A Brief History of Wedding Ring Sets
While shopping for wedding ring sets online is a relatively new convenience, the wedding rings themselves belong to a tradition that dates back thousands of years.
The wedding ring was first used in ancient Egypt, where grasses and reeds were woven into circles symbolic of eternity and completeness. The Egyptians were also the first to place the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand, believing that the vein from that finger led directly to the heart (the Romans called this the vena amoris, or “vein of love”). Over the course of time, temporary grass rings were replaced by rings made of leather, bone, and eventually soft metals.
Romans chose to use iron in their wedding bands, believing the strength of the metal to symbolize the strength of their love. Gold gained popularity in later centuries, and by the Middle Ages, the diamond was routinely used in wedding rings, along with other gemstones. The use of silver in rings had a brief revival in the Renaissance, and rings were inscribed with sentimental phrases and poems.
Wedding rings were almost entirely reserved for women until the mid-twentieth century, when the many separations caused by World War II (and increased marketing from jewelry companies) spurred men to begin wearing rings to serve as sentimental reminders of home. Before 1930, only 15% of marriages used wedding ring sets for both partners, while a mere fifteen years later, 80% of married men sported a band.
One of the first wedding ring sets may have been the sixteenth-century European gimmels. These rings combined to make a trio ring set that would have been separated prior to marriage – one ring for the prospective bride, one for the groom, and the third for a witness – and then rejoined into one ring to place on the bride’s hand on her wedding day. Tiffany and Co. introduced the solitaire diamond ring in 1886, but recent innovations in ring manufacturing, including the development of diamond cluster rings and trio ring sets have made it affordable for anyone to join in the historic tradition of exchanging rings to symbolize true love.
Photo Credit: Lisa H