If you’re making plans to tie the knot any time soon then at the top of your ‘to do’ list must be to find the perfect ring. It’s a symbol of love, of commitment, of an eternal bond between you and your partner. But where does the tradition of affixing a small circle of metal to the finger of your spouse come from?
The Egyptian Pharaohs are believed to have been the first ones to use the circle as a symbol of eternity, however it was the Romans who made rings a fixture of married life. The ring for them amounted to a public pledge to honour the marriage contract, and so it became customary for people to wear them. They were typically made merely using iron, but gold rings set with gems became fashionable later on in the medieval era. Gems were often symbolic, with a red ruby serving as the colour of the heart or a blue sapphire representing the heavens. However even then it was the strong and beautiful diamond that won people’s hearts the most.
As such a hard substance, a diamond is surely the best symbol of great strength, making it fitting as a gem for the pact of marriage. But perhaps even more than that, for many cultures that adopted the diamond as such a potent symbol they were gems that carried with them power and protection. For example in India they were regarded as a shield against the forces of evil, while ancient astrologers saw them as warding off witchcraft and nightmares as well as promoting lasting love.
As well as being markers for married couples, rings became symbols of engagement too. It was those Egyptians once again who take the credit for the fourth finger of the left hand as the spot for rings as they believed the vena amoris, or the vein of love, ran directly from the heart to the top of this finger. However it wasn’t until the late 15th century and Archduke Maximilian of Austria that the trend truly emerged when he presented one to his beloved Mary of Burgundy.
Women were slow to follow suit. Dual-ring ceremonies, with both bride and groom exchanging rings, were introduced into the Greek Orthodox Church way back in the 1300s, but the tradition of wedding bands for men and women alike didn’t really emerge in the USA until as recently as the 1940s when young soldiers going off to fight in World War Two and wanted to make a commitment to their beloved, in spite of the fear that they may never return home. There are so many more traditions from all over the world about wedding bands that will inspire and intrigue you if you’re looking for the right token of your everlasting love.
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