Are you the kind of person who wonders why we do some of the things we do? If so, you may have found yourself wondering about the origin of wedding rings. Where did they come from? Why do we wear them? What do they mean? Some of the answers are crystal clear while others are a bit murkier. One thing we can say for sure is that wedding rings are not a modern phenomenon.
Wedding rings are now part of most Western cultures and quite a few Eastern ones as well. Here in North America, couples purchase wedding bands that are exchanged during the formal ceremony. Sometimes the bands are matching, sometimes they are entirely different. They are almost always made out of some sort of precious and durable metal. But that has not always been the case.
Wedding Rings in Ancient Egypt
No one knows for sure where the original wedding ring came from. It could date back to the dawn of humanity in some ancient world we know nothing about. That said, the earliest record of wedding rings being exchanged dates back to the Egypt of pharaohs and pyramids. Archaeologists have uncovered records dating from as far back as 6000 years ago showing Egyptian couples exchanging wedding rings made of hemp, reeds, and other similar materials.
It is believed that the ring was chosen because it is a continuous shape with no beginning or end. It is said to symbolize eternity in the realm of Egyptian spiritual beliefs, thus making it the perfect symbol of the love between two people.
Records dated a little bit later offer evidence that the ancient Egyptians turned to more durable materials after discovering that hemp and reeds do not last. There are historical examples of wedding rings made from things such as leather and bone though wealthier Egyptians preferred more expensive materials like ivory.
Wedding Rings in Roman Culture
History suggests that the Romans used wedding rings for a slightly different purpose. Rather than putting a ring on the finger of your beloved as a token of your eternal love for one another, wedding rings were the means by which men could ‘mark’ their wives as property. As degrading as this sounds, it is the way women were viewed in ancient Rome and Greece.
In order to make their marks more permanent, Roman men made their wedding rings out of iron. Once placed on a woman’s finger, an iron ring was difficult to remove. The ring was viewed as a permanent way to make sure every other man in town knew that your wife was not available.
The Modern Wedding Ring
The modern wedding ring is the product of more ornate rings that began to be used by Christians during the mid-to-late ninth century. At that time, wedding ceremonies took on a tremendous amount of religious symbolism that was encapsulated in everything from the vows made to the clothing worn. Wedding rings at that time began to include things like gold and gemstones.
Ironically, the spiritual leaders of the day found the ornate wedding rings to be far too lavish for what was supposed to be a simple, humble lifestyle. They oversaw the trend of simplifying wedding rings, a trend that still exists today. Wedding rings tend to be simple bands while couples choose more elaborate designs for engagement rings.
The history and origin of the modern wedding ring are fascinating to look into. Knowing where wedding rings come from helps the designers at Engage Diamond Studio to be better at what they do.