May 19, 2012 in Wedding Rings
The wedding ring is probably one of the oldest symbols of marriage. Like its eternal circle, stories of its use and origins seem to go round and round throughout different times and cultures. Whether woven of simple grass or forged with metals and studded with jewels, the wedding ring has played a role in marriage and romance throughout human time.
One of the first recorded uses of the wedding band dates back to Egyptian time, though its use likely preceded written record. To the Egyptians, the circle was an important holy symbol of infinity. Just as they believed their lives on earth continued into the afterlife, the ring was meant to symbolize that marital love and devotion would also exist eternally. Depending on the time and the social class, rings of the time might consist of anything from braided hemp to precious metals.
The use of rings continued on in ancient Roman times when the giving of a ring before marriage signified a contract between two parties. It is also believed that the Romans originated the custom of wearing the engagement and wedding band on the left hand’s fourth finger. Believing that this finger contained a nerve called the vena amoris which ran to the heart, this ring placement signified an emotional connection between the two.
By Roman times, metal was becoming the more popular material for rings. Metals such as iron, silver, copper were used, though gold eventually became the material of choice. Early Irish superstition held that it was bad luck to use anything but gold for a wedding band. In fact, in some areas this belief was so ingrained, a couple was not allowed to be married without a gold ring. For those couples too poor to afford the expense, rings could be rented or borrowed for the event and later returned. Reportedly, in some areas priests would wear gold bands which they loaned to the couple during the wedding ceremony.
When Puritans began to settle in the American colonies, they did not initially carry over the custom of the wedding ring. Believing that the wearing of any jewelry signified vanity, as well as being a throwback to more “heathen” practices, they banned its use among their followers. However, as many different cultures settled in the States, bringing with them a variety of traditions, including the wedding band, this tradition did take hold in the New World.
Traditionally, the wedding band was usually worn only by the woman. However, in the middle part of the 20th century, the wearing of wedding bands by men began to gain in popularity. In the United States especially, it is now more common for both a husband and wife to wear a wedding band. Additionally, new materials and styles emerged for rings. Traditional metals, in fact, have been eclipsed by the use of more durable and attractive metals such as in tungsten wedding bands.
Given its past, weddings bands are no longer just a symbol of marriage. With its endurance throughout human history, its use signifies both a devotion to our traditions, as well as to each other.
About the Author: Tom Larson is an Expert Jeweler at LarsonJewelers.com. They sell cutting-edge tungsten rings including tungsten wedding bands. Discover classic styles mixed in with fresh and experimental designs. For more information please visit www.larsonjewelers.com/.