On their wedding day, many couples aim to retain links with the past and their family history. You can do this with your wedding jewelry, which has become as important a wedding custom as any other that has evolved over the centuries. Below, we take a peek at various culturally inspired wedding jewelry traditions to discover possible ideas for your ceremony. Some couples will merely continue family customs that have been passed down from generation to generation. If you don't have these traditions, it can be moving and fun to start or rekindle old customs that future members of your lineage will hold dear.
In 3rd century Greece, the ring finger was the index finger. In India, it was the thumb. Today's western tradition began later with the Greeks, who believed that the third finger was connected directly to the heart by a route they called the "vein of love."
In early Rome, a prized gold band came to symbolize everlasting love and commitment in marriage. Roman wedding rings were carved with two clasped hands. Some had a carved key through which a woman was thought to be able to open her husband's heart.
In 860 AD, Pope Nicolas I decreed that an engagement ring become a required statement of nuptial intent. He insisted that engagement rings had to be made of gold, which signified a financial sacrifice, by the prospective husband. An engagement ring containing your birthstone is said to bring good luck.
Although commonplace today, it was not until the 16th century that men consistently began to wear wedding rings. In America, the double ring ceremony gained importance after World War II, symbolizing love and partnership in marriage.
Here are some wedding jewelry ideas with origins in the distant past.
The Irish Claddaugh Ring
Sometimes used as a friendship ring in America, the claddaugh ring is very popular today. First designed by a Galway jeweler in the 16th century, it typically shows a heart, crown and hands clenched together to symbolize love, eternity, and friendship respectively. When a man or woman is single, the ring is worn with the point of the heart facing away from the body. After marriage, a person turns the ring around to signify that they are taken.
The Jewish Wedding Band
Since ancient times, a Jewish wedding engagement and subsequent ceremony has not been valid unless there was a formal acceptance of an object that the man gave to the woman. Since the 7th century, this tradition, called kinyan, has been represented by the acquisition of a ring. The traditional ring is gold, and bears no inscription or gemstones. This is to signify the purity of the union. Especially in ancient times, the ring was made without gems to avoid misrepresentations of its value. That tradition has carried over today.
The Russian Wedding Ring
This ring is a combination of three linked rings, each a different color gold and believed to represent the Holy Trinity.
The Gimmal Ring
This is an engagement ring of sorts and was first seen in Europe in the early 16th century. It is made up of two, or sometimes three, detachable rings, often made of different colors of gold. When a couple gets engaged, each takes one of the rings to wear until they are rejoined on the bride's finger during the wedding ceremony. If there is a third ring, it is usually given to a special member of the wedding party who is a witness to the engagement and subsequent union. This person returns the third ring during the ceremony. Often the groom will keep and wear the third ring. The double-ring exchange common today has its roots in the Gimmal ring tradition.
In many Asian cultures, the deep green jade symbolizes good luck, health, and prosperity. You are never supposed to buy jade for yourself or it will lead to your demise. It must be given to you. Some families purchase a block of jade, which is seen as the vein of the family. At birth, a child is given a piece of jade from the block. At weddings, families exchange jade to welcome each other into their clans. Usually in the form of a ring or necklace, it blesses you with good luck and accepts you into the family.
Another Asian tradition involves pearls. A man is encouraged to give the father of his prospective bride a pearl (usually a pearl ring). The would-be groom is not to give the pearl directly to his girlfriend for fear of disrespecting her family. The father then gives the pearl to his daughter. In the Western world, the giving of pearls as a gift from the groom to the bride has become a wedding day tradition.
The Fede Ring
The Latin word for faith gave its name to this lovely ring. The first evidence of this ring appeared in the early 1600s. In this design, two gold bands crafted to look like hands, join and clasp at the center. Some fede rings can be separated into two individual rings, which are worn by the couple during engagement and joined on the bride's finger during the ceremony.
The Posie Ring
The tradition of offering a posie ring has its roots in ancient Egypt. This ring is inscribed with a special sentiment or a few words of poetry and developed a wide acceptance during the reign of Queen Victoria. The tradition persists today. You can read more about engraving your ring here at WeddingChannel.com.
Another ring tradition that caught on during Victorian times was the wedding gift of a regards ring. The rings featured a message or a name spelled out by the first letters of the stones set into the ring. For example, a ring featuring Lapis, Opal, Vermarine and Emerald would spell the word LOVE. Today, such rings are most commonly found in stores selling antique jewelry.