“With this ring, I thee wed.” The symbolism of the wedding ring is the promise of two binding themselves in marriage. The circle has no beginning and has no end representing the continuity of undying love.
In Roman times the wedding ring symbolized the bride unlocking the heart of her husband. With that symbolism a key may have been included.
The custom of wearing the double ring (engagement and wedding) was popular in the sixteenth century. These rings were two or more detachable bands called a gimmel ring. The bride would receive one with the engagement, as did the groom. A third band would be placed on the bride’s finger during the wedding ceremony.
The traditional wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. It is believed, although false, that the blood flow from this finger goes to the heart. The vein in this finger has been called the “vena amoris”, or vein of love.
Not always the rule, however, European brides may wear their ring on the fourth finger of the right hand. In China, the bride wears her ring on the left hand and the groom wears his on the right hand. In Jewish weddings the groom will place the ring on the right index finger of the bride. The modern Jewish bride, after the ceremony, will move the ring to her left hand ring finger. The Irish bride may wear a Claddagh ring. This ring features two hands clasping a heart, with a crown at the top. When worn on the left ring finger with the crown towards the wrist it symbolizes that the woman is married.
Wedding rings are usually made of gold. Asian and Far Eastern rings are often of pure yellow gold. In India gold is affiliated with superiority, beauty, and attractiveness. Tradition in India states that the more gold given the happier the bride will be.
What do the gold karat weights mean? The higher the karat the purer the gold. The purest is 24 karat. Lesser karats are mixed with some other material. 24-karat gold is soft and doesn’t hold shape. Therefore not good for every day wear. Rings may also be made of 90 percent platinum. Look for markings inside the ring. They will show trademark, content or quality.
Wedding rings may be sold separately from an engagement ring. Many are sold in sets and are selected at your original purchase. Take tear sheets of magazines with you when visiting a jeweler with ideas. You may decide to custom design your wedding band as well.
Although many wedding bands are simple gold, beginning in the 1940’s many are embellished with a stone - most often a diamond. Selecting a ring with a diamond includes the four C’s. Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat. Diamonds with less color have more value. Ask your jeweler for a report from the diamond laboratory for peace of mind in your purchase.
Gemstones also have symbolism. For luck - select an amethyst, for youth - select an emerald, and for safety - select a ruby.
You may also consider an antique wedding ring. Many jewelers have pieces acquired from estate sales. These rings may have unique settings or an older design.
Whatever the symbolism, what has always come through with wedding bands is that they represent the sealing of the marriage and sign of commitment of one person to another.