It's the holiday season! A time for food, friends, family, and fidelity...by way of marriage, that is. After a much-needed Christmas hiatus, I logged back onto my social media handles last night to find dozens of happy engagement announcements and ring pics. Congratulations, everyone!
But whether you are getting married, celebrating an anniversary, or just love a little bling bling, you'll enjoy learning more about the significance to the exchange of rings, a tradition that has been going on for nearly four thousand years. Read all about it in this special guest post by Kat, graduate gemologist for Anjolee, The Art of Jewelry.
Happy Holidays! L.
Wedding rings have been exchanged since the times of Ancient Egypt, formed by weaving reeds grown by the river. Rings weren’t interchanged between men and women, but only from men to women as a way of declaring ownership –and for that reason, the fourth finger on the left hand was selected. Presumably, the left hand is easier for the man to grasp with his right hand, and the fourth finger is the one that gets the least amount of resistance, so the ring lasts longer on that hand.
In some cultures in the Middle East, in India, and rarely in Ancient Asia, rings were still given from husband to wife, but they were in the form of nose rings. The tradition evolved so that only concubines wore them in Asian cultures, but now an elaborate nose piercing is an important part of the wedding headdress for Anand Karaj, the traditional Sikh marriage ceremony.
Additionally, ancient cultures considered couples to be wed from the time of the proposal, so while man and wife though both remained separate for up to a year to prepare for the marriage, the woman wore a ring to signify that she was taken. With the evolution of culture and customs, it became customary in the Victorian era to give a ring at the time of proposal, and another ring to signify the date at which the couple are wed. It was also in the Victorian era that diamonds were found in South Africa (around 1866), and this was when it became customary to exchange rings with diamonds. After all, no woman would want to marry a man who wasn’t so financially stable that he could afford a novelty diamond.
Because rings were a symbol of wifely ownership, wedding rings weren’t worn by men until the 20th century, and even then they were optional. Around the time of the 1970’s (coincidently around the time of the Women’s Lib Movement) was when men were expected to wear wedding rings. Wedding rings for men are often very simple (silver or gold), while women’s diamond wedding bands can be very elaborate.