Wedding rings today may be a thousand dollar symbol of love, but for even longer wedding rings have held an important, significant place in tradition since it’s conception, and even with hundreds of variations, the original sentiment and meaning is not lost: a symbol of love and and a promise of everlasting devotion.
Wedding rings are believed to have originated in Egypt, where woven rings of hemp and reeds were exchanged between a married couple as a symbol of their love. In ancient Egypt, a circle represents with the opening representing a doorway to the future unknown. This gesture meant it was a promise from the couple to love for an eternity. It was a very natural transition that this should make its way to a ring to be worn on the body. Traditionally, this was also worn on the left ring finger, which was believed to house the “vein of love”, or the vena amoris. The belief of the vena amoris continued into Greek and Roman practices, and the tradition is still kept alive to this very day, but rings are now typically worn on either the left or right ring finger, rather than solely on the left. Romans were also the first to start the practice of engraving wedding rings.
It was not until the 20th century that men also wore a wedding band, and this has only gained traction since its conception. Men’s wedding bands are just as fashionable and beautiful as the wedding band that adorns their partner’s finger. This was largely due to a marketing campaign that began in 1920, where the wedding industry made advertisements for a “double-band ceremony”, but largely failed due to lack of secret appeal for women. The trend pick up again during during WWII, where the trend picked up speed, constituting nearly 80% of the wedding featured both partners receiving a ring.
Before this change, it was common for both nuptials to receive a “promise ring”, where the men’s would later simply be known as a wedding rings, and the wife would receive a jeweled one on her day of ceremony. In Western traditions, it was uncommon for precious metals or gems to be used, and such a symbolic gesture was a sign that the man could trust his new wife with his treasures, and metals symbolizes a stronger bond. Today, both the men and women have precious metals and gems used as a symbol of trust of one another and a symbol of generous love.
Today, promise bands are a simple metal, perhaps with an engraving or imprint if they choose to customize it, and then wedding rings are exchanged at the ceremony.
There has been a very recent trend, especially in the western world of having customized rings and bands, breaking away from the traditional mold of a gold band and a diamond. Today, rose gold, white gold, platinum, and most recently, palladium. Gem choices have also expanded from just diamond: chocolate diamond, white sapphires, moissanite, and even into coloured gems like sapphires, emeralds, opals, just to name a few. Virtually anything goes for wedding rings in the modern day.
Some Fun Facts about Wedding Rings:
- The earliest and smallest engagement ring was given to Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. She was two years old at the time.
- Seventeen tons of gold are made into wedding rings each year in the United States
- The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany proposed to Mary of Burgundy and offered her a diamond to seal his vow.
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