The day has come when you’re ready to propose to your partner. You head to the jewelry shop to pick out the perfect one and as you gaze amongst their collection you can’t help but think to yourself “when did this tradition even begin?”
Sure, jewelry shops have to make money, but they sell more than just engagement rings. You spot a gorgeous white gold ring with the perfect diamond, not so big that it’s gaudy but not too small that you can’t tell it’s a diamond.
As you put the ring box in your dresser to hide it from your fiancé, you happen to think about the origin of the ring finger again. Keep reading to sate your curiosity.
1. Where it All Began
To find the ring finger meaning we have to go back 3,000 years. The very first moment a couple exchanged rings was recorded about that long ago on ancient Egyptian scrolls. It depicts a couple exchanging rings created out of hemp. Hemp is a sort of flimsy material to make a ring out of so this was eventually traded for ivory or bone.
A ring has no end and continues to go around in a circle forever so these Egyptians believed them to be the ultimate symbol of commitment.
2. Wedding Rings
While the ancient Egyptians were the first ones to introduce the rings, different cultures have been putting their own spin on the tradition for hundreds of years. Here are just a few of their takes on the ring finger.
Ancient Rome believed that there was a vain in the left-hand, fourth finger that led straight to the heart. They called it the “vena amoris” or “the vain of love”. Over the years the existence of this vain has been debunked.
There is a theory that these Romans would have the rings engraved before they presented them to their lover during the ceremony. The material that they were made out of was always a fairly sturdy one that symbolized strength in the marriage.
A popular ring during this time came as an interlocking set known as a gimmel ring. When the couple became engaged they would separate these parts and each wear a part. During the ceremony, the man would his part of the ring on the bride’s finger to join the set back together and with it, their souls.
Also during this time, Puritans gave their partners sewing thimbles because rings were senseless. The woman would chop off the end of the thimble to sort of create a makeshift a band.
The ring wasn’t always worn on the fourth finger. Early Christians had them placed on the middle one. As the priest uttered “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” he would touch the thumb, the index finger, and then the middle finger before sliding the ring on it. This sealed the marriage.
Not all of these origin stories are full of fluffy symbolism. There is a more practical theory behind it.
Most of the world is right-handed and so the left doesn’t see much use. Not only this, but the ring finger is probably the least used finger. As these rings used to be made of fairly soft metals, by placing it in this particular location people could ensure that the ring wouldn’t wear down.
Originally only women wore wedding rings. This was the truth in many cultures including the US until World War 2 happened.
Men would wear their wedding rings when they were overseas to remember their wives who were waiting for their return. This continued on to the Korean war and has stuck up until this very day.
3. Engagement Rings
Some cultures wear their engagement rings on their left hand from day one. There are many, however, who wear them on their right hand until after they have made their vows and then transfer them over to the left.
In some situations, such as in same-sex relationships, men do indeed wear engagement rings. It’s also not unheard of for a woman to propose to a man in which case, the man would wear an engagement ring.
4. Promise Rings
As the name suggests a promise ring, promises something. There are a couple of popular reasons why someone would wear a promise ring and they are:
- A promise to get married someday
- A promise to stay a virgin until marriage
- A promise to stay loyal to the person you give it to
- A simple friendship promise
- A personal promise (wearing it as a promise to yourself to reach a certain goal)
For the most part, these rings go on the ring finger just like an engagement or wedding ring would.
5. Is it Okay to Wear No Ring?
Wearing a ring is completely up to you and your partner. You can choose to wear no rings at all or wear an engagement ring and not a wedding band or vice versa. Some people get tattoos on their fingers to show their commitment to each other rather than use rings.
There are many ways that you can do this. You don’t have to do it according to tradition.
The Meaning Behind the Ring Finger and Other Neat Things to Know Before You Say I do
Wearing a ring on the ring finger has been a tradition for thousands of years and it’s not going away any time soon. New ideas have piled on top of the others to have what we have today. Rather you want to use them in your wedding or not is completely up to you.
Are you still trying to find the perfect partner to settle down with? Keep reading to see some dating sites where you might find the one for you. Browse our online magazine for some more healthy lifestyle tips!