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Why do we wear wedding rings?

Stephen Alan's Jewellers - The Jewellery Blog

You probably just take it for granted – if you get married you wear a ring. Why question it? Wedding rings, whether new wedding rings, preowned wedding rings, or bespoke wedding rings look great and symbolize the unbreakable love you and you partner have for each other.

But hang on a minute – why wedding rings and not wedding necklaces, wedding earrings or wedding bellybutton rings? OK, the last example might’ve been added for humorous effect, but still, why do we wear wedding rings, when did the tradition start, and why do we wear them on a specific finger?

In this short article from the Stephen Alan’s Jewellery Blog, we delve into the history of wedding rings, answering common questions, including:

  • Where did the wedding ring tradition start?

  • Why do we wear wedding rings on our left hand?

  • Why are diamond wedding rings a thing?

If you enjoy the article, we’d love it if you gave it a share to let others benefit from our knowledge, skill, and unmatched wit, whilst also learning a bit about wedding ring history.

Where did the wedding ring tradition start?

The answer to this question takes us back over 3,000 years to ancient Egypt, where the earliest recorded example of a wedding ring or wedding band was found - although, the rings in question, weren’t quite like our modern equivalent.

Ancient Egyptian wedding rings, like those shown in hieroglyphics on scrolls from the time, were mostly made from materials such as hemp, ivory, or leather, but for the more cash-strapped Egyptian couples, reeds were sometimes used.

And sadly, just like todays materialistic and capitalistic world, the more expensive the material the wedding rings were made from, the more love you supposedly had for each other. Sorry, leather and reed wedding ring couple, probably best you went your separate ways.

So, why rings?

Again, just like today, a ring was said to symbolize eternal and unbreaking love – that said, if you’re going to make a ring out of reeds, you might not hold out much hope for the longevity of your marriage… which brings us neatly onto the next historical phase of the wedding ring.

Away from Ancient Egypt, and into the Roman era, grooms would often fashion rings out of iron for their brides, making these rings the earliest predecessor of todays wedding rings made from precious metals – although far be it for us to judge if a modern groom still has a thing for iron.

These more sturdy Roman wedding rings ushered in a new symbolistic meaning for a wedding ring, and now they not only stood for eternal, unbreaking love, they also represented the strength and durability of a couples union, even if a hunkier gladiator appeared on the scene.

And inscriptions became a thing…

Who wants a dull, featureless wedding band when you could imprint the ring with a representation of your faces, or an inscription of a short line of verse for example? And that’s exactly what the Romans did, bringing us a step closer to the modern wedding rings of today.

Why do we wear wedding rings on our left hand?

There are two main theories, one involves the vein of love (take your mind out of the gutter), and the other is about the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.

Theory 1 – Vena amoris

If we go back to Ancient Greek or Roman times, these polytheistic nations believed the fourth finger of the left hands contained the ‘vena amoris’ or ‘vein of love’, which was said to lead directly to the heart. Of course, in circulatory terms, we now know this to be a load of nonsense, but lovely romantic nonsense all the same.

Theory 2 – A Christian awakening

This theory for placing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand comes from the time when Christianity started to spread. During a Christian wedding ceremony, the priest would say a prayer and close it with ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ touching each finger as he did, and ending with ‘Amen’ on the fourth finger.

Why are diamond wedding rings a thing?

This tradition sends us back to Italy in 1475, and began when a military captain and Lord of Gradara Costanzo Sforza married Camilla D’Aragona, and summarized their ceremony with the stanza ‘Two wills, two hearts, two passions are bonded in one marriage by a diamond’. This act of ‘love’ then started a trend of diamond and engagement wedding rings, but only for the very wealthiest of couples.

And diamond rings remained a ‘choice’ of the wealthy up until the 1940s, when copywriter, Mary Frances Gerety came up with the slogan ‘A Diamond is Forever’ for the De Beers company, which encouraged the sale of diamonds, and brought the idea of a diamond wedding ring to the minds and the worlds of the not so wealthy.

Looking to buy a wedding ring?

Whether it’s a sparkling new wedding ring, a gorgeous preowned wedding ring, or a beautifully bespoke wedding ring, contact Stephen Alan’s Jewellers on 01525 373177 or pop into the shop at 30B High St Leighton Buzzard, LU7 1EA to speak to one our helpful and knowledgeable team.

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