The origin of the wedding ring is still hotly debated even today. For the longest time it has been associated with Christians since it has been always been included in their wedding customs and practices. Some claim it came from the Romans as some also say the Greeks came up with the idea. However, strong evidences suggest that it was the Egyptian civilization who had dibs on the grand idea of using wedding rings.
Ancient records convey that plants such as rushes, reeds, sedges, and papyrus were growing abundantly along the Nile and the Pharaoh believed this river brought them great fortune and life. Using these plants, women twisted and braided them to make rings and bracelets. Since a circle is the Egyptian symbol for eternity, it was suggests that these naturally-made rings were the first recorded instance of any kind of wedding ring. Ironically, these materials did not last very long and had to be reproduced every year or so.
When Egypt was conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great’s leadership, they inherited this custom. The Romans also caught the wedding ring bug and called it the ‘vena amoris‘ in Latin which means “the vein of love” in English. Since they did not want to make the same mistake of using biodegradable materials to symbolize eternity, they opted to use leather, bone, or ivory to symbolize their ever-lasting love. Although these cultures had their own forms of metallurgy and made rings of their own, they weren’t a major part of their wedding ceremony so they don’t really qualify.
The Golden Age
The gold diamond-studded wedding rings first came into existence in Europe during the Medieval era when gold coins were the highest form of currency and exotic jewels from all over the world were being traded. Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VIII had the earliest record of an engagement ring. King Maximillian I of Germany had the distinction of using a diamond-studded ring first in 1477 when he proposed to Mary of Burgundy.
As for the Christian wedding custom, rings were used in wedding ceremonies since the year 860. However, some groups were outraged by the “pagan-ish” designs of the wedding rings as they were engraved with designs such as doves, lyres, or two linked hands. It was only during the 13th century when the rings adapted the simplistic design in which bishops then called a spiritual look that symbolized “the union of hearts.”