When people say weddings, a number of things tend to spring to mind: love, laughter, beautiful dresses, celebration, dances, and rings.
The exchange of wedding rings goes back hundreds of years and is a tradition steeped in history and tradition. Wedding ceremonies are found in all major cultures and began as a religious ceremony celebrating the holy union between two people, a bonding set to last forever. Weddings vary from country to country and from religion to religion, but the symbolism and history behind wedding rings is particularly fascinating. Let’s take a look at where diamond wedding rings all began.
Elegant wedding rings, as they exist in their current form, have been around for a really, really long time – they are worn to indicate the wearer is married, usually on the left or right ring finger (where the finger gets its name). Experts think the tradition originates from North Africa, where ancient Egyptians would fashion rings and bracelets from plants growing on the banks of the river Nile. The shape of the ring is universally symbolic, with its round simplicity representing the sacred bond between husband and wife. Even the finger on which the wedding ring is worn is rumoured to be deeply symbolic, with the Romans believing the ring finger to be the only one directly connected to the heart.
As old as marriage itself
This belief that the ring finger is connected to the heart was held by the Greeks first, then passed on to the Romans as civilisations rose and fell. Aptly, it seems like the very traditions surrounding marriage are as eternal as marriage itself! Back in the Roman times, iron was considered a valuable metal and its use as jewellery was somewhat of a status symbol – some even say that the strength of iron was meant to symbolise the strength of the bond between man and wife at the time. Weddings remain a very important occasion, the most important occasion of many people’s lives, but the exchange of rings was once deemed legally binding and enforceable. Nowadays most countries require the newly wedded couple to sign a marriage register, but the tradition still exists.
Steeped in superstition
Some also pin the importance of the exchanging of rings on the idea that by giving his betrothed a valuable ring (gold and silver became more fashionable in Europe as time went on), that he entrusted her with all of his valuable and worldly possessions. Silver has swooned in and out of fashion as the metal of choice for wedding rings, with golden diamond wedding rings the most popular choice for today’s couples. In Ireland, however, folklore deemed any other metal than gold bad luck. In some parts of the world such superstition still exists, but alternatives such as titanium and platinum are enjoying popularity as desirable metals in a wedding ring. Serendipity diamonds are popular for wedding rings, and many wedding rings are embellished with precious and semi-precious stones.
Wedding rings are often deeply spiritual objects, with their symbolism intertwined with much religion that accompanies the wedding ceremony. As such, Judaism and Christianity both reference wedding rings in the prayer that accompanies a wedding ceremony: tradition that has even filtered down to non-theistic wedding ceremonies that take place today. The idea of wedding rings being objects, which symbolise the eternal love shared between those wearing them, is present across religions and is shared across the world.
Many traditions exist surrounding the exchange of elegant wedding rings on the day of the wedding, and it is not uncommon for the bridegroom to give his wedding ring to his best man prior to the ceremony for safekeeping. This can also happen with brides and bridesmaids. Another tradition which seems to be present is the re-use of wedding rings, for example a bridegroom being his father’s wedding ring to wear for his wedding. Wedding rings share many similarities with engagement rings, particularly as prized possessions which are kept for generations – occasionally even passed down to sons and daughters after being blessed with love and sentiment. Over the course of history wedding ceremonies, traditions and practices have changed but the symbolism and affection held behind the exchange of wedding rings stays as potent and important as ever.