From 3000 BC to the Fourth Finger of Your Left Hand
Updated: May 25
Wedding rings are sort of like language… No one knows their exact origins.
It’s impossible to trace precisely when or why they appeared, or how they managed to present everywhere, all across the globe, in cultures with no tangible relationship to one another.
But they did. For as long as we have recorded history, we have wedding rings, and that’s why it feels like high time we do an article on the history of this most enduring tradition.
So here it goes: 5000 years, in under five minutes...
Ancient Egypt is usually credited as being the first culture to wear wedding rings, but whether they really were the first, or just the first that we know about, is a mystery.
Thanks to their hieroglyphs and amazing preserving techniques, we know for certain that the Egyptians exchanged rings as symbols of love, and that these rings were commonly made of braided hemp and reeds.
Unfortunately, hemp and reeds degrade quickly, (especially with daily wear), and so without other written, recorded histories, there’s really no way to know just how far back the tradition of wedding rings actually goes…
We do have some idea of where it went next.
Remember high school Shakespeare when you had to read Antony and Cleopatra? Well, the Bard left out one important detail of that love affair... the rings!
Wedding bands started popping up all over Ancient Rome and Greece. Most of their rings were made of iron. Some were ivory. Eventually, the Romans switched almost exclusively to gold.
From about 750 BC right through to today, gold has been the most popular choice for wedding bands.
Every culture seemed to have their own style for these gold bands. In Medieval Europe “posy” rings, which had a small bit of verse or a personal message of love inscribed to their inner edge, became popular. In Ireland, Claddagh Rings, where two hands hold a crowned heart, became the norm. Some rings even were even made to have secret compartments that could open, revealing a verse, or an intimate keepsake.
The next big evolution in ring fashion didn’t occur until the Renaissance, when, for the first time, it became common to incorporate gemstones into the designs.
Diamonds, however, didn’t really gain footing until the 1940’s. Sure, they were used, but not any more frequently than sapphires, rubies or emeralds.
But following the Great Depression, when the economy started to pick up and people began to think about spending money again, the mindset had shifted. No longer did people want to spend frivolously on something just because they could.
Instead, they wanted their expenditures to feel like a value.
Diamonds, being the rarest material on earth, but also the strongest, fit the bill. They really do last forever, which made them an attractive, enduring value compared to softer stones. People could justify the spend, because they knew that what they were purchasing would last.
Alas, the diamond engagement ring was born.
Considering how slow the evolution of engagement rings has been, it’s easy to feel a little whip-lashed by how frequently designs change now.
In recent, modern history, we’ve seen a resurgence of the solid yellow gold band, super popular in the nineties, to white metals, alternative metals, and mismatching sets that dominated the 2000’s.
Mismatching sets, where the bride and groom each get exactly the ring they want, are still popular today.
The last ten years have seen the world of wedding bands crack wide open. We’ve started to see not only alternative metals, but alternative materials… everything from wood and enamel to rings fashioned entirely from one solid diamond, have become popular.
There have never been more options for wedding bands, so come make history with us and let us help you find the band of your dreams while you’re here.