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Tradition Of The Wedding Ring

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Did you ever wonder about your wedding ring?  Why do you wear it on your third finger?  Did we always wear wedding rings; cavewomen too? Why do we wear wedding rings?
Wedding rings are not worn on the third finger in all cultures, In parts of India, the wedding ring is worn on the thumb.  In 3rd century Greece, the index finger was for your wedding ring.  Romans OR Greeks, it is not clear whom, believed the vein in the “ring” finger, third finger, runs directly to the heart, and therefore should be worn there.  Furthermore on the wedding day, the wedding band is put on first so that it is closest to the heart.  Symbolically it is done so because the marriage is a bigger commitment than the engagement.
It was the ancient Egyptian who established the custom of placing a ring on the finger of his wife, as a sign that he had confidence in her ability to care for his house. The Greek and Roman bridegroom often gave a ring to the bride’s father-a practice that was probably a survival of primitive bride purchase.

It was not until about 860 that the Christians used the ring in marriage ceremonies; even then, it was not the simple plain band as we know it. It usually was highly decorated with engraved doves, lyres, or two linked hands. The Church discouraged such rings as ‘heathenish’ and, around the 13th century, wedding and betrothal rings were considerably simplified, and given a more spiritual look. The spiritual aspect was conveyed by Bishop Durant when he declared that wedding bands were a “symbol of the union of hearts.” In the U.K., the people believed so strongly in the necessity for a ring that if a groom were too poor to buy one, he rented one for the occasion.

 A little more about the ring:  The circle was the symbol of eternity, with no beginning or end, not only to the Egyptians, but many other ancient cultures. The hole in the center of the ring also had significance. It wasn’t just considered a space, but rather a gateway, or door; leading to things and events both known and unknown. To give a woman a ring signifies never-ending and immortal love.

These rings were made of materials such as reeds, grasses, plants etc. and didn’t last very long and soon were substituted with rings made of leather, bone or ivory. The more expensive the material, the more love shown to the receiver; the value of the ring also  demonstrated the wealth of the giver.

The Roman’s also eventually adopted this tradition but with their own twist. Rather than offering a ring to a woman as a symbol of love, they awarded them as a symbol of ownership. Roman men would “claim” their woman with the giving of a ring.  It is also said that the Romans were the first to engrave their rings.

This research seems a little dry and uninteresting.  But over and over, the same themes came up.

The Following Is A Brief History Of Engagement Rings According To Readers Digest:

Pre-History: The caveman tied cords made of braided grass around his chosen mate’s wrists, ankles, and waist, to bring her spirit under his control.

Circa 2800 BC: Egyptians are buried wearing rings made of a single silver or gold wire on the third finger of their left hands, believed to be connected directly to the heart by the vena amoris.

2nd Century BC: According to Pliny the Elder, the groom gives the bride first a gold ring to wear during the ceremony and at special events, then an iron ring to wear at home, signifying her binding legal agreement to his ownership of her.

1st Century BC: Puzzle rings first appear in Asia, where sultans and sheiks use them to tag each of their wives.

1477: In one of the first recorded uses of a diamond engagement ring, Archduke Maximilian of Austria proposes to Mary of Burgundy with a ring that is set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M.”

1800s: The highly sentimental Victorians make jewelry from human hair, and use gemstones to spell out names or endearments, such as a D-E-A-R-E-S-T ring set with a sequence of diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, etc.

1867: Diamonds are discovered in the Cape Colony (now a province in South Africa), the beginning of a huge increase in the diamond supply.

1880: Cecil Rhodes, who arrived in South Africa in 1873, founds the DeBeers Mining Company with other investors. Within the decade, they will control 90 percent of the world’s diamond production.

1886: Tiffany & Co. introduces the “Tiffany setting,” a six-prong ring designed to maximize a diamond’s brilliance by raising it up from the band.

1890s: Affordable wedding rings and diamond engagement rings appear in mail-order catalogs, such as Sears & Roebuck.

1920s: Manufacturers and retail jewelers try to launch the concept of men’s engagement rings, which sinks like a lead balloon.

Early 1940′s: Engagement rings become the leading line of jewelry in most department stores.

2000: Amid growing concern over human rights violations associated with their trade, the diamond industry creates the World Diamond Council to develop and oversee a tracking system that will “prevent the exploitation of diamonds for illicit purposes such as war and inhumane acts.”

2002: According to a Fairchild Bridal Group Study, more than a third of couples buying diamond engagement rings spend at least two months’ salary.

This research seems a little dry and uninteresting.  But over and over, the same themes came up.  I think that the origin and tradition seems a little blurry to me….or maybe it just changed a lot from what it means now in 2012.  I think that we (I will speak for us here in the U.S. only) wear wedding rings as symbols.  They symbolize ever lasting, never-ending love and commitment, just like the ring has no beginning or end.  The ring expresses something about our tastes in jewelry, for some it expresses status.  For sure it is an outward symbol that demonstrates commitment and fidelity.  And privately, the rings signify a symbol of love, promises and dreams that the couple will share for the rest of their lives