Around the world, lovers have embraced the idea of marriage since the dawn of time itself.
Throughout the course of human history, there have been countless cultures and ideals that have formed. Some have decayed as the years have passed, while others still stay alive to this very day.
Countless religions, spiritual beliefs and political circumstances have all affected the way a culture views marriage. Besides love, wedding rings have seemingly always been the centrepiece of a marriage. A wedding ring has proved that it is more than just metal, it is a display of commitment to a love that two people shall share until they leave this Earth.
Without marriage, the world would be in a completely different state and all cultures would lack the integral part of what it means to be in love.
Here’s a look at what a wedding ring means in different cultures:
It is widely accepted that wedding rings have their origin thanks to the Ancient Romans.
Dowry was a common system back then - a gift from the family of a wife to the husband as a means of “thanking” him for allowing her into his family. Fidelity was followed; a promise of loyalty and faithfulness.
A ring was placed on the fourth finger of the left hand. Yes, this is where we get the term “ring finger”. The significance of this placement is due to the belief of vena amoris - which is Latin and means literally “vein of love”.
The traditional belief was that there was a vein that ran directly from this finger into the heart. The ring obviously then is of great importance, signifying that there is an everlasting bond between two people as it was on the very finger they believed was connected physically with the many emotions of deep love and affection.
Early Ancient Roman rings were made of iron, and gold was supposedly only allowed to have been worn by people of great importance..
Although fairly minor, Romans were also engraving their rings. Often engraved were relevant Latin quotes and Biblical illustrations of angels, Christ and heaven, thus being the first bespoke engagement rings.
Medieval Europe and The Renaissance
The Middle Ages were a time when people started to begin including precious gems to their rings. Over 545 years ago, in 1477, Maximillian gave his wife a diamond ring. This is the first reliable account of a diamond ring being properly used, made by a noteworthy engagement ring designer.
However, in Medieval times, diamond ring designers were still incredibly hard to come by and it was virtually impossible for you to ever see even the wealthiest of people have one.
Other custom made engagement rings of this time were “Posie rings” which are rings that are made of gold and featured short quotes or sentences that were related to love and often religious. Posie rings got the name the French “poésie,” which means poetry.
A lock of hair and a ring were showcased at the Leonardo Museum in Vinci beginning on 2 May 2019, the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance Genius’ death. Leonardo was also a master at creating all sorts of jewellery, creating machines and tools for goldsmiths for cutting and polishing gems. Leonardo had a natural talent for not only painting but also for being a custom ring designer in Florence.
In Asian cultures, engagement and wedding rings are not as common or significant in comparison to Western traditions. Men often do not wear wedding rings at all, and women have started to wear wedding rings only quite recently compared to Christian-influenced countries. Asian cultures seem to have adopted the concept of wearing rings for marriage from Western cultures.
Chinese culture originally did not involve any engagement rings at all, but as mentioned, women are now expecting a special bespoke diamond ring.
The Japanese, like Westerners, traditionally also used to wear a wedding ring on their left hand because they believe a vein leads directly to the heart through the left hand. These days, most Japanese people do not have a preferred hand to have a ring on. Most modern Japanese rings are made of white gold or platinum, with lab-grown diamonds being very popular.
In South Korea, after 100 days as a couple, a ring is given meaning that you both are in a serious relationship. This is a modern tradition. Wearing a ring on your index finger in South Korea shows friendship, and is a common practice between two best friends. A ring on the middle finger shows that one is career-focused and has a high standard of working towards the future. Like Japan, lab-grown diamonds have started to take off in South Korea.
In Jewish Culture
The Jewish wedding ring plays a major role in the Judaism religion, with the ring exchanged under what is known as a “chuppah” which is a canopy the two stand under during a wedding ceremony. Historically, however, the Jews did not wear rings as a sign of their everlasting marriage.
As a matter of fact, there is actually no direct mention of the wedding ring in the Bible either.
The Jewish seemed to have adopted the wearing of wedding rings as a part of being influenced by other cultures and beliefs around the world, which is now making it especially an important symbol of marriage to them.
According to the book of Mishnah (the first significant written collection of the Jewish oral traditions), a man can set a woman ready for marriage in three different options: By paying a “bride price”, signing a contract of marriage or by engaging in consummation.
While only one of these is enough, most engage in all of the three.
In a traditional; Jewish wedding, a groom would put the ring on the right index finger of his future wife, and declare that their love is true and connected under the law of Moses.
In Islamic Cultures
Wedding rings in Islam are said to have a specific set of rules and teachings, and sometimes it can be a complex topic. Some view the idea of wearing a wedding ring as a practice of the West, and thus goes against the teaching of Islam. But like other cultures, Islam has also partially adopted the idea of wearing a wedding ring.
For Muslim men, some view is as haram to choose to wear a ring that has been made out of gold. The rule has been mentioned in a few sayings and traditions of Muhammad.
The “hadiths” mention that gold and silk are materials that are only permitted for women, and are not allowed for men.
There is also a rule that dictates how a wedding ring should be worn according to the religion of Islam. That is that women are allowed to wear their wedding ring on any finger that they please, while the men are not allowed to do so. Muslim men should not be allowed to wear a ring on either the index or the middle finger, according to another hadith.
There is no sign of slowing down when it comes to marriage and weddings, especially these days with the new lab diamonds. Until the end of time, people will forever have the desire to make their love “official” no matter what culture they are part of. A wedding ring has always been a symbol of marriage, if not THE symbol of marriage.
It is truly beautiful to think that although there are so many different cultures, religions, traditions and beliefs - that we all have one thing in common. Love.