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From Fingerless Vows to Fingertip Forever: The Surprising History of Wedding Rings

wedding rings

Those plain bands on so many fingers become the universal wedding ring—a simple, invaluable symbol of married bliss. But did you ever at one time or another stop to think about just how this tradition really came into being? Well, it may surprise you, but the history of wedding rings is a great deal more interesting—and at times, bizarre—than one might have thought. From ancient fingerless vows to the sparkling diamond tradition we practice today, just what are the roots of this globally accepted wedding practice?.

A Circle Through Time: Reeds and Rings Seal the Deal.

Wedding rings date back thousands of years, long before the discovery of diamonds. Ancient Egyptians were trendy with their symbols, and it was their version of the wedding ring, an exchange of braided reeds, that was symbolic of eternity—a circle, round, never-ending. Then the Romans adopted the practice of ring-wearing on their left hands when sealing the closing of a marital contract was needed, often using iron or bronze to represent that wife’s role in running the household.

Vein of Love: A Medieval Whodunit.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages, where the tradition we know and realize today really began to take shape. The placing of that on the left ring finger has long been believed to be from a very interesting (and, eventually disproved) belief in a “vena amoris”—a vein of love—leading into the heart. This romantic notion, fuelled by science-ish jargon of the time, solidified the left ring finger as the prime location for a wedding band.

Diamonds? Not So Forever: A Marketing Masterstroke

Though diamonds may evoke wedding rings in the mind today, their ascendency dates back surprisingly to a very recent reign. It wasn’t until the 15th century, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria upped the stakes with a diamond-encrusted ring for his bride, that an aristocratic-sparkle trend was born. And it took all the way until the 20th century for them to really come into their own, thanks to a well-worked marketing campaign that successfully soldered them to everlasting love and commitment by De Beers.

Beyond the Bling: A Celebration of Love in All Its Forms

Fortunately for modern couples, their love story can be freely expressed through the wedding bands chosen. Tough and modern materials such as tungsten carbide create a very contemporary feel, whereas ethically sourced gemstones or lab grown diamond rings appeal to the green couple. It is engravement with special dates, initials, or even secret messages that brings the jewelry much closer to the skin.

Breaking the Mold: Making Wedding Traditions Diverse

Wedding ring traditions are as varied as love itself. Some couples have matching bands, which symbolize equality and partnership. Cultural customs also play a role: in some traditions, the wedding ring is worn on the right hand. And increasingly, couples are opting for non-traditional rings altogether: from clear silicone bands for active lifestyles to puzzle rings that interlock, signifying the joining of their lives.

Wedding rings mean much more than just being circular metal—tangible reminders of a love story, promises whispered onto the finger. So the next time you don your wedding band, remember this: It’s a culminating bag of history, tradition, and above all, the different love story that you and your partner share.

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