The History of Wedding Rings

Updated: Aug 24

Wedding rings symbolize love, commitment and the promise of forever. These rings are the most significant and romantic pieces of jewelry that are worn every day. Whether you are recently engaged, married, or looking for your true love—the history and lure of wedding rings is sure to interest you.

What is the origin of wedding rings?

Throughout history rings have been used as a symbol of love and marriage. Wedding rings are an ancient tradition whose first origins date all the way back to ancient ­Egypt. Although the most robust account of wedding ring history is found in ancient Roman culture. Ancient Romans wore metal rings akin to our modern-day wedding bands. It is said that in ancient Rome a practical iron ring was worn in the home and fancier gold one outside the home—to symbolize prosperity. During this period, rings signified a business contract between families. Copper, silver and gold (which was mainly reserved for nobles) were the first metals used for weddings rings.

What is the symbolic meaning of wedding rings?

Wedding rings were not always worn on the ring finger. There are many historical accounts of rings being worn on the thumb and the middle finger. Fifth century Roman writer Macrobius is credited with the tradition of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand (aka the ring finger.). He claimed this is where the vena amoris—Latin for the vein of love—is. This so-called vein was said to run from the ring finger to the heart and wearing the ring on that finger represents wearing another’s love. While this tradition has endured through time, it is based on false information! There is no specific vein that goes from the finger to the heart—we know now that all veins lead back to the heart. Nevertheless, Macrobius’s symbolism continues today as modern-day couples still wear their engagement and wedding rings on this finger as a symbol of their love, connection and devotion.

How did diamond engagement rings become a tradition?

For the last 75 years, diamonds have been synonymous with engagement and wedding rings thanks to a powerful 1947 De Beers advertising campaign that launched the slogan “A Diamond is Forever.” However, diamond rings were commissioned even further back. The historical origin of diamond rings is believed to date to 1477 when Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the first diamond ring for his bride Mary of Burgundy. These days diamonds are the most popular wedding and engagement ring stones. According to diamond analysis expert Edahn Golan, diamonds account for 86% of center stones.