The origin of wedding rings dates so far back to before recorded history, making this one of the oldest continuous traditions that still exists. And while the wedding ring itself has seen many changes in terms of material used and styles incorporated, the original meaning of the ring hasn’t changed much. It still remains one of the most meaningful pieces of jewelry you’ll ever own.
Let’s take a look at the meaning of wedding rings.
The Symbolism of the Circle
Since ancient times, circles have represented infinity, eternity and equality. A circle has no end and no beginning, no prominent feature that stands out. It’s a continuous loop that looks exactly the same from all angles. The opening in the middle of the ring represents a door to the future.
As such, the very shape of the wedding ring is full of meaning some of which are:
- Entering the future
- For the religious, the circle represents God. According to Hermes Trismegistus, ‘God is an infinite circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’.
These meanings are ideal for a couple about to start a new chapter together.
The Symbolism of the Wedding Band Metal
Wedding rings have their origin in Egypt where in the very beginning, when wedding rings were just becoming a thing, they were made out of woven reeds or hemp. Because reeds and hemp weren’t durable, they would subsequently be replaced with rings made out of more durable materials like bone or leather. For the Egyptians, the rings represented eternal commitment and love.
Later on, metal was used to create wedding rings, giving the wearer an opportunity to showcase their status as well. Iron and bronze were affordable and durable options for wedding rings while gold and silver were worn by the upper classes. It was only in the 1800s when many gold mines were discovered around the world, that gold became common for wedding rings. Yellow gold remains the classic wedding ring choice while platinum has become one of the top choices but is more expensive.
Here’s a quick look at the meaning of the metals:
- Silver – represents wisdom, purity, serenity and tranquillity.
- Gold – represents love, illumination, positivity, passion, wealth, prosperity, glamor and grandeur.
- Platinum – true love, strength, purity, rarity and everlasting love.
Today, there’s a range of alternative metals used for wedding bands, including tungsten, titanium, palladium, cobalt, Damascus steel and mokume gane. Each has its own pros and cons to offer.
Enter Diamonds for Wedding Bands
Diamonds weren’t used in wedding bands until around the late 1500s and even then, they were only popular among the upper classes. Only royalty and nobility could afford this expensive stone. These rings were typically used as betrothal rings, which were the precursors to today’s engagement rings. However, incorporating small diamonds into wedding bands became popular and continues to this day.
Diamonds symbolize strength, integrity, loyalty, purity and fidelity. It’s also the strongest gemstone out there, making it ideal for daily wear.
Symbolism of the Ring Finger
The wedding ring is commonly worn on the fourth finger of the left hand (although this can vary depending on the region and culture you’re looking at). In the past, the Romans believed that a vein, called the Vena Amoris (the vein of love), ran directly from that finger to the heart. Because of this, it became tradition to wear the wedding ring on this finger as it was seen as a connection between to the heart.
Unfortunately, there is no such vein connecting the fourth finger to the heart. But while science tells us this today, the tradition continues.
The Wedding Ring Style Contributes to Its Meaning
While we’re on the topic of the meaning of wedding rings, we can’t dismiss the meaning that the style of the ring gives to it. There are many wedding ring styles available, each with its own pros and cons and symbolism. Here’s a quick look:
- Eternity band – this ring style features diamonds or another gemstone surrounding the entire circumference of the ring. This ring style represents eternal love, equality and passion.
- Infinity band – like the eternity band, this style showcases the figure-8 infinity symbol which represents timelessness, endlessness and togetherness for all time.
- Wishbone band – also called the chevron ring style, wishbone wedding bands symbolize hope, good luck, fortune, joy and positivity.
- Claddagh wedding ring – these traditional Irish wedding bands feature two hands holding a heart, with a crown perched on top. The hands represent friendship, while the heart symbolizes love and the crown represents loyalty.
- Five stone wedding ring – five stones could represent particular traits in a relationship like commitment
Overall Symbolism of a Wedding Ring
You’ve likely seen the movie scene where someone took off their wedding ring to fool an unsuspecting person into believing they were single. This is because wedding rings make a strong statement and point out your relationship status. It’ll define how other people respond to you and reveals something about you.
The wedding ring has come to represent marriage, and wearing a ring represents your commitment, loyalty and faithfulness to your chosen partner. While the ring is a representation of all these things it’s also a reminder of your partner’s commitment to you.
Each individual aspect of a wedding ring is full of meaning and taken together, this results in a highly meaningful piece of jewelry. The shape of the ring, the metal it’s made of, the gemstones incorporated into it, the finger it’s worn on and the style it portrays all contribute to the overall meaning of your wedding ring.
Even today, after all this time, wedding rings continue to carry weight and meaning, and are sentimental, emotional and highly meaningful pieces of jewelry to be worn.