History of Wedding Rings – Engagement Ring Traditions since the 17th Century Posy Ring
When we consider engagement ring tradition and wedding ring history, the diamond has always been the most prized gem. Especially valued for its symbolism of strong resistance, the diamond crystal has been used in many forms throughout history. In the 17th Century, the inside of the wedding ring rose in popularity, leading to the emergence of the posy ring. These rings were popular because of the romantic messages and poems that could be inscribed inside the ring – an engagement ring tradition that has continued until today.
Renaissance Jewish Diamond Wedding Ring
During the Renaissance period, Jewish wedding rings were some of the most beautiful ones. Intricately worked, these elaborately ornamented rings were often used only during wedding ceremonies, as they were too unwieldy for everyday wear. The bezel usually took the form of a synagogue, a gabled building or Solomon’s temple.
Another creation of the renaissance period was the gimmel ring. Derived from the Latin gemelli (meaning twins), the gimmel or twin ring has up to three hoops that fan open from a pivot at the base; yet, the hoops slide together perfectly – such that when shut, only one ring could be seen. When two hoops were used, the gimmel ring thus symbolizes the union of two lives as one. When three hoops were used, the third symbolized the sanctity of God in the marriage.
History of Wedding Ring Tradition: the Fourth Finger
Why are wedding rings worn on the fourth finger? There are a few explanations:
- According to a romantic Egyptian legend, the fourth finger follows the vena amoris (vein of love), a vein believed to run from the finger directly to the heart.
- Following Christian custom, the priest arrives at the fourth finger after he chants, ‘In the name of the Father Son and Holy Ghost’.
- Or more practically, the fourth finger is the most protected finger, which thus best protects the diamond wedding ring as well.
Diamond Keeper Ring
In 1761, King George III of England began a popular wedding ring tradition when he presented Queen Charlotte with a diamond keeper ring. A simple diamond band worn next to the diamond engagement ring, the keeper ring was meant to protect both the ring and the marriage. And indeed, the combined symbolism of the diamond and the circle was beautiful: while the diamond symbolized indestructibility, the unending circle symbolized eternity.
Modern Engagement Ring Traditions: Queen Victoria, the Tiffany Setting
During the 19th Century, Queen Victoria was perhaps the most fervid jewelry collector of her time; in 1850, she even received the 105.602 carat Koh-i-Noor (the largest then) from the East India Company. As diamond supplies from Africa were discovered and cutting and polishing expertise increased, diamonds increasingly revealed a unique brilliance and fire than far surpasses that of other gems.
Women’s fashion jewelry also evolved to adopt larger, bolder, more assertive forms. Diamond engagement rings were much influenced by the romantic, freethinking movement then: the Art Nouveau. The Tiffany mount was then introduced, beginning the wedding ring tradition of the diamond solitaire, which continues to be the most popular diamond engagement ring choice. This innovative engagement ring tradition was especially attractive, as the open mount – held up prominently by six small prongs – allowed the maximum amount of light to enter the stone, thus allowing the greatest possible brilliance and sparkle.
Engagement ring traditions will continue to evolve, but the diamond wedding ring looks set to remain an eternal symbol of undying love, and of the indestructible marriage.