The earliest recorded example of the traditional wedding band is found in ancient Egypt, over 3,000 years ago. According to hieroglyphics on scrolls from the era, couples began making rings for each other out of hemp, reeds, leather, or ivory. The more expensive your materials, the more love it was believed you held for your partner (thankfully, we know that’s not the case these days). The circular shape of the ring also symbolized eternal and unbroken love—a meaning we still ascribe to rings today.
Why the Left Hand?
Just as we do today, married folks in ancient times wore their wedding bands on the fourth finger of the left hand (or third finger if you don’t count the thumb). There are two prevailing theories for how this tradition began. For polytheistic nations like the Greeks and Romans, this finger was said to contain the “vena amoris,” or vein of love. It was believed that this vein ran from the ring finger directly to the heart, and therefore was the best place to keep your symbol of love. Of course, we now know that the circulatory system doesn’t work that way, but the ring placement hasn’t moved.
It was in 1475 that the modern wedding ring was born. When Italian condottiero (a military captain) and Lord of Gradara Costanzo Sforza married Camilla D’Aragona, they summed up their ceremony with the following stanza: “Two wills, two hearts, two passions are bonded in one marriage by a diamond.” The couple started a trend of diamond wedding and engagement rings, though like most trends, it was strictly for the wealthiest of couples.
So the next time you look down at your engagement ring or wedding band, think of the centuries of history and tradition that have led that beautiful ring to your finger. And if you don’t want to wear a diamond, don’t! Wedding rings have taken many forms over the years, so if you ask me, anything goes! As long as your ring is a symbol of love in your mind and heart, you’re in the right ballpark.