Wedding Rings: A Long History


A groom places a wedding ring on the finger of his bride during a wedding ceremony.
(Photo by Petar Milosevic via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is unofficially National Wedding Ring Day in the United States.

Here are some things you may not have known about wedding rings.

Experts believe the tradition of exchanging rings during a wedding dates back to ancient Egypt. Evidence shows braided rings of hemp and reeds were exchanged by marrying couples. Ancient Egyptians saw the circle as a symbol of eternity and rings signified the unending love between the bride and groom. The tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the ring finger of the left hand also began with the Egyptians. They believed the finger had a special vein that connected directly to the heart, called the Vena amoris. Despite the lasting tradition, there is no special vein in the ring finger; all fingers have a similar vein structure.

After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BC, the tradition migrated to ancient Greece and Rome. Originally it was part of a dowry, it was later part of a pledge of fidelity. The exchange of rings became part of the Christian wedding ceremony in the middle ages in Europe.

The history of the engagement ring can only be traced back to ancient Rome. The first documented use of a diamond ring to signify engagement was by Archduke Maximillian of Austria upon his betrothal to Mary of Burgundy in 1477.

In Central and Eastern Europe, it is common for an engagement ring to be worn on the left ring finger, while a wedding ring is worn on the right hand.

In most of the western world, wedding and engagement rings have traditionally been worn by women only.

The double-ring ceremony became popular in the United States only after World War II. In the 1920s, only 15 percent of weddings featured rings for both bride and groom, while in the 1940s, the number climbed above 80 percent. During the Great Depression, the price of diamonds collapsed, leading the De Beers Company to begin its first marketing push. In 1947, the company began using the slogan “A Diamond is Forever.”

Our question: What was the average cost of an engagement ring in 2016?


Today is Heroes’ Day in Mozambique and Veterans Day in Thailand.

In addition to National Wedding Ring Day, it’s unofficially Bubble Gum Day, National Carrot Cake Day, and American Painters Day.

It’s the birthday of writer Gertrude Stein, who was born in 1874; author James Michener, who was born in 1907; and actor Nathan Lane, who is 61.

Because our topic doesn’t have a specific year associated with it, we’ll pick a year at random.

This week in 1992, the top song in the U.S. was “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred.

The No. 1 movie was “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” while the novel “Hideaway” by Dean Koontz topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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