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The History of Gimmel Rings

Updated on December 4, 2013

Gimmel rings are part of an engagement tradition dating back to the fifteen hundreds. These ornate rings symbolized more than just betrothal. They symbolized the bonding of two lives together till death do they part. Coming in a variety of designs, these linking rings come in sets of either two or three, and are worn by the engaged couple until the rings are joined at the wedding ceremony.

Engagement Gimmel Rings, two parts become whole during the wedding.
Engagement Gimmel Rings, two parts become whole during the wedding. | Source

How Gimmel Rings Were Used

These Gimmel rings were at their height of popularity during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Germany, England, and many other countries around the world. When only using two interlocking rings, both the bride and groom would wear the rings separately till their vows were made. Then, the bride and groom would put the rings together to form a wedding band for the new bride to wear. When three interlocking rings were involved, the bride, groom, and a witness would wear each of the rings. When A witness was involved it symbolized more than just an engagement. It symbolized a contract. The witness would then be present when vows were taken and all three rings would be joined together again to form a wedding band for the bride.

Two parts of a gimmel ring that attaches to one another.
Two parts of a gimmel ring that attaches to one another.

Gimmel Ring Designs and Meanings

The designs for Gimmel rings come in everything from simple designs to the intricate puzzle rings. Around the sixteen hundreds, designs such as clasped hands began to be incorporated into the Gimmel rings. If a third ring was added, often it would bear a heart to go into the clasped hands, much like a claddagh ring of Ireland. Similarly, gemstones were often carved into hearts and split between two rings and when joined formed a full heart, allowing both bride and groom to wear a piece of each other's hearts until their day of betrothal. These gemstones were not limited to only hearts, but also a variety of many other traditional gemstone cuts. Often, simple ring designs were used also. These simple rings would bear engravings such as the Gimmel ring Martin Luther used in his betrothal to Catherine Bora in 1525. These rings bore the engraving, "Whom God has joined together, Let no man put asunder."

Puzzle rings, on the other hand, are not necessarily used as engagement or betrothal rings. Although their designs seem to be taken from Celtic origins, most are Italian or English and based in the Renaissance period. These rings have recently become increasingly popular in North America, however. The traditional style of these rings are made of up to four, six, eight, or twelve interconnected rings. When joined together properly, these rings form one solid ring with a Celtic knot design. More contemporary pieces are known to feature three, five, or seven bands.

Gimmel Rings in Literary History

Gimmel Rings can be found all throughout literary history, used in their text by authors from Shakespeare to children's writer Kate Forsyth. "The Puzzle Ring" is a childrens story written by Kate Forsyth. In this story, the hero, Hannah, must travel through time and search for the four lost loops of a ring to break an evil curse put upon her family. These rings form into the shape of a beautiful rose. In Shakespeare's time, known as joint rings, Gimmel rings are found in his work "Othello" and is worn by Emilia. Also, the Gimmel ring can be found in William Hone's "Table-book" part II part 1.

Gimmel rings have such a rich history, it is hard to sum it all up into one simple article. They have been worn by Kings and their brides to be, have such symbolism, and can even be found throughout the historic literature of Shakespeare. Although, more popular in ancient times, they are becoming popular again today.

Modern Rings And Where To Find Them

Finding a Gimmel ring today is often as simple as looking up on Amazon. They may be hard to find in regular jewelry stores as they are not that well known. However, those who are aware of the history of these rings won't want to settle for anything less.

In modern days, you'll find that these rings usually don't combine like the ones in olden time - rather, they are all attached together so they do not get lost. However, you can still find ones that are separate that can come together at marriage. Depending on what you prefer, you can find diamond rings or plain rings that will work for both men and women. Men's diamond rings styles come in an assortment - often less ornate and more subtle, with rings set into the ring. Combined with the female's counterpart, it makes for a wonderful matching set.

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