Wedding/engagements rings symbolise love and commitment, with many people opting for diamond varieties like the ones available here, but when did the tradition of giving someone a ring begin? Well, it can be traced back centuries to civilisations across the globe, so let’s delve a little further into this fascinating history.
Rings were offered by Ancient Egyptians as a symbol of love
It’s hard to pin-point the exact origin of the ring, but it’s believed the oldest recorded exchange of wedding rings comes from ancient Egypt, some 4,800 years ago. These were made from sedges, rushes and weeds that were carefully twisted and braided together to form beautiful hand decorations and other accessories that were mainly worn by women of the time. Rings were seen as the ultimate symbol of love with the circular shape representing eternity and the hole in the middle being seen as a path to new and exciting things.
Of course, rings made from plant materials didn’t last very long and were soon replaced by rings made from leather, ivory and bone. If the receiver was given a ring made from bone it was thought the giver loved them more than if they had received a reed alternative. What the ring was made out of also reflected the wealth/status of the giver. Rings were also made from copper; we know this because many Ancient Egyptian skeletons were found with rings of this kind on their toes.
Rings later became of symbol not only of love but ownership
Rings later became not only a symbol of love but a symbol of ownership. Roman men would quite literally claim a woman they took fancy to by giving them a band to wear on their finger. These were often made of iron and symbolised strength and permanence.
They would be lavishly engraved and called anulus pronubus, which is Latin for betrothal ring (the equivalent of our modern engagement rings). The ring would be placed on the left hand ‘ring finger’ as there was thought to be a vein in the finger, the Vena Amoris (the Vein of Love) which connected directly to the heart. While this isn’t scientifically true, the romantic theory behind the idea is too sweet to be ignored.
Rings entered Christian marriage ceremonies
Rings were used in Christian marriage ceremonies around 860 and were heavily adorned with all sorts of imagery including doves, linked hands, lyres and such like. The church eventually branded these elaborate designs as heathenish and by the 13th century they were a lot simpler – much like the wedding bands we often seen today.
Early Christians would also wear the ring on the third finger rather than the wedding finger. This is because during the binding part of the ceremony, the Priest would say “in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit” touching the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger in turn. He would then say Amen and place the ring on the third finger.
Diamond rings came into circulation
Even in Ancient Egypt, the material of the ring was of paramount importance symbolising power, love and wealth. Therefore, it’s perhaps no surprise that rings continued to become more and more lavish with the first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring being given in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany (1459-1519) proposed to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482). This started a trend which is still thriving today and is just one of the many interesting facts associated with weddings.
The appearance of rings has changed considerably over the years but they remain a strong symbol of love and commitment today that we continue to exchange and use to represent the strength of a relationship.