Tradition, folklore, myths and interpretations; the meaning and history behind our enduring jewellery traditions.
Humans have been falling in love for a very long time. We can’t help it. Throughout all human history, across all the world’s cultures, humans have found numerous and creative ways to express that love. What the world’s oldest love poem – The Love Song for Shu-Shin written in 2000 BCE, and the love you celebrate today have in common, is a desire to find an enduring symbol that represents our deepest feeling.
A History Of Ring Wearing
According to George Frederick Kunz – a celebrated gemologist, mineral collector, and important figure in gemology (Mr Kunz is one of the reason diamonds are measured in carat), the wearing of rings to symbolise deep meaning has been done since ancient times. Rings were bequeathed by the gods in ancient Roman myth and legends, exchanged by the early Pharaohs, Romans and Grecians. The tradition of ring-wearing has its roots in our earliest history, and traces of ancient rituals and customs, steeped in folklore, have endured throughout ancient history to the present.
The very first diamond engagement ring was given by Archduke Maximillian of Austria in the Imperial Court of Vienna, to his betrothed Mary of Burgundy, in 1477. Highly unusual for the time, it is said the Archduke and Mary were madly in love. In a romantic swoon that consumed the higher classes, members of the Royal Court followed suit to declare and express their own love stories, and the practice of giving diamond engagement rings quickly spread.
What Finger Do I Wear My Engagement Ring On?
In Western Culture, it is traditional to wear your engagement on your left hand, on the fourth finger from the left (or the finger next to your pinkie) known as your ‘ring’ finger. But why do we wear the engagement ring on that particular finger?
Many believe this tradition goes back to a long-held custom from the 5th Century (we think) that engagement and wedding rings, once known as betrothal rings, should be worn on the finger closest to the Vena Amoris, or the ‘Vein Of Love’; a vein (or nerve, depending which source you prefer), that ran from the fourth finger to the heart.
Whether this is purely folklore, romanticised science (very little was known about the circulatory system until the turn of the century), or ancient marketing spin, the majority of Western cultures have held onto this tradition.
Engagement Ring Finger for Women
While it is largely traditional for women in Western Cultures to wear an engagement ring on their left ring finger, many cultures do the opposite. In Russia, India, Spain, Greece, Norway, Columbia and Peru, engagement rings are traditionally worn on the right hand ring finger.
Engagement Ring Finger for Men
Previously less common in Western Culture, engagement rings for men, worn on the left hand ring finger, are slowly increasing in popularity as a growing number of countries legislate and protect marriage equality, and following a shift in overall attitudes amongst Millennials, who tend to champion equality within partnerships, and veer away from rigid tradition.
In other countries the practice is much more common – in parts of South America and Sweden, for example, tradition has long required men to don an engagement ring, and the trend has been sported by celebrities including Michael Bublé, Johnny Depp, Skylar Astin, and Ed Sheeran.
In Ancient Egyptian society, rings were highly regarded symbols; the circular shape represented eternity, and the space within, a gateway to the unknown future. It is deeply romantic then, that the Ancient Egyptians are seemingly attributed to the very first mention of the practice of exchanging wedding rings, in a scroll aged between 3,000 and 6,000 years. It is widely believed that couples would exchange rings of hemp and reeds, that would later be replaced by leather and ivory as their simple rings deteriorated.
Going by more reliable sources, however, the practice of giving rings as a symbol of your devotion was certainly practised by the Ancient Romans with considerable gusto, who made bands from iron and copper, adorned with images of Eros or Cupid, the god of love.
It wasn’t until the 1600s, that wedding bands really began to emulate the fine jewellery we see today – the use of precious metals, engraving of love notes, and the inclusion of precious stones and diamonds, becoming the custom.
Do I wear my wedding band on the right or the left?
In Western Culture the wedding band is traditionally placed on the left-hand ring finger during the wedding ceremony, and stacked below the engagement ring, but this isn’t the norm across the world.
Wedding Ring Traditions From Other Countries
In Germany, the engagement ring is worn on the left hand ring finger prior to tying the knot. During the ceremony, it is moved to the right hand, where it is joined by the wedding ring.
In South America and Sweden, the couple both wear rings on the right-hand ring finger throughout their engagement, and move the rings to the left-hand during the wedding ceremony. In Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, engagement rings are also worn on the right-hand until the wedding day, when it moves over the left hand.
Eternity rings, also known as Infinity rings, are the third part of the bridal ring set. A tradition that emerged in the 1960s, Eternity rings have become increasingly popular, and are often adorned with an uninterrupted channel of sparkling diamonds set around a band of precious metal.
When do you traditionally give an eternity ring?
There are no rules when it comes to giving an Eternity ring to the one you love. While it is commonly gifted on a couple’s milestone anniversary, any romantic milestone will do; the birth of a child, the departure of the children from the family home, a special anniversary, or simply when the moment strikes you. Love needs no criteria or requirements to celebrate.
Can I wear an Eternity ring If I am not married?
Of course! An Eternity ring is simply a meaningful and romantic way to say, look how far we’ve come.
Are Eternity rings just for women?
Not at all – everyone deserves an Eternity ring.
What order do you wear your Engagement, Wedding, and Eternity ring?
There is no hard and fast rule for the position of your Eternity ring. You can wear your rings in whichever order you prefer, and whichever finger and hand. If you would like to follow tradition, it is suggested you wear your rings on your left-hand, on your ring finger, in the following order: Wedding ring closest to the hand, followed by Engagement ring, then Eternity ring.
Stacking rings is an art in and of itself, and it all comes down to your personal preference and the materials your pieces are crafted from (it is best to keep platinum pieces separate from other precious metals).
Now popular for men and women, signet rings have a long-established, rich history.
What is a Signet ring used for?
The Signet ring has been popular since 3500 BC, often engraved with a family crest, and used to stamp or sign important documents by pushing the signet into hot wax, creating an official seal.
Designed with a level of detail incredibly difficult to copy, the stamp of a Signet ring ensured important documents could be authenticated by the unique and influential crest. Considered more official than a signature, they were worn by the most noteworthy people in society; powerful individuals from important families. Becoming extraordinarily popular with affluent gentlemen in the 18th Century, the Signet ring became a key indicator of status.
What is the meaning of a signet ring?
Nowadays, Signet rings can be an expression of individuality or family heritage; and are often bold fashion and personal value statements, or precious family heirlooms.
How to wear a Signet ring
The most traditional way to wear a Signet ring is on the pinkie finger of the non-dominant hand, with the engraving facing the wearer – to keep it hidden from any potential enemies. For those of us who don’t have too much to worry about in the enemy department (or you are just feeling confident), you can wear a Signet ring on any finger you choose – Winston Churchill liked to wear on his right-hand ring finger.
Are Signet Rings for men?
Anyone can wear a Signet ring; women leading the charge include Cara Delevingne, Bella Hadid, and Kristen Stewart.
Promise, Commitment and Couple Rings
Known by many names, Promise rings, Commitment rings and Couples Rings symbolise the love and mutual aspiration they share to make a deeper commitment to one another.
What are Promise and Commitment Rings?
Simply put, these are rings that are romantically gifted to a loved one, usually prior to an Engagement ring.
A beautiful milestone before becoming engaged, Promise or Commitment rings are a meaningful, romantic way to make your feelings clear, and let that important someone know how much they mean to you, at this very special moment in time.
Matching Couple Rings
A modern romantic statement, Couple rings are a way to celebrate love at any stage of a relationship. Matching Couple rings show the world a conscious commitment to the unique love that is shared, without the formality of the bridal set.
Find Your Love Symbol
From the Ancient Pharaohs, Romans, and Greeks, the lords of the 18th Century, to you, one thing has remained constant; Love is universal, love is enduring, and since the dawn of time, we have been going out of our way to celebrate and symbolise it.
Beautifully crafted jewellery, rich in history and imbued with meaning and sentiment, provide many ways to express yourself, and the love you have for the special people in your life. Find your perfect symbol of love today, in our collection of stunning engagement rings, and beautifully crafted wedding rings.