Rings are loaded with significance. There are a lot of different ones out there – class, wedding, birthstone, promise, etc. But, in our opinion, the most coveted and lovely one of all is the wedding ring. Exchanging a wholesale silver ring at your wedding is a time-honoured tradition that dates back millennia. The custom of wearing wedding rings have become intertwined in the symbolic cultures of people around the world. Today we are going to look back in time to discover how and where these classic jewellery pieces originated and what place they hold in modern society.
Believe it or not, the first recorded exchanging of wedding rings took place some 3,000 years in Egypt. We know this from ancient scrolls that documented the event. They show happy couples exchanging braided rings made from reeds. Accompanying hieroglyphics state that the rings symbolise undying commitment and eternal love between the couple. They viewed the ring, or circle, as showing no beginning or end, and as a portal into an unlimited future.
As these fragile offerings didn’t last long, they were eventually replaced by leather, bone or ivory versions, with the most expensive materials being a showy token of deeper love and overall wealth and status. Pretty similar to modern times, no?
Now let’s hop over the Mediterranean to ancient Rome, here, the groom would present his bride with an iron ring, the genesis of what we know today as a wedding band. Iron was chosen because of its rigidity, strength and permanence, all things expected in a long-lasting marriage. To really cement the deal, the Romans started the custom of playing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand (aka ring finger). Why? Because this finger is the home of the vena amoris, the “vein of love”.
An alternate history claims that the tradition is based on the Christian marriage ceremony. As the minister recited the binding prayer, he touched the thumb, forefinger and middle finger in turn while repeating “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” When the final word – “amen” – was spoken, he placed the wedding band on the ring finger to seal the union.
One slightly less romantic theory on why the left-hand ring finger was chosen was because most people are right-handed, so by being on the left hand, the ring had less chance of being damaged. Personally, we prefer one of the more romantic stories offered above.
Another fact you probably didn’t know was that it was traditional for a long time for only the women to wear a wedding band. This was particularly true in the US and UK before World War II (i.e., before 1939). It was during the wartime that many men took to wearing a wedding band as a sign of commitment and to remember their wives back home. The tradition continued into the Korean and Vietnam Wars (the ‘50s – ‘70s) and from then on both the bride and groom wore a wedding band.
The modern-day popularity of wedding rings has brought forth many diverse styles and contemporary designs. In addition to a wholesale silver ring, some people prefer gold, platinum or even silicone, as it’s very durable. Nowadays, though, the ring is as much about fashion and function as the deeper meaning of love and commitment.