The ultimate guide to the history of engagement and wedding rings and how to wear them.
When it comes to a wedding proposal, tradition states that a man should pop the question with a diamond engagement ring. When it comes to style, beauty and quality, a diamond engagement ring truly is the most romantic way to propose. Below, we’re sharing our knowledge on the history of engagement rings, which finger they should be worn on and how to choose a perfect wedding ring to match!
The History of Engagement and Wedding Rings
In today’s society it is widely known that if a man or a women have a ring on the third finger of their left hand that they are either engaged or married, however, the earliest ‘rings’ weren’t worn on fingers at all; they were closer to bracelets and chains, worn round the waist, ankles and wrists as signs of bondage and ownership.
Wearing engagement or wedding rings as a sign of marriage does have ancient historic roots. Engagement or wedding rings made of braided grass, silver and gold wire, leather, ivory, rushes, reeds, and even solid metal have been around as signs of ownership, bonding and marriage for millennia. Gold and silver engagement and wedding rings were given for special occasions or when the wife had behaved particularly well and the husband wanted to show he trusted her with his valuables. Iron was also used to create engagement and wedding rings in days gone by.
Egyptian chains and bracelets were a sign of the bond between husband and wife and these too developed into symbolic rings. Similarly, “puzzle rings” were used in Asian cultures by sultans for the purpose of demarcation of their many wives.
In the 17th Century, references to the “Vena Amoris” otherwise known as the ‘vein of love’ were made; the ‘vein of love’ allegedly links the third finger on the left hand directly to the heart.
Which Finger Should an Engagement and Wedding Ring be Worn On?
In the UK and America the tradition of wearing engagement and wedding rings on the third finger of the left hand feels almost like part of the fabric of society. However, it is neither as long-standing or as universally accepted as we might think.
We now know, of course, that there is nothing physiologically special about the “ring finger” - it has the same structure as all the other fingers and, without wanting to put too fine a point on it, we do of course now know that all veins feed back to the heart! We also know that it was by no means universally accepted even in this relatively recent history that rings should be worn on the third finger of the left hand. Wearing them on the thumb was very popular in Britain around this time, and the middle finger was also a very acceptable option.
So there’s a lot of historical variation and many options for you to choose from. Even in the modern day there’s much flexibility if you look beyond your local traditions without venturing too far from the UK. In the Netherlands you can wear your rings on the third finger of either hand – left if you’re religious, right if you’re not. In Germany the bride wears her engagement ring on her left “ring finger” and switches it to the right hand when her wedding ring arrives on the left hand on her wedding day. In Sweden, the wedding rings are worn by both parties from the point of engagement – on the wedding day itself they are engraved with the date of the wedding, which seals the deal.
On the day of the wedding it is custom for a bride to swap her engagement ring over to her right hand, so that the wedding ring can be placed on the third finger of her left hand during the wedding ceremony. However, after the wedding ceremony has taken place, the bride can then swap her engagement ring back over to her left hand, where it will then sit on top of the wedding ring.
Choosing Wedding Rings
Whether you’ve bought an engagement ring from a high street store, a designer jeweller or you’ve had it made bespoke, there’s always an option to have a matching wedding ring created. Many engagement rings will come as a set. Some grooms choose to buy the wedding ring at the same time as the engagement ring, but others will allow the bride to choose her own wedding ring after the engagement has taken place.
It’s also worth thinking about buying matching wedding rings. If the bride’s engagement ring is fairly versatile, then the couple may wish to buy his ‘n’ hers matching wedding rings from the same jeweller.
If a couple have different tastes then its perfectly acceptable for the bride to choose a certain style of ring, and the groom to choose an alternative, in a totally different style of metal if he chooses.
When to Buy Wedding Rings?
Its advisable to shop for your wedding rings approximately 6 months before the big day, especially if you are having them made bespoke.
Buying Engagement and Wedding Rings: Our Top Tips
- Include the cost of your wedding rings in your wedding budget
- If you’re buying engagement or wedding rings that include diamonds, be sure to get a certificate of authenticity along with your purchase
- Shop for your wedding rings at least 6 months before your wedding
- Choose someone responsible for looking after your wedding rings on the day of your wedding
- As soon as you start spending money related to your wedding its worth buying wedding insurance, just for peace of mind
- Plan an engagement shoot if you’re newly engaged, to show off your ring and potentially use the images on your Save the Date cards