Is that special day where you and your partner exchange rings fast approaching? Well here is a history of wedding rings and where they come from.
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Wearing a Ring
It is believed the Pharaohs of Egypt first used the circle as a symbol of eternity but wearing a ring as a public pledge to honour the marriage contract did not become customary until Roman times. The earliest rings were made of iron but gold rings set with gems were fashionable by medieval days. The most popular gems were symbolic — a red ruby was the colour of the heart, a blue sapphire reflected the heavens but the most coveted and powerful gem was the diamond.
The word “diamond” is derived from the Greek word adamas, which means “the unconquerable.” Diamonds represented invincible strength, a fitting gem for the marriage covenant. But the real pull of these sparkly stones — which ancient Greeks believed were delicate splinters of fallen stars — came from the powers and protection they offered the wearer. In India, where diamonds were first discovered, they were thought to be a shield from the combined forces of evil (which at that time included snakes, poison and theft). Ancient astrologers believed diamonds promoted lasting love and warded off witchcraft and nightmares.
Archduke Maximilian of Austria started the diamond ring trend in 1477 when he presented one to his beloved, Mary of Burgundy. The tradition of wearing the engagement ring and wedding band on the fourth finger of the left hand can be traced to the Egyptians, who believed the vena amoris (vein of love) ran directly from the heart to the top of this finger.
Wedding Bands for the Groom
Dual-ring ceremonies, in which both bride and groom wear a ring, were introduced by the Greek Orthodox Church in the 1300s. The custom didn’t catch on in America until the beginning of World War II, when young men were forced to leave their beloveds behind, not knowing when and if they would return. Many couples married in anticipation of separation, and wedding bands were considered critical to the war effort as a solace to the soldiers and the loved ones they were leaving behind. By the height of the war, 85% of marriages were dual-ring ceremonies. And of course, they continue to be today.