Decoding the Symbolism of Rings: 10 Iconic Rings and Their Stories

Est. Reading: 3 minutes
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November 23, 2023
A jeweller inspecting different types of rings with a magnifying glass.
Table of Contents

Imagine a world where jewellery wasn’t just decorative. For rings, this isn’t mere romanticism – it’s reality.

Across time and cultures, these delicate bands have always been much more than simple ‘adornments’ – they’ve been symbols, milestones, and treasured mementos.

In this article, we delve into the tales and significance of ten legendary rings.

I. Promise Rings – The Prelude to Forever

a white gold halo promise ring with cubic zirconia gemstones
A silver promise ring set with a cubic zirconia gemstone.

Originating from the Latin promissus, or ‘promised’, these rings have long been symbols of commitment.

In the Georgian and Victorian eras, acrostic rings – using the first letter of each gemstone to spell out a word – became popular forms of this ring, as well as a cryptic way to convey the wearer’s feelings.

II. Engagement Rings – An Oath of Eternal Love

gold solitaire diamond engagement ring.
A gold solitaire diamond engagement ring.

Did you know the tradition of diamond engagement rings only began in the 1940s due to a marketing campaign?

Although ‘diamonds are forever’, their association with engagements isn’t ancient. Roman brides, however, received gold rings to flaunt publicly and iron rings for domestic chores, symbolising both public and private declarations of unity.

III. Wedding Bands – Love’s Timeless Circle

white gold wedding ring with diamond set shoulders.
A white gold wedding ring set with diamond shoulders.

Though the modern wedding ceremony has its roots in Christianity, it’s believed that wedding rings go back much farther.

Interestingly, in some cultures, wedding rings are worn on the right hand to signify the ‘right hand of God’, reflecting divine involvement.

IV. Anniversary Bands – Milestones in Stone and Metal

gold anniversary ring set with a row of diamonds.
A gold anniversary ring set with a row of diamonds.

Anniversaries are benchmarks of a shared journey. Traditionally, specific milestones were associated with particular materials; 25th being silver and 50th, gold.

The modern trend of gifting an anniversary ring every decade (or so) celebrates the shining resilience of marriage.

V. Birthstone Rings – A Cosmic Connection

Birthstone ring with one large opal gemstone surrounded by a halo of diamonds.
A gold birthstone ring set with a large opal gemstone and a diamond halo.

The concept of birthstones dates back to the biblical era, originating from the 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

Today, each stone is believed to possess powers that peak during its associated month, providing the wearer with specific benefits, like protection or healing.

VI. Eternity Rings – Infinite Bonds

A half eternity ting set with emeralds and diamonds.
Half-eternity ring set with emeralds and Diamonds.

Eternity rings, showcasing an unbroken line of stones, are a symbol of unending love.

Historically, the ancient Egyptians believed in the idea of eternity and reincarnation. The modern-day eternity ring draws from this, focusing on a love that lasts eternally.

VII. Claddagh Rings – Tales of the Heart

Gold and ruby Claddagh ring.
A gold Claddagh ring set with a large ruby.

Originating from an area close to Galway city centre, Claddagh, these rings tell a tale of love, friendship, and loyalty.

Their tradition emphasises the wearer’s status; heart pointing outwards means you’re single, inwards means your heart is taken.

VIII. Signet Rings – Legacy Etched in Gold

gold engraved signet ring.
A gold signet ring with an engraving.

Engraved with unique emblems, signet rings historically acted as personal seals for documents. Often passed from generation to generation, these rings didn’t just represent family but also societal status.

IX. Mood Rings – A Palette of Emotions

silver mood ring on white background
A mood ring made from silver.

Invented in the 1970s by a jeweller, Marvin Wernick, mood rings contain liquid crystal elements.

These crystals react to temperature changes, resulting in an array of colours. Each hue supposedly represents the wearer’s emotional state – from relaxed blue to anxious black.

X. Class Rings – The Graduate’s Pride

gold and sapphire class/college ring.
A gold class ring set with a sapphire.

A hallmark of academic milestones, class rings are cherished symbols of personal academic achievement.

Adorned with emblems and inscriptions, they stand as a testament to scholastic journeys and lasting memories.

Ready to Craft Your Own Tale?

Rings are storytellers, historical markers, and personal emblems. At Martin Gear Jewellers, our mission is to guide you in understanding and choosing the ring that resonates with your own story.

As one of the only jewellers in Dublin with an onsite manufacturing workshop, we can even design and create your own one-of-a-kind ring. To learn more, drop into our store or give us a call on (01) 872 8726.

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