The Story of the Wedding Ring
Though diamond wedding rings now available through Naturally Diamonds in Cape Town and Johannesburg are still a rather new trend, as opposed to the conventional plain wedding band, the uniqueness of these rings is undisputed. Whether you prefer the more traditional or the modern diamond wedding rings, the wearing of a ring to show commitment to one’s partner has a long history. The first recording of wedding rings goes as far back as Ancient Egypt. The rings were not made from precious metals as is the custom today. Instead, the women wore braided papyrus rings. The symbolic meaning of the ring at that time was eternity, and given the symbolic meaning of diamonds as being forever, we can see why diamonds are now being used in wedding bands.
But, many people simply look at the endless band as depicting eternity. For the Egyptians, the hidden meaning lied in the hole through which the finger goes. This hole in the band symbolised a gateway to eternal knowledge and with that the ring received its deep-seated meaning as a gesture of commitment to one another for eternity. Understandably, papyrus wasn’t the strongest of materials and the people looked for an alternative to truly represent eternal commitment. Soon, people discovered that animal bone and ivory made perfect wedding bands. With durability and beauty gained, the wedding ring soon became a status symbol. The richer couples had ivory rings, the middle class wore bone rings and the poorer people had to settle for the less durable papyrus or leather wedding rings.
Years later, during the rise of the Roman Empire, brides lost some of their freedom and it became apparent how society changed. The Romans added an additional meaning to the wedding ring: it would symbolise ownership, the bride belonging to the husband. Iron replaced bone and ivory and this was the first time metal was used in the wedding ring. The Romans did not add the diamond settings; instead, they opted for engraving on the ring, a custom still followed with engraving on the inside of the ring.
The idea of a wedding ring was new to the Christians. The first recording of it was during the 800s. Detail was important at that stage, so their ring designs were exceptionally complex and the engravings elaborate. Half a millennium later, the Church frowned upon the custom of rings and rejected them as heathen in origin. Christians toned down their wedding ceremonies for a time and engraving joining hearts became popular. The Church might have been somewhat harsh, but one can understand their perception at the time, since the Romans believed that the ring finger was connected to the Vena Amoris vein, which they believed was the vein to the heart and thus love. Today, people hardly think about hidden symbolism and the diamond wedding ring simply means commitment forever. It is a declaration of love and no longer a symbol of ownership.
The ring is still worn on the left hand’s fourth finger, but more out of custom than a belief system. It is doubtful that it will scare off evil spirits and the left hand is chosen simply because most people are right-handed and the ring is less likely to cause inconvenience when worn on the left hand. Fortunately, people no longer have the superstition that obtaining a part of the bride’s wedding gown or even her ring will bring good luck. In an attempt to prevent wedding followers from ripping the bride’s dress or stealing her ring, the custom developed of throwing a bouquet of flowers at the unwedded. This tradition is still popular today, though more as a fun activity than a way of getting good luck or hopefully assuring that you getting married next.
Diamonds still represent eternal commitment and, when added to the wedding band, serve as confirmation of eternal love.