» A History of The Wedding Ring

A History of The Wedding Ring

San Diego Engagement Rings
The Making of a Custom-Made Diamond Engagement Ring by Carl Blackburn

The wedding ring is a long-honored symbol of everlasting love, and today they are exchanged in nearly all weddings around the world. Wedding rings have changed dramatically throughout the ages, but the eternal timelessness of the simple band continues to inspire romantics everywhere.

The First Wedding Bands

The first examples of wedding rings were worn by the Egyptians, as early as 3500 BC. These simple rings were made of hemp or reeds, and laced together to form a band.

Wedding rings were symbols of eternity: with no beginning and no end, the circular ring evoked eternal love and commitment. The hole in the center of the ring was also symbolic. It was considered by the Egyptians as a gateway, or door, to the unknown future of the newly married couple.

Wedding rings were worn then as they are now, on the third finger of the left hand. The belief at the time was that the vein of that finger led directly to the heart. This misconception survived and was passed to the Greeks, and eventually the Romans as well, who called the imaginary vein ‘vena amoris,’ or ‘vein of love.’

Early wedding rings symbolized eternity, but they certainly didn’t embody it. Rings made of hemp or reeds only lasted about a year, and soon gave way to more durable materials like ivory, stone, and, eventually, metals.

Roman Wedding Rings

The Romans were among the first to use metals for wedding rings. While they were still symbols of eternity, wedding rings also became symbols of possession. Wedding rings made of iron were given to brides, and were considered to be the outward representation of a legally binding relationship: the wife now belonged to the husband.

Medieval Europe Wedding Rings

Wedding rings became customary in churches by the Middle Ages. In the 1100s, the Pope dictated that marriages celebrated in Catholic churches should include a ring in the ceremony, and the Greek Orthodox Church began ring-based wedding ceremonies in the 1300s.

Gold became the metal of choice, and a variety of gemstones were used for wedding rings, including sapphires, rubies, and eventually the indestructible diamond, another symbol of eternity.

Wedding rings during this period were highly decorated, and featured engravings of all sorts, including lyres, doves, or two linked hands. The church began to discourage such ornate rings as “heathenish,” and medieval wedding rings were simplified down to a plain band.

Wedding Rings in the Renaissance

An example of a puzzle wedding ring which has been unlocked.
An example of a puzzle wedding ring (popular in the Renaissance) which has been unlocked.

Puzzle rings became popular in the 15th century. These Renaissance wedding rings consisted of a number of interlocking rings that fit together to form a single band. Traditionally, the puzzle was meant to be so difficult that if a wife were to take off the ring, her husband would know because she wouldn’t be able to put it on correctly again.

One variation of the puzzle ring, the gimmel ring, featured three bands that came together to make a single ring forming hands clasped over a heart. One piece was given to the bride-to-be as an engagement ring, and the other two kept by the groom and a witness. The three rings were united on the bride’s finger at the wedding.

Another popular style of wedding ring during the Renaissance was the poesy ring. Made of either sterling silver or gold, these wedding rings featured inscriptions of love notes or romantic poems on the inside of the band.

While poesy rings were popular in Europe, Colonial Puritans often exchanged thimbles at their wedding ceremonies, as rings were thought to be frivolous. After the wedding, the utilitarian thimble would be cut, and the lip would serve as a wedding ring.

Georgian Wedding Rings

Wedding rings during the Georgian period were usually made of gold, and featured scrollwork or nature inspired designs, and occasionally sapphires, diamonds, and other gem stones. Poesy rings remained popular as well.

Victorian and Edwardian Era Wedding Rings

Delicate filigree and engravings of intertwined hearts, flowers, and intricate foliage were hallmarks of wedding rings from Victorian & Edwardian eras. Wedding bands were usually made of gold, and often featured colored gem stones like rubies, garnets, and sapphires.

Wedding Rings in the 20th Century

The Art Deco movement influenced wedding ring design In the 1920s and 30s. Geometric shapes and bold colors were prominently featured.

Just before World War II, men finally began to wear wedding bands. It became customary for soldiers to wear wedding rings to remind them of their wives while they were deployed overseas.

Today, the double ring ceremony is used in over 80 percent of weddings in the United States. Traditional wedding rings today are usually gold, white gold, or platinum, and mainly feature diamonds. Recently, more couples are opting for wedding rings made of titanium or tungsten, with colored gemstones including rubies, pearls and colored diamonds.

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Are you ready to create your own unforgettable wedding ring? Contact Carl Blackburn for custom made wedding rings and custom engagement rings in San Diego and nationwide.

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