May We Have The Rings: A Brief History of Wedding Bands
The giving of the rings is an ancient tradition that dates back centuries across continents and cultures. The first recorded evidence of exchanging rings is found in ancient Egyptian scrolls dating back more than 3,000 years. The hieroglyphic records depict a couple giving each other braided rings most likely made from from hemp or reeds.
As a hemp ring would definitely not last long, couples eventually replaced the fragile band with another which was made from leather, bone or ivory. Translation of the hieroglyphics shows that Egyptians saw the rings as symbolizing undying commitment and eternal love between the couple because "the circle has no beginning or end. The center opening is a door to the future."
Today's rings take inspiration from Ancient Rome. A culture in which a groom would give his bride an iron metal ring. The fact that the material was less breakable symbolized the strength of their love.
The placement of our rings comes from the Ancient Mediterranean as well. Romans and Greeks kept the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand because they believed that finger contained what they called a vena amoris, or the vein of love.
In many European countries, couples wear their rings on the right hand, some say the left ring finger was chosen because the ring would receive less damage (since most people were right handed.)
The Renaissance rolled around and gimmel rings became popular. A gimmel ring is made with two interlocking parts. While engaged, the future bride and groom each wore one part. At the wedding, the groom would place his ring on the bride’s finger, creating the wedding set.
This era of history also was the birthplace of the fancy, blingy sterling silver rings. The Irish Claddagh became popular after the story of a man, who was recently engaged, was captured at sea returned to find his betrothed years later, unmarried and still faithful to him, and then fashioned the ring as a symbol of her loyalty, love and friendship.
For some time, in many cultures, only the woman wore a ring. In the United States, this was true before World War II at which time many men wore their wedding rings as a way to remember their wives while they were abroad. The tradition stuck, through the Korean War, Vietnam and carried into the modern day. Thus, the wedding band set, ring bearers, ring vows and all other things wedding ring were born.
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