A ring is an unbroken circle, but when used as a wedding ring, a whole new world opens.
The custom of giving and receiving finger rings dates back over 6000 years. Ancient scrolls depict couples presenting each other with braided rings fashioned from reeds or hemp. These were
eventually replaced with leather, bone or ivory.
The Egyptians believed the rings symbolised undying commitment and eternal love between the couple because the circle has no beginning and no end. The centre opening is a door to the future. This symbolism still applies today.
In Ancient Rome as a symbol of ownership, the groom would present his bride with an iron ring, which is the origin of todays metal bands. 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 upon 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.
It was not until abut 860 that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies, even then it was not the simple band we know today. It was usually highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres or linked hands. The Church discouraged such rings and around the 13th century wedding rings were simplified and then referred to as a symbol of the union of hearts.
During the 16th & 17th centuries, Gimmel Rings were popular. The ring was comprised of 2 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.
In Puritan Colonial America, the husband would give his wife a thimble because jewellery was seen as frivolous. Women would often remove the top of the thimble creating a ring.
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 WWII. During the war, many servicemen wore wedding rings as a sign of commitment and a way of remembering their wives while stationed overseas. This continued during the Korean War as well. 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 palladium and platinum there are many new materials being commercially used. Titanium, Zirconium, Silicone to mention a few.
Interestingly, in many countries, even today, including Norway, Russia, Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, the wedding ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand and not the left. In Jewish traditions, the groom places the ring on the bride’s index finger, and not the ring finger.
So, whether the modern-day wedding ring is gold or plastic, whatever finger the ring is placed on, whether that ceremony is in a Church or a Tent, whatever the religion, whatever the gender, whatever the belief, – the ring is still, above all, a symbol of love that unites 2 people.