The History of Wedding Rings
The custom of wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand dates as far back as the time of the Ancient Egyptians. In fact, they believed they had discovered a vein which, starting from the third finger of the left hand, flowed straight to the heart: through this vein, so they thought, sentiments were carried. To “tie" the third finger, therefore, meant to guarantee faithfulness. To bind and seal the union between the bride and groom, already in Ancient Roman times iron rings were exchanged. The Sumerians, the Assirians and the Babylonians saw marriage exclusively as a contract between two people in the same way as the Ancient Greeks, who contracted a marriage solely for economic and social reasons.
Under antique Jewish law, wedding rings had even more importance, in fact they sustained that the exchange of these rings alone was sufficient to make a marriage legal. In the Middle Ages, when exchanging rings was not yet a common practice, the wedding ring was of great workmanship and equally precious, often the groom gave the bride three rings.
In Europe in the XVIIth century, the ring with a heart and two hands on the sides came into use. In the west of Ireland, in the region of Connemara, the “Claddagh” is still used today: two hands clasp a heart surmounted by a crown. The “claddagh” is both engagement ring and wedding ring and has the heart facing outwards to indicate that the person who wears it is free and facing inwards to indicate that she is engaged. In Bolzano and in Alto Adige there is a version in gold plated Silver, with two hands clasping a heart, a crown and a flame.
The XVth century Umbrian ring, on the other hand, was made of silver and featured the face of a woman or a man and a woman looking at each other, and between them a bouquet of flowers which was the symbol of their budding romance. In the XIVth century, in a ghetto in Alsace, a Jewish wedding ring was found. It was made of enamelled filigrana decorated with small pearls and bearing the engraving of good fortune "mazzàl tov".
The groom gives it to the bride pronouncing a religious vow.
In India the bride wears rings on all her fingers and also on her thumbs. The rings are embellished with precious stones which are symbolic of the zodiac and connected with the date of birth. Diamonds, in Indian tradition have a negative connotation which becomes positive only when they are given or received as a gift. The "aarsi" is a thumb ring with a tiny mirror which permitted the bride to observe the groom, whom she had never seen prior to the wedding day, in secret during the ceremony.
The most popular wedding rings today are in yellow or white gold or platinum.
- The "francesina" is thin and slightly rounded.
- The "mantovana" is higher and flatter.
- The most modern rings are interwining.
- The Etruscan wedding ring was flat and decorated with engraved good luck wishes.
- The Sardinian wedding ring is created using the granulation technique - a ring in fligrana -
- The "Damiani" wedding ring are engraved on the inside; the bride's name on the groom's ring and the groom's name on the bride's ring - and the date of the marriage.
This tradition dates back to the 18th century. The Symbol of never-ending love, those little rings represent life which renews itself, something which once started, continues to strengthen day by day throughout time.
According to tradition, wedding rings should be in yellow gold, but today the fashion is for white gold or platinum.
A tradition which dates back to the Middle Ages has recently been revived by Italian goldsmiths: that of setting a diamond at the centre of the ring.