Fingers without rings are seldom seen; they are one of the must-wear accessories. Be it a male or a female, everyone sports them with a flair that is exclusive to only the wearer. So, how do you suppose they came into being? Actually, no one till date knows from where the custom of wearing wedding rings originated. Some say they were first fashioned and used by Egyptians, while some say it was the Greeks. But historical evidences prove the fact that they were prevalent all over the globe, even among the most primitive tribes of the east. Initially they served the purpose of authorizing ownership and were too big to be worn on a finger. Hence were worn around the waist threaded to a cord or thong or as a component of a necklace or bracelet. According to the ancient scriptures and archaeological findings, it was only after the sixteenth century BC bands or rings evolved to become ornamental pieces from that of the signet rings that were used as seals. Moreover the circular bands that were created from naturally available materials like hemp and reeds paved way to the more durable materials like leather and metal.
Rings are worn for various reasons and purposes and this in turn have increased their demand. Some flaunt it as a status symbol while others for the sentimental value it evokes. Not only this, they are even worn for superstitious reasons, to notify the wearer’s association with specific groups and so on. Many even believed that they possessed magical powers and hence wore on the left hand finger known as the “Apollo finger”. Interestingly, Apollo was the god who has the powers to heal according to the pagans. This is also the reason why Arabian folklore emphasized on bands with magical powers. Often they were fashioned in the form of charms, amulets or talismans engraved with symbols, words and figures to shield the wearer from evils and spirits. During Venetian renaissance rings were also used as a murdering weapon and was called as the “the ring of death” or “anello della morte”. They carried poison in them which was transferred through a small prick like point with a spring action that was activated during a handshake or handclasp. There is also enough proof to ascertain that some precious and exclusive bands have also been passed as family heirloom from one generation to another. Once upon a time these accessories were considered as items of fascination especially among the elite. In order to establish their privilege and to pronounce their status and self-esteem, they wore bands made of gold that literally enclosed their fingers. Others however were allowed to wear them in metals made from iron and silver, according to their grade and lifestyle.
Like there are several reasons for wearing, this fascinating ornament signifies many a things. The most admitted fact is that it signifies eternity with a no beginning and end circular design. You would be equally surprised to know that during primitive period it stood as a sign of slavery, a man who presented the ring commanded authority and ownership over the receiver. This is why Romans gave bands as a token of possession meaning the wives belonged to husbands. During the medieval period bishops received signet rings during consecration ceremony while popes received bands featuring Saint Peter seated in a fishing boat along with the Pope’s name around it. It was used for attesting the Pope’s Papal briefs and was customary to destroy when the Pope died. Kings too received bands as part of the coronation ceremony. And over the last few centuries the same ring has evolved into a sign of love, admiration, beauty and commitment. When you say commitment, love and admiration the first thing that would come across your mind would be the engagement and wedding rings. It is believed that the early Egyptians began the custom of exchanging bands during the wedding ceremony. Images found on artifacts like papyrus scrolls enlighten the truth that wedding rings were made from hemp and reeds. They were braided together to achieve a circular shape to symbolize everlasting love between couples. Findings also revealed the fact that Egyptians emphasized wearing them on the left hand ring finger as they were sure that a special vein on that particular finger reached the heart, directly. This is the reason behind the coining of the Latin phrase “vena amoris” or vein of love.
Some popular ring types that were in use all through history include the Puzzle rings, Gimmal rings, Poesy rings, Thimbles and Eternity rings. Puzzle rings with complex structures were once famous all across Asia and was collapsed and rearranged. But only the owner knew how to do it. Affluent men of the middle east used these bands to have a check on their wives when they were away from their homes. Upon removal the bands would collapse revealing the wearers infidelity. Gimmal bands were more or less similar to the puzzle bands but symbolized unity and marriage instead of fidelity. They were famous among Europeans during the 15th and 16th centuries and consisted of two metal bands interlocking each other. Poesy bands were typically made from sterling silver and were famous especially during the Renaissance period. Since, they had love poems and other love related expressions engraved on them, they came to be known as poesy bands. Once prevalent among puritans in colonial America, thimbles were presented to the bride by the groom as jewellery which was thought to be a frivolous item and was barred from use. However thimbles were a very practical option. Women eventually made them into bands by removing the thimble’s top portion after their marriage.
Since exchange of bands have been an integral part of wedding ceremonies for centuries as said earlier, the way and the material used for making it has remained significant all along. However, styles and designs kept on changing all through the ages based on several factors, primarily depending on the wearer’s preferences and needs. Generally, engagement bands and wedding rings are thought as one and the same. But in reality they have remained different due to their unique traits they carry even though both share a similar concept of eternal love and commitment. Engagement bands are normally presented by a man to a woman as a token of consent and commitment before marriage. While wedding bands are exchanged during the marriage ceremony by the couple to seal their vows. In earlier days, men were not required to wear engagement bands but wore wedding bands but, women wore engagement bands before marriage and wore wedding bands after marriage. In certain traditions, women wore both the engagement and the wedding bands. Out of the two, engagement bands get more prominence since they are meant to grab the attention of all. Hence were made from precious metals and gemstones like gold, diamonds, emeralds and rubies while wedding bands looked simple yet elegant with or without precious gemstones studded on them. Usually bands were bought separately to increase the surprise quotient while gifting them but, there was always a chance of mismatched preferences and fit. To avoid this, couples started making purchases together and some even went for matching rings that had the same symbols or designs to show off the world that they are made for each other.
During the Georgian time period, bands with obscure metal designs called repousse were popular. They had natural motifs including butterflies, scrolls and flowers. They also used gemstones like diamond, emerald, amber and topaz and incorporated cutting styles like the old mine, rose cut and table cut. Yellow gold in 22k, 18k and 10k, pinchbeck and silver on top of 18k gold were used. Often, the gems were set against a foil backing for the purpose of accentuating them. Early Victorian patterns that were introduced in between 1837 and 1860 reflected the queen’s love for her husband and hence included romantic designs like angels, snakes, love knots, flowers and clovers. Even though diamonds, her favourite gem ruled the roost, other gems like ruby, coral, turquoise, amethyst too found their way into the designs. During the mid-Victorian time (1860-1885) the bands reflected her mourning state and had acorns, birds, bees, fine granulations and Egyptian patterns. Black onyx, opals, pearls and black glass became popular. It was during the late Victorian period (1885 – 1900) platinum made its entry as a base metal. The designs included moons, trefoils, crescents, double hearts along with knots or crowns, ribbons, bows and oak leaves. Moonstones, sapphires, peridots and aquamarines became famous. Art Nouveau period from 1895 to 1915 saw the emergence of jewellers as craftsmen who popularized enamelling and fluid lines. Oxidized silver and gold as base metal emphasized the designs studded often with amber, emerald, lapis lazuli and tourmaline. It was only from the Edwardian period that the stamping of the creator’s sign and metal purity (hallmark) was emphasized to be stamped on the jewellery items. Decades after that, solitaire bands were look at as stunning varieties. The one chunky gemstone on the band got all the attention. For the less fortunate there were single small stone options. Now, irrespective of whether single or not, adult or kid, male or female, everyone can wear bands appropriate for their self and occasion. They are available in all sizes, colours and styles. To name a few varieties are casual bands, formal bands, party or cocktail bands and so on.
In olden days material choices were limited to only silver and gold but then the latter was a popular choice. Later on yellowish tinged gold metal was accentuated using rhodium plating. However, the plating lost its sheen over some time period of use. As time passed and when technology took the front seat, various options emerged. Even, difficult to shape metals came into use as bands including platinum, tungsten and titanium. Platinum was beyond reach for many that people started to look for various affordable options yet with a quality as that of this rare metal. Decades back, men involved in hard work did not have much choice when it came to wedding bands which were supposed to be worn on a daily basis. They feared that the bands would collapse or get destroyed after some point of time due to exposure to harsh environments and use. This is the period that saw the emergence of tungsten rings which not only looked very much like the expensive metal platinum but also possessed most of its attributes like sturdiness, hypoallergenic properties and so on. Even though white gold and titanium had a silvery tinge, they could not stand a chance before tungsten rings. They came as a boon for such wearers as they proved that they can remain even scratch proof for ages. The designs became more bold and innovative. The bands began to include even unusual materials like ceramic and fiber inlays of various hues ranging from electric blues to fiery reds. If you observe closely you will note that it was the craftsmen who dictated terms in the past, but the scenario now we see is strikingly different from what it used to be. Now it is the wearers who have the final say. As a wearer you can select right from the base metal to the embellishment and colour of the ring you would like to wear. After all, it is you who is going to wear them for your whole life and the spoil of choice is only apt. Not only this, online jewellery stores give you the freedom of shopping right from your house or even office space. Everything is offered on a platter and on top of all huge discounts is provided for shopping online. This is because online jewellers can do without having a physical premise whereby saving finances they would otherwise would have spent on rent, salary for employees, health benefits for them, electricity charges and maintenance charges.