days. The circle was the symbol of eternity not only to the Egyptians, but many other ancient cultures. The whole in the center of the ring also had significance. It wasn’t just considered a space, but rather a gateway or door; leading to things and events both known and unknown. To give a woman a ring signified never ending and immortal love.
The materials these rings were made of didn’t last very long and soon were substituted with rings made of leather, bone or ivory. The more expensive the material the more love shown to the recipient. The value of the ring also demonstrated the wealth of the giver.
The Romans also eventually adopted this tradition, but with their own twist. Rather than offering a ring to a woman as a symbol of love, they awarded them as a symbol of ownership. Roman men would “claim” their woman with the giving of a ring. Roman betrothal rings were later made of iron and called “annulus pronubus”. They symbolized strength and permanence. It is also said that the Romans were the first to engrave their rings.
It was not until 860 CE that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies; even then, it was not the simple plain band as we know it. It usually was highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres, or two linked hands.
The church discouraged such rings as heathenish and, around the 13th century, wedding and betrothal rings were considerably simplified, and given a more spiritual look. A bishop dubbed it a “symbol of the union of hearts”.
Wedding rings through different stages of history have been worn on different fingers, including the thumb, and on both the left and right hands. According to a tradition believed to have been derived from the Romans, the wedding ring is worn on the left hand ring finger because there is thought to be a vein in the finger. This vein is referred to as the “veina amoris” or the vein of love said to be directly connected to the heart. In the United States, wedding rings were initially only worn by wives but became customary for both husbands and wives during the 20th century. Outside the United States single ring weddings with only the bride wearing the wedding ring are common. In several European nations, e.g the Nordic countries, it is common to exchange plain engagement rings of the same form for both sexes, and typically, an additional more precious wedding ring is given to the bride.
Regardless of religion or custom, our team here at Heart to Heart would love the opportunity to help you with your expression of love. Contact us today to get your free quote and give your loved one something that will last a lifetime!
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