Roots: The beautiful history of the wedding ring
What might appear to be a simple band of metal holds a much deeper meaning when it bonds two people in marriage. The unending circle represents the eternal union and its hollow centre represents the unexplored life awaiting them. For some, the wedding ring has become little more than an accepted part of the ceremony, but it has a much deeper history than that. It has been a symbol of love which has existed in cultures across the world for centuries.
The first accepted use of the wedding ring is believed to be in the societies of Ancient Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. They held a belief in the vena amoris (vein of love) which ran directly from the heart to the fourth finger on the left hand. It was for this reason that rings between lovers were exchanged and placed on this finger. The Egyptians also assigned the symbolism of eternal love and awaiting life, which we still use today. However, their wedding rings were often made from braided hemp or reeds and replaced with stronger materials such as leather or ivory, if they broke. It was in Ancient Rome that a more recognisable notion of wedding ring appears.
In Ancient Rome, the man would present his bride with a ring, which was made from iron. The metal was used for their rings (as opposed to the materials Egyptians used) to symbolise strength and permanence. This idea is something we take for granted today, but it is something we have adopted from thousands of years ago. The other feature we have taken from the Romans was their practice of engraving – they were the first society to engrave their wedding rings, which was usually comprised of important religious phrases and/or inscriptions that were personal to the couple.
During the following centuries, the Ancient Roman design remained largely unchanged, although there were some slight changes and additions. The range of metals was expanded upon and gold wedding rings became an increasingly popular choice. The ornamentation also became a larger aspect with more detailed inscriptions being incorporated, as well as religious scenes being depicted (especially those from the life of Christ). It was in this trend that wedding rings continued to develop, with progressively elaborate designs becoming more common.
More unusual designs started to take shape in the 16th and 17th century, where the gimmel ring became a prevalent choice. A gimmel ring (or joint ring) is named after the Latin term ‘gemellus’ meaning twin because it is formed of two or more interlocking parts. Normally, one piece was presented from the husband to their wife on their engagement and the other part was added to the ring on their wedding day to form one complete jewellery piece. The two parts of the gimmel ring were meant to represent the perfection of the husband and wife as counterparts. Although we no longer represent this notion with a two-part ring, the offering of an initial engagement ring and consequent wedding ring has become a deeply ingrained tradition.
The concept of a wedding ring is a practice that we cannot disregard – it is so deeply rooted in our history that it has become a part of who we are as people. Whilst, we may have advanced from the humble braided reed used thousands of years ago, our desire to commit to love is an immovable force which will stand the test of time. If you’re still looking for the perfect ring for your wedding, explore our collection here.