The Wedding Ring – A Symbol of Commitment or Just the Old Ball and Chain?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It goes without saying that many married couples today wear wedding rings. The act of exchanging rings during the wedding ceremony has been around for many centuries and has become a tradition that many wouldn’t want to miss out on.  But where and how did this tradition come to be and what symbolism is really hidden behind the wedding ring?

The legend behind the “ball and chain“

Some people find wedding rings bothersome and experience discomfort wearing them.  Sayings such as „the old ball and chain“ and the like are often brought up at this point.  Yet this remark is not entirely untrue – there is a tale from the time of the cavemen that is said to explain the origin of the wedding ring.  According to this tale, a man allegedly bound his selected mate by her hands and feet in his cave so she couldn’t get away. After a certain time period, during which trust was built and they became familiar with each other, he loosened the chains so his wife could move about freely. From this point on, only a small piece of string was needed to serve as the chain, which the bride tied around her finger as one would wear a ring today. Thus it is widely assumed by science that the ring stood symbolically as a tie or chain claiming ownership of a man over a woman. [1]

The engagement ring as a “deposit“ for the wedding

Just like the wedding ring, the history of the engagement ring’s origin is also quite interesting. Originally the engagement ring represented more of a binding promise, or a kind of “deposit“ for the upcoming wedding ceremony. The reason for this was simple – parents wanted to make sure that their daughters would be financially well taken care of.  As such, the engagement and the presentation of the engagement ring represented a legal agreement which had to be kept. This statement is the opposite of today’s tradition, where the engagement is seen as a promise of marriage but is still easy to break.

The ring as a symbol of commitment and eternity

Today, most married couples feel that the precious metal on their hands is a sign of their common bond. The fact that most partners – both the bride and the groom – have the same (or a similar) design for their rings is supposed to indicate a bond between two souls. The typical circle shape, with neither a beginning nor an end (how so many also similarly view love), embodies the eternity of everlasting love.

Right hand, left hand – different cultures, different traditions

Everything started with the engagement ring, which is known to be given to the future bride as a gift to promise marriage. In the 15th century, the first married couples eventually began to differentiate between engagement and wedding rings by adapting the design accordingly, and thus arose in particular for women the common embellishment of a stone placed in the middle of the engagement ring. In today’s society, color and also price play a large role in choosing the perfect ring. In European cultures, it is generally simple with a white precious stone. In other cultures, it is a bit more colorful in comparison, and quite a bit more expensive. It is common in the USA, for example, that the engagement ring is worth three months of the man’s salary. [2]
After the nature of the ring comes the important question of its location, which is very important, differing from one culture to another. In Germany, the engagement ring is worn on the left had and the wedding ring on the right ring finger. This is also the case in Austria, Poland, and Norway. However, Americans and southern Europeans wear their wedding rings on the left hand. Even this dates back to Roman history. The Romans believed in a special power of the left ring finger, that from it a vein lead directly to the heart, which of course legendarily represents the center of our emotions. [3]

The metal – classic gold alloy, modest silver, or trendy platinum?

The sky is the limit for couples today as far as design and craftsmanship go. Since gold is generally too soft, for example, it is processed together with other harder metals. Alloys made out of gold are generally the most popular. Many couples choose white gold or rose gold as the material for their wedding rings. Typical alloys consist of 18 carat gold, made up of 1000 parts metal to 750 parts pure gold.

Yet, silver or even a mixture of gold and silver are also celebrating more and more popularity, due to its simple appearance. The purest metal for jewelry is platinum, where 950 out of 1000 parts are still gold and silver, thus explaining its trendiness in wedding ring production. [4]

Fotografie: © Beata Torge

[1] Source: Entry on (Viewed on: Aug. 19, 2013)

[2] Source: Entry on (Viewed on: Aug. 19, 2013)

[3] Source: Entry on (Viewed on: Aug. 20, 2013)

[4] Source: Entry on (Viewed on: Aug. 26, 2013)

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