Wedding and engagement rings; history and traditions

We take the giving of an engagement ring and the exchange of wedding rings as part of the everyday marriage ceremony but have you ever considered the history behind these important symbols of commitment?

Here’s the history of where it all started and where some of the traditions carried forward to today came from. You’ll know then when looking at wedding rings in Houston from Whiteflash for example just how long they have been in existence and why they are so important.

The first wedding rings

Egyptian pharaohs were the first to use the symbol of the circle to mark the joining of a couple for a lifetime. Rings weren’t exchanged however until Roman times when they were seen as a public symbol of the honouring of a contract. Initially rings were fashioned from iron and it wasn’t until Medieval times that gold was first used. It was also at this time that gemstones were added and each one had a powerful and symbolic meaning. Rubies were a sign of the heart, sapphires represented heaven and diamonds were the most coveted as they showed the indestructible nature of the relationship.

Engagement rings

The giving of an engagement ring goes all the way back to 1477. Archduke Maximilian of Austria was the first person to propose using a ring when he asked Mary of Burgundy to marry him. He placed the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand because the Ancient Egyptians believed that the vein of love traveled directly from the heart to the tip of this finger and he wanted to celebrate this idea.

Use of diamonds in rings

Diamonds have been a powerful symbol for marriage for many centuries. Meaning ‘unconquerable’ in Ancient Greek, the hardest natural substance on earth has been used to depict invincible strength for hundreds of years. It was only a matter of time then before it became the gem to use for the covenant of marriage; the power of two people joined for all time.

Diamonds were also believed to offer protection to the wearer. Indians believed those discovered in their country were a shield from snakes and poison and astrologers of days gone by said that diamonds would give everlasting love and stop nightmares. This meant diamonds were perfect for the protection of a young couple as they started their lives together.

Wedding rings for men

The tradition of both the bride and groom wearing a wedding ring was introduced in the 1300s by the Greek Orthodox Church. Whilst many parts of the world followed suit over the centuries, men in the UK and America who married didn’t usually wear a ring until the outbreak of World War 2. This fairly new tradition started because men had to leave their loved one behind with an uncertainty as to when they would return and so many wed because they knew they would soon be separated. The groom wore a band as a reminder of his bride waiting for him when he returned home and to help stave off the loneliness of war. It was a gesture which soon became the norm as by the middle of the war, 85% of couples were both wearing rings and this has continued to this day.