“With this ring, I thee wed...” These vows have been repeated at countless wedding ceremonies over the centuries. Today, we simply take for granted that the wedding ring is a standard part of matrimony – a visible symbol of one’s love and commitment.
How did this tradition start, though? Why did people wear rings and not some other type of charm or jewelry? And how did they decide which finger would be the “ring” finger? Let’s dive into the history of wedding rings and the true meaning behind these seemingly simple bands of metal.
The Origin of Wedding Bands
No one is sure exactly when the first exchange of wedding rings occurred. We know the ancient Romans used them, and moving farther back in history, we also believe that the ancient Egyptians used them, as well.
At first, there were no men’s wedding rings; only women wore them. In ancient Egypt, men initially gave women rings made of twisted grasses and papyrus. As time went on, people started making wedding rings out of longer-lasting materials like bone, ivory, or leather.
Why a Ring?
To the ancient Egyptians, the shape of a ring was deeply significant in a love relationship because rings have no beginning and no end. It symbolized eternal love, and the hole in the ring’s center signified a gateway leading to the future. The Romans took a different view of wedding ring symbolism. To them, a woman wore the ring as a symbol of ownership by her husband.
Late in the first century, Christians began using rings engraved with joined hands or doves to signify love and togetherness. When the Church expressed disapproval of such designs, wedding rings were simplified down to a basic band.
Men still didn’t wear wedding rings at this point in history. In fact, men’s wedding rings didn’t catch on until the early 20th century. During the World Wars, men’s wedding rings took on a truly special significance, as they gave soldiers a way to remember and feel close to their betrothed while they were far away from their homes. Today, wedding rings have a deep symbolic and sentimental significance to both men and women alike.
Left Hand, Fourth Finger...
Only one question remains. How was the traditional wedding “ring finger” chosen? Ancient Romans believed that the “Vein of Love” or “Vena Amoris” ran through this finger and went all the way to the heart. (Later science disproved this as a medical fact.) The left hand, fourth finger tradition continued on through early Christian wedding ceremonies. In these, the priest would call upon “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” as he touched the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger in turn before placing the ring on the fourth finger as he said “Amen.”
Truly, though, it’s more practical for most people to wear their wedding rings on the left fourth finger. The majority of people are right-handed, so this keeps the ring from getting dinged and damaged. The fourth finger is large enough to wear a prominent ring, but it’s not as frequently used as the middle or pointer fingers. No matter the beliefs or traditions involved in any given marriage, wearing the ring in this location simply makes sense for most folks.
Putting a Spin on Tradition
Just because the concept of wedding rings is traditional doesn’t mean that your rings have to be. Our Men’s Wedding Band design, for example, is more than just a simple band. It brings together beautiful hammered copper paired with stunning 925 silver bands and accented with silver rivets. It’s also available in glowing rustic gold.For the ladies, our Unique 5mm Wedding Band features hammered copper on the exterior and 925 silver on the interior of the ring. Handmade and rustic, these designs declare your love while making definite fashion statements. They’re only a few of the nontraditional wedding rings available in the Gilleri Jewel catalog. Have questions about our available products or a custom design? Please Contact Us!