Origins of ordinary things: The wedding ring

The wedding ring, a small round band worn on the third finger of the left hand, is the most pronounced way that people let others know that they are married.

The tradition of wearing a wedding ring is so old that it is unclear who exactly started it. According to Ancient Origins, a website dedicate to history, ancient Egyptians started using wedding rings as early as 3000 BC.

Today I Found Out, an online knowledge-sharing platform, indicates that the rings were made by braiding and twisting papyrus reeds or hemp. They were made round to symbolise eternity.

The reason why they were placed on the third finger of the right hand is because ancient Egyptians and Romans believed that that particular finger had a vein called “vena amoris”-“vein of love” that was connected to the heart.

Since reed rings were found to last a very short time, people started to opt for more durable material such as bones, leather and ivory and later, iron. During the Middle Ages, the use of gold became fashionable. This is according to The Knot, a website for wedding news and inspiration.

The most coveted material for wedding rings is the diamond. The word diamond, according to The Knot is derived from ‘adamas’, a Greek word which means ‘the unconquerable.” Diamonds are mostly used in engagement rings. The practice of giving engagement rings did not start until 1477 when Maximilian the Archduke of Austria gave it to Mary Burgundy whom he intended to marry.

Initially, men didn’t wear wedding rings. The tradition was introduced by the Greek Orthodox church in the 1300s but it didn’t catch on. According to the British Broadcasting Corporation, this changed during World War II. Married men who went off to war wore wedding rings for comfort while they were away from their wives and families.

Although the practice of exchanging wedding rings is now specially associated with religion, the practice originally had a pagan connotation. According to Who Invented First, a platform for knowledge on inventions, in the early days, if a man was interested in a woman, he would enclose her with a rope in a bid to keep her spirit under his control.

Today, the wedding ring is not just a promise of love and fidelity. It is also a symbol of economic status. It is common, especially among elites, to appraise the engagement and wedding rings and some people even declare that they cannot wear rings which are priced below a certain threshold.

Still, couples follow the old traditions when it comes to the shape of the wedding ring and where to place it.