Wedding Ring Jewellery and Its History
With wedding season on the horizon, talk naturally drifts to that of wedding rings and the history behind them. The history of the wedding bands goes all the way back to the deserts found in North Africa. There, on the banks of the Nile, ancient Egyptians would weave rings out of the reeds and bush that grew there. Because this type of material would not last long, new rings were fashioned to replace worn out ones. Over time, the weeds gave way to hemp, bone and ivory under the hands of later civilizations. By the time of the Roman heyday, iron was the material of choice, but rust was indeed an issue. The Titanium band rings of today are definitely an improvement over the weeds of old.
While in today's modern society, both men and women exchange wedding rings of various types, that hasn't always been the case. Today's exchange of jewellery is seen as an a commitment and a token of one love to the other, but in the distant past, it had a different meaning all together. Kind of like earnest money that secures a home for a buyer, so was seen the wedding ring. If you checked into the book of prayers belonging to Edward VI, after the familiar words "with this ring, I thee wed" came the phrase, "This gold and silver I give thee." Then, the groom was to present the bride with a purse of gold and silver coins.
While we like to think of that gold or silver wedding band jewellery as signifying a forever kind of love and devotion, history tells us otherwise. In other parts of the world, it was primarily used to seal the deal, so to speak. It was given at the time of marriage as a promise of marriage, contingent upon the father's providing the dowry to the bridegroom.
At times in history, the wedding ring has gone out of favour all together. The early Protestants sent out the sentiment that wedding rings were of Pagan decent and as a result, ungodly. While most religions have now embraced the ring, the Quaker faith still does not utilize a wedding ring in its marriage ceremonies.
The practice of both genders accepting a wedding ring from the other goes back to the late 1800s when American jewellers waged a marketing campaign to encourage this practice. It didn't catch on immediately and it wasn't until WWII that it became common practice as quickly married couples wanted something to hold on to when the grooms shipped off to war. Before WWII, only about 15% of couples used the double ring ceremonies compared to over 80% after the war.
Yes, today's rings have come a long way since the reeds of the Nile were woven into fine jewellery for the bride. Today's silver rings boast the 925 markings to symbolize their quality, titanium is one of the materials of choice over previous rust ridden iron of the Roman era and parents no longer have to pledge a dowry to see their daughters have a wedding ring.