Today, wedding rings are a central part of our ceremonies, big or small. But, that hasn’t always been the case. We’ve delved into the history of wedding rings to find out about their origins, including wedding ring symbolism and why we use them today.
The history of wedding rings
Many historians point to the ancient Egyptians as the first society to use rings to represent marriage. Jewellery was an integral part of ancient Egyptian dress and pharaohs were even buried with their jewellery treasures. It is no surprise, then, that exchanging jewellery can be traced back to Ancient Egypt.
The ancient Egyptians believed that a vein ran directly from the heart to the fourth finger on the left hand. This was called the Vena Amoris. It is thought that this supposed connection between the heart and the hand caused the ancient Egyptians to place a ring on that finger as a symbol of love.
Whether or not these rings were wedding rings as we know them today is unclear. Historians believe that the ancient Greeks and then the Romans continued to use rings as symbols of love and union. Each society used different materials for their rings, including leather, ivory and gold.
However, wedding ring symbolism has not always been an integral part of marriage. In some eras, exchanging rings was optional. Reports show that, in the 12th century, people who married in the medieval Catholic Church could choose whether to give rings or other gifts. In fact, other jewellery, parts of rings, and even silver coins, were sometimes included in weddings.
What did Roman wedding rings look like?
The British Museum in London is home to several wedding rings dating as far back as the third century. According to the British Museum website, the spectacular ring below is from Roman times. It is made of gold and set with an aquamarine stone. Incredibly, the inscription is still vividly clear around the edge of the ring, with the names Valerianus and Paterna.
Image from: British Museum
The second ring below is also made of gold and dates back to the third century. This incredible wedding ring features a carved portrait of a man and a woman with a Latin inscription. You can find out more about the ring on its dedicated museum page.
Image from: British Museum
Wedding ring symbolism
Although the exact history of the wedding ring is difficult to trace, many believe that it symbolises eternity; the circle is unbroken and has no beginning or end. Wedding ring symbolism is also linked to the strength of the ring and its constant use by the wearer.
At Bespoke Wedding Rings, we believe your wedding rings should be made with you in mind. That’s why we offer personal consultations and bespoke designs, just for you.