One of the oldest symbols of marriage is most likely the wedding ring. The history of the wedding ring seems to go round and round, varying through time and culture just like its eternal circle. Whether it is created with metals and studded jewels or woven with simple wood or grass, the wedding ring played a vital role in romance and marriage through time.
According to an article about the history of the wedding ring, the first recorded uses of the ring dates back to Egyptian time. However, historians think that the use of the ring preceded written record. The circle was an important holy symbol to the Egyptians, which meant infinity. The ring was meant to symbolize marital love and devotion lasting forever, like how they believed there was an afterlife.
Wedding rings consisted from anything between precious metals to simply braided hemp, depending on the time and social class. Using rings as a way to show eternal love, ancient Romans had the tradition of giving a ring before marriage – like an engagement ring. The ring signified a contract between the man and the woman.
Documentation on the history of the wedding ring stated that the Romans originated the wearing of the engagement and wedding rings on the left hand’s fourth finger. Ancient Romans believed that the fourth finger of the left hand had a vein called the “vena amoris” which was connected to the heart.
Eventually, metals like copper, silver, and iron were popular material for rings, but eventually, gold became the material of choice. Superstitious beliefs in Ireland stated that it was bad luck to use any other material aside from gold for a wedding band. In some areas, the belief was so ingrained that couples who did not have gold wedding bands were not allowed to be married!
Couples that were too poor to afford gold wedding rings would borrow or rent gold rings for the event. Sometimes, priests officiating the wedding loaned their gold ring to the couple during the ceremony.
The custom of the wedding ring was not initially carried over when the Puritans began settling in the American colonies. In their belief, wearing any type of jewelry signified vanity. It was also a throwback to more “heathen” practices and followers were banned to use any type of jewelry. On the other hand, many different cultures settled in the United States and brought a variety of traditions with them. Thus, the tradition of the wedding band took hold in the New World.
In the history of the wedding ring, only women wore the wedding band. But in the middle part of the 20th century, the rings were also used by men to gain popularity. In the present day, especially in the United States, it is common for both the husband and wife to wear a wedding band as a symbol of their marriage.
Today, there are several styles, materials, and designs for wedding rings and engagement rings. Some couples even design their own wedding rings to put more meaning to it and to what it signifies.
Given the history of the wedding ring, they are not just a symbol of marriage, but its use indicates devotion to present day traditions as well as to one’s spouse. It is a reminder to lasting marriages that love does conquer all and, as the ancient Egyptians originally believed, lasts an eternity.
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