The History of the Engagement and Wedding Rings

Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented the first known “official” engagement ring to Mary of Burgundy, on August 17, 1477.  During the 15th century, monarchs in Europe embraced the diamond as the seal to their future wives, due to its enduring qualities.  Ancient belief held that the diamond was the perfect stone because its sparkle symbolized a “flame of love.”  To the Romans, diamonds were thought to be “splinters falling from heavenly stars,” while to the Greeks, diamonds were considered “tears of the gods.”

Gimmel rings were used during the Renaissance period.  These rings were double interlocking bands.  One part was given to the bride-to-be, and the other was kept by her fiancé, to be reunited at the wedding ceremony.

Fede rings, named for the Roman word for faith, originated in the early 1600s.  These rings are still seen today and are made with two small gold hands encircling either side of the ring and clasping the other at the center of the ring.  Some fede rings have a small gold heart hidden under the hands.

European grooms have worn wedding bands for centuries.  In America, wedding bands became popular with men during and after World War II, when military men wished to carry a token of home with them while serving their country overseas.

Traditionally, engagement rings and wedding bands are worn on the third finger of the left hand.  Ancients believed that love traveled to the heart from the finger.  The most direct route was thought to be from the third finger of the left hand – the only finger, it was believed, with a vein that made a direct connection to the heart.

Today, wedding bands have evolved in intricasy and are often able to be engraved on the inside with words, initials or the wedding date.  Be sure to ask the jeweler how many letters may be engraved so that you can write the inscription to fit inside the ring.

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