The Ancient History of Wedding Rings

Gerard Ortiz

Marking an engagement or the large marriage ceremony working day itself with a ring is portion and parcel of numerous cultures today. But you may possibly be astonished to find out that wearing the ring on the fourth finger of the remaining hand is a tradition dating back again at least a thousand years.

It’s a apply that is considered to stem from the belief that a vein ran from this finger all the way to the coronary heart — the vena amoris. This strategy is often attributed to the historic Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but the origins of the ring by itself are obscure.

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Historical past of Wedding ceremony Rings

It’s usually claimed that marriage ceremony rings (or at least these related to marriage) started out with the ancient Egyptians. Archaeologists have uncovered golden rings that could reveal such utilizes.

But, prior to the reign of the Ptolemies, there was no official relationship ceremony in ancient Egypt. Marriage contracts have been practiced but the arrangement remained mainly in between households.

From Egypt, the use of rings is thought to have distribute to the Greeks and the Etruscans, and hence to historic Rome. Nevertheless the historic Greeks exchanged rings as symbols of enjoy, not of relationship.

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When Did Engagement Rings Start out?

Roman ring utilised as a betrothal or marriage band all through the third century A.D. (Credit score: Metropolitan Museum of Artwork/Public Domain)

When it comes to the origins of the use of rings for engagements, all roadways guide to Rome — or at least, so it would seem. Roman rings bearing clasped palms are generally understood as engagement rings, explains Karen Klaiber Hersch, a professor of Greek and Roman classics at Temple College.

This clasped-fingers image is a shared emblem among Greeks and Romans, lending some credence to the reality that there was interexchange in between these peoples.

In typical, rings ended up exceptionally important to historical cultures, suggests Klaiber Hersch, also the writer of “The Roman Marriage: Ritual and Indicating in Antiquity.” They indicated wealth and status, have been worn by all those in specific political roles, and ended up imbued with symbolic and religious significance.

Roman Engagements

Other proof underlines the use of rings in Roman engagements: Pliny the Elder, for instance, observed that in his working day “an iron ring is despatched by way of a current to a woman when betrothed, and that, much too, without any stone in it.”  

“There’s more than enough proof to say that rings ended up supplied as a sign of a promise,” Klaiber Hersch states. The ring would be provided at an event known as the sponsalia, an informal arrangement to marry, commonly concerning the groom and the father of the bride.

These engagement rings — recognised as annuli pronubi — may well have transformed in excess of time, from the basic iron rings described by Pliny to those people designed of silver and gold. By about the third century Advertisement, it was seemingly common exercise (at minimum amid elites) to mark engagements with these far more important supplies.

Wedding Rings

Medieval gold rings on screen at Christiansborg Castle in 2017. (Credit history: Thomas Quine/CC BY 2./Flickr)

However Roman wedding day rings stay elusive and were probable not applied, the practice of providing them to mark engagements may well have inspired their use in the course of wedding ceremony ceremonies by the Christian church. By Medieval instances, they experienced develop into a image of really like and a lasting union.

Positioning a ring on someone’s finger with the intent to marry is so steeped in record. Of course, not each section of the tradition is historical: The present day, diamond-encrusted engagement band is figured as the final result of crafty promoting courting to only the mid-20th century.

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