Saturday, September 26, 2009

What is the History Behind... the wedding ring

Two years into the papacy of Pope Nicholas I, also known as Nicholas the Great, he began to consolidate power under the church attempting to make the pope greater than all the kings of Europe. He accomplished this by various means, one in which was through marital law. In 860 AD, Pope Nicholas I decreed that engagement rings were a requirement to symbolize nuptial intent. In addition Nicholas I believed that they should be made of gold, the purpose of this was to show a financial sacrifice for ones true love. This decree is where we get the tradition of giving an engagement ring to signify ones intention to marry another. However the traditions and symbols of rings stretch much further back, all the way back to ancient Egypt.

Nearly 4800 years ago in Ancient Egypt the people along the great Nile River took strands of various plants along the river and created rings to be worn. The ring itself or the circle is a sign for eternity with no beginning or end (much like it does today). In addition, the hole in the middle of the ring symbolizes a gateway leading to future events whether presumed or unknown. The ring quickly became a token of love in the Egyptian culture however was not used in the form in which we use it today. The tradition of placing the ring on the third finger in your left hand started in the Egyptian culture with the belief that a major vein of circulation ran from that third finger straight to the heart. After the conquest of Greeks in 332 B.C. the belief of that vein and the tradition of wearing a ring on that particular finger continued.

During the Roman era, many of these traditions that were passed from the Egyptians to the Greeks continued. With the extended use of metal the ring took on a new form, going from reeds of plant to being made of iron, bronze, and other precious metals. It was also during this time period that the ring was worn by married woman, believed to show the ties of that woman to her husband.

As time progressed beyond the Roman era the traditions of the engagement ring and eventually the wedding ring itself grew. It became more and more popular to use silver and gold to forge rings. Especially after Pope Nicholas I, gold became the standard for engagement and wedding rings. All the way up until the 1940s, men traditionally did not wear wedding rings, it was only the women. It was during World War 2, when men were away from their wives for long periods of time, that men began to wear wedding rings as a remind of their wives back home. Many men said it was a cheerful reminder of what they were fighting for at home. Today the tradition of engagement and wedding rings is seen throughout the world and is a symbol of ones love andcommitment to another person.

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