These days, many people take wedding bands and engagement rings for granted, and although they give these beautiful items of jewellery with integrity and love, they are often given with no real knowledge of the meaning behind them.
Both wedding bands and engagement rings are very special items of jewellery; in fact, they are more than just jewellery – they are the symbols of many emotions and promises such as:
But where – and why – did these popular and sentimental pieces of jewellery stem from?
The History Of Wedding Bands
These items of jewellery have a history that spans many centuries and passes through many countries from all around the planet. Below, you will find a brief history of the wedding and engagement ring, as reported from country to country.
The now-famous wedding band is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt, where it is said that plant sections were fashioned in to circles to signify never-ending and immortal love. It was thought that the fourth finger (which we now know as the ring finger) contained a special vein that was connected directly to the heart, and therefore this became the official finger for the wedding band.
The Romans also agreed with the Egyptians with regards to the wedding ring finger and its meaning, but rather than offering wedding bands 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.
ASIANS / ARABS
Puzzle rings were a complex type of jewellery that were once popular in Asia, and these jewels had the charming knack of being able to fall apart and put back together again – if you knew how to do this, of course. Wealthy Middle Eastern men then began to use these rings as wedding bands for their wives, who were often forced to wear a puzzle ring when their husband was away. The husband would know upon his return whether any of his wives had been disloyal by removing the ring whilst he was away, because the ring was designed to collapse upon removal and could only be put together again if you had the skill and knowledge required.
Several centuries ago, the Europeans became rather taken with what we would class as an engagement ring, but was then called a Poesy Ring. This ring was given to a loved one as a form of promise, and signified fidelity and love. The Poesy Ring was offered as a pledge of eternal togetherness, much as today’s engagement rings are offered as a promise of eternal marriage.
During Colonial times, all items of jewellery in America were prohibited due to their apparent moral worthlessness. Instead, a more practical thimble was given as a token of love and as a pledge of eternal togetherness. However, after they were married, the women tended to remove the bottom of their “engagement thimble” to form a type of ring.
History Of Engagement Rings
The engagement ring of today also has its own varied and interesting history, some of which is explored below. Engagement rings have been known by many different names, have symbolised a variety of different things and have not always been made of precious metals and stunning gems!
The ancient Greeks are thought to have been the forerunners in the rising of the traditional engagement ring. Given as a token of care and affection, the rings used by the Greeks were known as betrothal rings and were given before marriage. However, the giving of these rings was not always a pre-requisite to marriage and was often given in the same way as a friendship ring might be given today.
As seen by their use of the wedding ring, ancient Romans weren’t the most sentimental of people, and the early version of their “engagement ring” were thought to have carved keys on them. It has been debated that this could have been to symbolise the woman’s right to access and own half of everything following marriage. However, the more sentimental like to think that the key may have been a key to her husband’s heart.
ROYALTY AND THE AFFLUENT
Engagement rings as we know them today – stunning gems encased in precious metals – became popular in around the fourteenth or fifteenth century, when the affluent and the royals began to exchange and wear these jewels. However, these items were so expensive that nobody other than the royals and the rich could afford to exchange them. It was to be many centuries before these engagement rings would become more popular or traditional.
Why a ring?
The purpose of engagement rings and wedding bands is to convey deep emotions of eternal love, eternal happiness, eternal commitment, and eternal togetherness. In fact, these rings signify eternity – between the giver and the recipient. A ring, of course, is a complete circle with no break and no end or beginning, which means that it just goes on and on – it is eternal.
And, since folklore has it that the fourth finger of the left hand has a vein leading directly to the heart, it is only natural that both engagement and wedding rings would be worn on this particular finger, which was once reputed to be a direct route to the heart.
In short, it is clear that the giving of a ring in honour of a union, betrothal, and marriage has been going on since ancient times, and although it may not always have been as glamorous and romantic as it is today, it was still a way of exchanging a contract of betrothal or marriage.
Thankfully, today’s wedding bands and engagement rings are not made of hair, grass, plants or twine as they may have been in ancient times, but of beautiful metals set with stunning gems, such as platinum, titanium, white gold, gold, sapphires, diamonds, rubies and emeralds. These incredible items of jewellery are likely to remain as popular as ever as the centuries go by, and even as the rest of the world advances in to a futuristic and technological age, it’s hard to imagine a day where a beautiful diamond engagement ring doesn’t melt the heart of its recipient.