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The Origin of Engagement and Wedding Rings

Updated on February 1, 2015
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

by 3BL Media on wikimedia commons
by 3BL Media on wikimedia commons

The wedding ring and the engagement ring are recognized the world over.  They symbolize love and the status of a man or woman. 

You can find the rings in every shape, size, or color.  From simple bands of one metal to intricate designs and encrusted with jewels.  The rings shine for all the world to see.

But where did this tradition originate?  Where did the act of placing a ring on someone's else hand come into the marriage picture?  Let's take a look into the history of the wedding and engagement rings.

by Jeff Belmonte on wikimedia commons
by Jeff Belmonte on wikimedia commons

The Wedding Ring

I want too start with the wedding ring because many times in the past cultures there was no engagement period as it was not uncommon for brides to abducted and married on the same day. 

The earliest records of wedding rings comes from Ancient Egypt where rings of grass and eventually metal were exchanged to show the world that the couple were united as man and wife.  As other cultures began to touch those of Egypt, the tradition of the wedding ring began to move around the globe.

A wedding ring in a circle.  Whether it is made out of gold or ribbon, a circle it is.  A circle has always symbolized eternity as there is no beginning and, therefore, no end.  The union of man and woman was to be forever until death separated them.  The circle was a logical shape for a ring to be placed on a woman's hand.

The hands combined give 10 options to wear rings.  Which finger should it go on?  Traditionally, two fingers are the preferred location in most cultures.  In the Eastern Orthodox, the right ring finger (three over from the thumb) is where the wedding ring rests.  This was because the right hand was always deemed good while the left had sinister connotations.  In most other cultures, the left hand's ring finger has possessed the ring as many cultures believe that the vein running from this finger leads straight to the heart.  Therefore, a ring of eternal bonding resting on the vein of love is so appropriate.

With the wearing of a wedding ring, the marriage status of anyone is quickly determined.  It proclaims that the are taken and belong to someone else.  The meaning might always be the same, but the way it is delivered varies greatly.

Wedding rings can come in all forms.  Many people buy sets where the engagement ring and the wedding ring are of the same design.  Others prefer plain gold or silver bands.  You can find bands with small diamonds, mixed with other metals, and unique based on the culture it comes from.

Wedding rings are all unique yet are all prized for the love they represent and signify upon receipt.  Most people will not remove their rings even keeping them after they have left this world.  Some pass their rings on to their children and grandchildren creating family heirlooms.  The ring of eternity continues.

by Koshy Koshy on wikimedia commons
by Koshy Koshy on wikimedia commons

The Engagement Ring

The ever eternal engagement ring. The pride of every young bride-to-be. She quickly flashes the sparkle for all the world to see and admire. She has announced she is in love and to be wed soon.

Many cultures have betrothal periods where a man proclaims his intentions and once the bride and/or her family accepts them, an exchange of rings is done so that basically his claim is staked. She now belongs to him. To many they are already married through the marriage will not be consummated until after the official wedding ceremony. Some use the betrothal ring as the wedding ring, but over time a separate ring was created for this period.

By having a separate ring, the complete separation of the engagement period and the actual marriage is more distinct.  Before the betrothal ring was the wedding ring as there was only an issue of time.  Now, the periods are completely separate and an engagement does not necessarily mean there is a wedding, just an intention to wed.  The wedding band signifies completion of the act.

The engagement ring has come to reflect the financial status of the man that has approached his soon to be bride. Many hold that the value of the ring should be three months of the man's gross salary. Others let the bride pick out the ring as the proposal has already occurred.  No matter how it is chosen, it is with love a girl wears it.

Diamonds have traditionally been the chosen engagement ring stone as it is the hardest substance and can dazzle the eyes. Over the years others have looked to rubies, sapphires, and emeralds to wear.  You can even find variations of color within the diamond family.

Whatever the style, the engagement ring is a ring a girl wear's with pride and lets the world know that she has settled on man for the rest of her life.

Traditions That Last

The engagement ring and the wedding ring have lasted throughout the centuries and throughout all the cultural changes.  The image of eternal love and the declaration of one's heart spans all barriers.

If you are at a point in your life of choosing a ring, make it reflect your heart and that of your intended.  It should be a symbol of your love and devotion.


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    • Shannon Paigah profile image

      Shannon Paigah 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Really enjoyed this hub, it was heart-felt. Thanks!

    • diamond4you profile image

      diamond4you 5 years ago from los angeles,California

      Fantastic hub.I am glad to read this hub.

    • profile image

      samuiwedding 6 years ago

      Nice hub, this remind my of my wedding ring 3 years ago.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 6 years ago from India

      I got a plain gold design for my engagement and a regular gold band for the wedding ring. I'm looking for a Claddagh Ring now to celebrate 10 years of being married

    • profile image 6 years ago from Mumbai

      Very Informative, keep it up.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Really lovely hub, with some intruguing info on the origins of wedding & engagement rings. Thanks!