Wedding Ring History and Traditions

Have you ever stopped to wonder why couples exchange rings when they exchange wedding vows? Sure, the rings are symbols--of love, commitment, and eternity--but how did this tradition come about, and why does it continue today? Learn a little more about wedding ring history, and you'll undoubtedly appreciate antique wedding rings even more.

Ancient Egypt

The people who lived in Egypt centuries ago left many mysteries for us to solve. Some have been easier than others. Scholars have many theories, but to this day, no one really knows for sure how the Egyptian pyramids were built. And though it's difficult to find any definitive, written proof, conventional wisdom says the ancient Egyptians started the wedding ring tradition, too.

This assumption came about after the discovery of imagery on ancient papyrus that showed people exchanging rings made from braided hemp or reeds. Once translated, certain hieroglyphs also revealed that Egyptians believed the circle to be a symbol of eternal love. In addition, many Egyptians were buried with rings circling the third fingers of their left hands, the finger the people of ancient Egypt believed led directly to the heart.

Ancient Rome

The belief centered around the vein in a specific finger was adopted by ancient Romans, who coined the term vena amoris, or "vein of love." They also stepped up the wedding ring tradition, upgrading from braided hemp to metal, which was the beginning of our modern-day tradition.

Romans' wedding rings were simple, and made of iron. In addition, rather than the ring being a symbol of love and eternity, it was more often seen as representing ownership. Specifically, after marriage, the wife belonged to the husband, and the ring she wore was an indication of his ownership.

The Modern Era

Flash forward to present day. Over the last several centuries, the practice of betrothed couples exchanging wedding rings has only grown. Today, wedding rings are usually made of precious metals such as gold and platinum, and are often adorned with precious and semi-precious gems as well. Men's wedding rings are usually plain, while women's wedding rings can be quite intricate, and often coordinate with their engagement rings.

The look and style of wedding rings may have changed, but the reason behind them, and their symbolism, remains true to their origins. The wedding ring represents a promise of eternal love and fidelity. It's even mentioned in the standard wedding vows--"with this ring, I thee wed"--confirming the wedding ring's importance to the marriage.

Shop our collection of beautiful antique wedding rings to find the perfect symbol for your eternal love.

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