In today’s society, a ring is used to symbolise commitment, love and loyalty to one another. Usually made of a precious metal, which may or may not contain gemstones, there is a large amount of sentimentality behind rings that does not often apply to other pieces of jewellery. Everyone is familiar with the tradition of wearing rings, but how did this tradition develop?
The custom of giving and receiving rings as a token of love for one another dates back roughly 6000 years – although it is quite difficult to trace the exact history. Inhabitants of ancient Egypt wore finger rings, most famously the iconic scarab design, as did the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Romans had stringent rules about rings with different metals being used to symbolise different things. A gold ring, for example, could be worn for most occasions but would always be set aside for an iron ring if one was attending a funeral.
It is difficult to say for sure where the tradition of wedding rings came from, but there is a school of thought that believes the wedding ring is worn on the left hand ring finger because there was thought to be a vein in this finger known as ‘Vena Amoris’, or the vein of love. This vein was believed to be directly connected to the heart during Egyptian times and the ring placed on the finger represents eternal love – the circle being the symbol for eternity. As weddings have developed over time, the tradition of presenting your partner with a ring has remained.
Whilst Ancient Egyptians might have exchanged rings of braided hemp or reeds, todays modern brides are far more discerning. The most common materials used for rings are gold, silver and platinum, however, it is also possible for rings to made from palladium, white gold, rose gold, titanium, tungsten, zirconium, tungsten and steel, with each metal having unique properties. Palladium, for example, is popular due its white colour and resistance to tarnishing, as well as its affordability in comparison to something like platinum. Tungsten, on the other hand, is a darker grey and very resistant to tarnish, but cannot be re-sized.
Some cultures celebrate by giving additional rings to the traditional wedding ring. In India some cultures may use a toe ring for women, particularly if they are Hindu, and many cultures observe the tradition of giving eternity rings for milestone anniversaries.