For generations, wedding rings have been used to embody a commitment and promise of devotion, loyalty, and never-ending love. From Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu weddings, all the way to non-religious civil ceremonies, wedding rings have become one of the most universally recognisable symbols of marriage.
But when did this tradition begin? Why did they choose rings? And why are they placed on the ‘ring finger’? Read on to find out…
The Origin of The Wedding Ring
Even though we can’t be 100% sure, some historians believe the tradition of using rings to symbolise love and unity originated in ancient Egypt. The first instance is believed to have appeared as far back as 3,000 BC – during the time of the Pharaohs – though they were quite different from the gold wedding rings we know and love today.
It’s thought these ancient rings were made from leather, reeds, or animal bone.
Why Are Rings Used for Weddings?
Although not actually used for weddings as we know them today, it’s believed the Egyptians created these simple circular rings to imitate the ‘Ouroboros’ – an ancient symbol portraying a serpent eating its own tail. According to translated hieroglyphs, this circular shape stood as a never-ending symbol of eternal life and love.
Following Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in 332 BC, the tradition of using rings as way to signify love and devotion then made its way to ancient Greece. After the Roman conquest of Greece almost two centuries later, the tradition was then introduced to ancient Rome – here however, it was used to signify the act of marriage.
Although still seen as a symbol of devotion, the ring was also used as a way for the man to show ‘ownership’ over his bride. Called the ‘Annulus Pronubus’, the ring was made of iron which symbolised the strength of the couple’s marriage bond.
How Did the ‘Ring Finger’ Originate?
During Roman times, the annulus pronubus, or ‘bride’s ring’, was typically worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. This is because the Romans believed in the ‘vena amoris’ – a literal ‘vein of love’ which ran from the third finger of the left hand straight to a person’s heart.
Despite modern science since disproving this myth, the tradition of placing a ring on the so-called ‘ring finger’ of the left hand has remained intact for most of the world – with the exception of some European and Latin American countries where it’s worn on the right hand instead!
How Did Modern Wedding Rings Evolve?
Although the Romans gradually began to use precious metals like gold for their wedding rings, modern wedding rings – and the tradition of exchanging them as part of a religious ceremony – owe their origins to the spread of Christianity.
Until relatively recently however, these wedding rings were only worn by women.
It wasn’t until the early 20th century when men and women began wearing wedding rings. This was due to the onset of World War II—soldiers heading off to battle would wear their rings as a comforting reminder of their wives waiting at home.
This tradition eventually caught on among the civilian population – so much so that men’s wedding rings have now become the norm.
Looking for your own ‘piece of history’?
Why Not Design Your Own Wedding Ring at Martin Gear Jewellers?
As one of the only jewellers in Dublin with an onsite manufacturing workshop, we can create your own custom piece of history that’ll last for generations to come.