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Wedding Ring Finger Blog

The Ring Finger Through the Ages

Which finger is the ring finger? Which hand does the engagement ring and wedding band go on? At first glance these questions seem to have a very simple answer – wedding and engagement rings go on the fourth finger of the left hand. Easy right?!

Not so fast. Here in Canada as well as the US, Britain, France, Italy and many other countries, that is the traditional hand to wear your wedding rings, but this is by no means universal. The hand that you wear your engagement ring and wedding band on can be determined by culture, religion and geography. Let’s take a look at what has influenced current traditions.

The Vein of Love

Long before the engagement ring was the wedding ring, which has been traced back to Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians considered the circle to be a symbol of eternity, and the ring to symbolize eternal love. Various Roman sources claim that Ancient Egyptians wore their wedding rings on the fourth finger of their left hand, as they believed that finger has a vein that is directly connected to the heart. This vein is called the Vena Amoris (Vein of Love in Latin), and while it’s a lovely idea, it is not anatomically correct.

The Un-ROMAN-tics

The Romans continued the tradition of wearing their wedding rings on their left hand as they followed the Egyptian way. The Roman marriage was more of a business contract than a romance, with the ring signifying the transaction of the woman being passed from her father to her husband. This meant that the wedding ring was only worn by the woman and not the man. This pattern of only women wearing a ring continued for most of history, until around WWII when men also began to wear a ring.

The Right Side

As Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, the wedding ring began to be worn by those of the Christian faith. There is evidence that Catholics wore their wedding rings on the right hand during the early middle ages. This came from the belief that the right hand was spiritually more significant, as God blesses with his right hand and it is also used to make the sign of the cross. In 1054 AD the Greek Orthodox Church broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, and to this day Orthodox Christians still wear their engagement rings and wedding bands on their right hand. The influence of the Orthodox Church in Russia and most Eastern European countries means they also wear their rings on the right hand. Jewish wedding ceremonies began including rings in the middle ages and they also wore them on the right hand, however during the ceremony the ring was placed on the index finger where it was easier for witnesses to see.

The Left Side

In the 16th century the Protestant Reformation saw the Church of England break away from the Catholic Church. King Edward VI declared that the wedding ring must be worn on the left hand and the new church wrote a prayer book laying out the placement of the ring during the ceremony. The Protestant church chose the left hand because it wanted to distinguish itself from the Catholic practise of wearing the ring on the right hand. Since then the majority, but not all, of Western European countries have worn their rings on the left hand. England’s vast colonization spread this tradition to many parts of the globe.

Rules of Engagement

The concept of the engagement ring didn’t occur until 1215 AD when Pope Innocent III declared that there must be a waiting period between the engagement and the wedding to test the devotion of the couple to each other. However, it was only the nobility who were able to afford both an engagement ring and a wedding band. When wearing an engagement ring and wedding band on the same hand, the wedding band traditionally goes on first and the engagement ring second. This originally stemmed from an old superstition that once the wedding band was put on it must never be taken off. These days the wedding band is put on first so that it is closer to the heart.

Rings for All

While the Western part of the world has a long tradition with the wedding ring, many other parts of the world didn’t wear one at all. Traditionally, in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism there was no ring included in the wedding ceremonies, although they had other symbols and/or jewellery they would wear. Today most cultures have added engagement and wedding rings to their rituals due to the influence of globalization. The hand these countries choose to wear their rings on often ties in to their traditional beliefs. In India they wear them on the right hand because that hand is considered auspicious and the left hand unclean. In China the woman wears her rings on her right hand and the man on his left, because the woman is the one who runs the household and the right hand exerts more influence.

And the Answer Is…

So to the question of which hand does your wedding ring go on, the answer is it depends on where in the world you live. As I live in Canada, everyone I know wears them on their left hand. But if I lived in Russia then they would most likely wear them on their right hand. Also, in most societies, both men and women wear a wedding ring, while engagement rings are still mainly worn by women. Despite these traditions, in today’s society there are no longer strict rules and if someone wants to wear their engagement ring or wedding ring on a different finger or hand, then they should do what feels right for them.

Photo credit: Jeremie Dupont

Engagement Ring Styles

Solitaire, Two-Stone and Three-Stone Engagement Rings

When you are setting out to find the perfect engagement ring, there are so many different styles and designs to choose from. How do you know where to start looking? Do you want something simple or embellished? Traditional or modern? Solitaire or multi-stone? If you aren’t quite sure what styles you like, a bit of jewelry education can help make the task a bit easier. Today we look at three styles of engagement rings which have been popular throughout history – solitaire, two-stone and three-stone diamond rings.

One of a Kind: One-Stone, Solitaire Engagement Rings

The most classic of all engagement ring styles is the diamond solitaire. The solitaire ring is a band of metal set with a single diamond. This style of ring can be traced back to Ancient Rome, and was usually a gold band set with one uncut diamond. Some of these Roman rings still exist today, owned by museums or collectors. Diamond cutting was invented in the Early Middle Ages, and primitive diamond cuts such as the point and table cut, were held in place by gold bezels. As diamond cutting and goldsmith techniques improved, the bezels were often made in silver or gold and backed with silver foil to show off the diamond’s colour and sparkle better. Some antique designs used prongs to hold the diamond in place, but they differed from the styles of today in that the diamond was sunk deep into the metal to secure it. In the early 1800’s setting diamonds ‘a jour’ became popular, which was a style where the back of the setting was pierced open to allow more light to enter the diamond. In 1886 Tiffany and Co. debuted their ‘Tiffany’ setting, which was a 6-prong solitaire setting that held the diamond high above the band. This setting was revolutionary as it showed off every angle of the diamond and enhanced the stone’s brilliance. The Tiffany setting is still one of the most popular diamond settings in the world today. Modern settings can have 4, 5, 6 or more prongs holding the diamond in place. Like the Tiffany setting, most of today’s solitaires have the diamond raised up above the band. The solitaire setting may seem a simple choice, but in fact there is a lot of variation to choose from, like metal colour, diamond shape, the number of prongs, the style of the band and the design of the setting itself. The solitaire ring is the perfect choice for someone who wants their diamond to be the center of attention. This elegant and classic design ensures that this type of ring will never be a passing trend and will maintain its appeal for generations to come.

It Takes Two: Two-Stone Engagement Rings

The second type of engagement ring we are going to look at is the two-stone diamond engagement ring. This style of ring has gained popularity lately with many jewelry stores promoting these designs. The two stones can represent two people joining together in love, or one stone for friendship and the other for love. While the two-stone ring seems to be a rather new concept, rings with two central elements trace back to Roman times when wedding bands featured two hands shaking, representing the marriage contract. In the Middle Ages, a popular style of marital ring was the gimmel ring, named after the Latin word for twin. The gimmel ring consisted of two interlocking hoops that, when connected, formed one single ring. Each gimmel ring would have a gemstone set in a bezel setting, and when the two rings joined together the stones sat side by side. In 1776 Napoleon Bonaparte proposed to Josephine de Beauharnais with a two-stone “Toi et Moi” ring (“you and me” in French). The ring featured a pear shaped blue sapphire and a pear shaped diamond set opposite each other. This ring become one of the most famous engagement rings in history and started the “Toi et Moi” trend. Victorian era rings often featured two pear shaped gems that were set beside each other to form a heart shape, usually topped with a crown or a bow. Rings from the Edwardian era and Art Deco periods featured two stones (usually diamonds) flanked by a curving band in a bypass setting. After the Art Deco style fell out of favour, two-stone rings weren’t commonly seen as engagement rings. But like all trends, what goes around comes around and the last few years have seen a rise in this style of ring again. The two-stone engagement ring is perfect for the person who is a romantic and likes to be a little bit different from the rest. It is also a great choice for someone who may not be able to afford one large diamond, but still wants something that looks significant on their finger.

Third Time’s a Charm: Three-Stone Engagement Rings

The three-stone ring is often called a trinity or trilogy ring and it first came into style during the Victorian times. This style of ring traditionally displayed three stones of the same shape and cut with the center stone being the largest, although they could all be the same size as well. The three stones are symbolic, although there are different opinions on what they represent. The most popular belief is that the three stones stand for past, present and future, with the “present” stone being the most important. This idea was heavily promoted by De Beers and lead to the three-stone diamond ring becoming a popular anniversary gift. Other meanings of the three stones have been “friendship, love and fidelity”, the words “I love You”, and “father, mother and child”. The last few decades have seen this style of ring become popular as an engagement ring. The three-stone ring is fantastic because it comes in a huge variety of designs. The style can look classic using three stones of the same cut, such as three round brilliants or three princess cut diamonds. Or it can look completely modern using different combinations of stones, such as an emerald cut diamond set with two trilliant cut stones, or an oval diamond being set with two pear cut stones. The options are literally endless, with variations in metal choices, graduated or non-graduated sized stones, setting styles, combinations of diamond cuts or adding coloured gems into the mix. The three-stone engagement ring is a great choice for someone who is sentimental and symbolic. The wide variety of options means the three-stone ring can appeal to both the traditional and the modern jewelry wearer.

Endless Possibilities

The types of engagement rings I have covered above only describe three options out of a limitless number of ring designs. There are, of course, the popular halo engagement rings, five-stone rings, eternity bands and the list goes on and on. If you are still trying to find the perfect engagement ring, a great place to look for inspiration is on Kimberfire’s Pinterest page where we have curated a fantastic collection of images.

Heart Shape Jewelry

Origins of the Heart

Ah love, sweet love. How wonderful it is to be in love with someone. You just want to tell everyone you know, and shout it from the rooftops. And you only need one symbol to express your love, the heart. The heart shape conveys love, romance, passion and care without ever saying a word. The heart is one of the most widely used motifs in jewellery design, from rings and pendants to diamond cuts. The heart is everywhere. But how did the heart shape come to define love? And why does the common heart shape look so very different from the anatomical heart? Let’s look through history and find out how the heart shape came to be.

Ancient Hearts

Like most things from long, long ago, we don’t know the exact origin of the heart as a romantic symbol. Ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the seed of life, and that the “heart soul” descended from the mother’s heart into her womb and would then take the shape of a child. The Ancient Greeks thought the heart supplied the whole body with heat and controlled reason and emotion.

In terms of the shape, it was most likely derived from the botanical world. One line of thinking is that the now extinct Silphium seedpod was the original model for the heart shape. This seed originated in the Ancient North African city of Cyrene and was used as a seasoning, and more commonly, as a contraceptive. The seed was highly valuable and so crucial to Cyrene’s economy that its image was portrayed on their coins. The seed very closely resembles the heart shape and its link to sexuality may have led to its association with love.

The earliest heart shapes found in art were stylized depictions of fig leaves and ivy. These leaves were frequently found on Ancient Greek vase paintings of the god Dionysus, often in erotic scenes. Heart shaped ivy leaves were also a common symbol on Grecian and Roman grave stones, as the plant symbolized eternal love.

Middle Ages Romance

The first known depiction of the heart as a romantic symbol is in a 13th century manuscript entitled “Roman de la Poire” or Romance of the Pear, by Thibaut. In the image a kneeling lover offers his heart to a damsel, although the heart resembles more of a cone shape. The heart was probably depicted this way because human dissection was very rare during the middle ages, and artists were basing their drawings on writings from the ancient world.

In the early 14th century, the heart symbol began to be depicted with a “scalloped” shape, or dent in its base. And then in the latter part of the century it was then flipped so its point was facing downward.

In the 15th century, the modern heart shape became well known across Europe as it was printed on widely distributed French playing cards.

The Heart Shape in Jewellery

As the heart symbol gained popularity it started to be seen in European jewellery. It first appeared in heart shaped brooches used to hold clothing together, and which were inscribed with sayings of love.

A heart shaped diamond was first mentioned in a letter from the Duke of Milan in 1463, and then in 1562 Mary Queen of Scots sent a heart shaped diamond to Queen Elizabeth I.

In 17th century England, rock crystal hearts were worn to memorialize King Charles I who had been executed. These were pendants or rings made of clear faceted rock crystal which often encased a token, hair or initials under the crystal. Although these type of pieces were initially created as memorial jewellery, they later became known more as love tokens or wedding gifts.

During this same period the heart shaped brooch was extremely popular. It was often referred to as a ‘Luckenbooth’ in Scotland, or witches’ brooch in the rest of Europe. The depicted heart was usually asymmetrical and twisted up at the bottom to one side. They were worn as a talisman against evil spirits, and were often worn by pregnant women or pinned onto babies’ blankets. Overtime these witches’ brooches also changed in meaning, to show you were “be-witched with love”. The brooches were often covered in red garnets and a single heart meant you had a sweetheart, while a double heart meant you were married.

Hearts in jewellery reached their height during the reign of Queen Victoria, and the Queen herself wore a charm bracelet with hearts representing each one of her children.

The Universal Heart

Today the heart is a symbol of love. It usually represents romantic love, but can also be between family or friends. It is universally known and one of the most popular symbols in the world. It is also one of the most popular symbols in jewellery design, as jewellery is often given as a token of love. From its mysterious beginnings in plants and sexuality, to its role in religion and memorials, the heart has had many different meanings along the way. But for me, its current significance as a symbol of love, is definitely my favourite.

Edwardian Jewelry

Edwardian Jewelry: Classic Antique Design

Antique styles are extremely popular when it comes to engagement ring designs and there is a vast selection from all the different eras. Whatever your personal style is you will probably be able to find an antique ring that suits your tastes. One of the more popular time periods for antique rings is that of the Edwardian Era. Jewelry from this period is classic and traditional, as well as very feminine. While the name ‘Edwardian Jewelry’ may not be commonly known, I guarantee you the style is. It has a timeless appeal, which is the reason it remains in high demand today.

The High Society of the Edwardian Era

The Edwardian Era began in England in 1901 when Queen Victoria died and her son Edward took the thrown. The period ended in 1914 with the start of WWI. In France, the same period is referred to as ‘The Belle Époque’ or the beautiful age. King Edward and his Queen Alexandra were fashion leaders who helped established an international high society throughout Europe. This era is considered a romantic and elegant age, but it was also a time when the class system was rigid, and a huge gap in wealth existed between the high and low classes. Wearing fine jewelry was a necessity for those in high society, and it was worn to show one’s rank and wealth. While today it can be considered vulgar to flaunt extreme wealth, in Edwardian high society it was a requirement.

Design Characteristics and Inspiration

One of the defining features of Edwardian jewelry is the use of platinum. In 1903 the oxyacetylene torch was invented, which reached the high temperatures needed to melt platinum. Because platinum is one of the hardest and most durable metals, very delicate and intricate designs became possible without worry of breakage. Platinum is also excellent for setting diamonds, and the use of diamonds was widespread throughout this period. Another important feature in Edwardian jewelry is the technique of milgraining. This is when a small border of beads is created to surround the gemstones and follow the edges of the design. Miligrain adds a lighter and softer appearance to the metal.

Inspiration for the Edwardian style came from traditional motifs of the past. Neo-classical and Rococo artists of the 18th century, as well as the French courts of Versailles were all influences. The famous jeweler Cartier had his designers wander the streets of Paris looking at 17th and 18th century architecture for inspiration. Pattern books featuring ornamental designs from the past began to circulate widely during this time, and this was also reflected in the jewelry. Popular motifs were garlands, ribbons, wreaths, bows, knots and lace, which were all created with an airy lightness that platinum provided.

The Styles of the Time

Ladies in the early 1900’s wore silk and lace dresses in pastel colours, which matched the elegant platinum and diamond jewelry. Diamond ‘dog collars’ became hugely popular, as did black velvet chokers with a diamond motif in the center. Queen Alexandra would pile many jeweled chokers upon her neck, said to be hiding a scar from her childhood. Soon enough all the royal ladies and those in high society were copying her style. Brooches were typically worn on the dress until about 1910 when changing necklines led to the wearing of necklaces with one or two hanging pendants. Earrings were long with open work design that reflected the flowing gowns. Tiaras were an essential part of the elite lady’s outfit, and platinum allowed for elaborate design without being too heavy on the head. Rings had large center stones surrounded by smaller stones. Multiple stacked rings on the finger were also very trendy. Rings had elongated outlines, pierced work and filigree design. Some rings were so large they covered the finger from knuckle to knuckle. Women often wore their engagement rings on a different hand than their wedding band, as the engagement ring’s size and shape didn’t fit with a band.

End of an Era

This age of elegance abruptly ended in 1914 with the start of WWI in Europe. Platinum was needed for the war effort and jewelry production in Europe came to a halt. No longer could royalty and high society flaunt their wealth so freely when the entire country and continent was under fire. The jewelry industry did recover after the war and by the mid 1920’s the Art Deco style became all the rage. While the Edwardian era lasted for less than 15 years, its light and elegant designs remain in style today. For today’s engagement rings, the white metal and white diamond style is definitely the most popular look. Many elements from antique Edwardian rings are still very common, such as milgraining and small diamonds surrounding a larger one. It just goes to show you that, like most fashions, when it comes to jewelry – what goes around, comes back around.

Image Credit: Berganza

Historic Rings

A History of Engagement and Wedding Rings

Nowadays when one thinks of a classic engagement ring, they usually picture a gold or platinum ring with a solitaire diamond, or perhaps with more than one diamond. Wedding bands are usually a thicker band ring, some quite simple, while others have intricate designs or stones included. Although these styles of rings are considered ‘traditional’ they have actually only been in fashion for about the past 100 years. Today we will take a look at the styles and symbolism of wedding rings throughout history.

Walk like an Egyptian (Ancient Egypt 3050BC-30AD)

The always fashionable Ancient Egyptians are believed to be the first to wear engagement rings, as the circle symbolized eternity. The rings were fashioned out of plant material or silver or gold wire. They wore the ring on the third finger of the left hand because they believed that finger had a vein in it which connected directly to the heart (romantic if not anatomically correct).

When in Rome (Ancient Rome 753BC-476AD)

Ancient Rome was a society that prized their military domination, so it is no wonder their engagement rings were made of iron, which signified strength. A woman’s acceptance of the ring formed a legally binding agreement of the husband’s ownership of her (not very romantic).

By the Book (Byzantine Empire 330-1453)

In this deeply religious society, wedding rings traditionally incorporated a scene depicting a man and woman facing each other with a central figure blessing their union.

Stuck in the Middle with You (Middle Ages 500-1400)

It was a custom in medieval times for Jewish grooms to give their wives wedding rings that had elaborately detailed temples or houses on the top. These rings were oversized and not intended to actually be worn in everyday life. In Anatolia (modern day Turkey) husbands often gave their wives puzzle rings; sets of complex interlocking metal bands that arranged to form a single ring. It was given as a test of monogamy as it was believed that if a woman took off the ring she would not be able to put it back together again and would thus be caught (talk about no trust!). Another trend of the time was the posy ring. These rings had poems or mottos inside the band and the inscriptions were written in French, the international language of love. It was also during this time period, in 1447, that the first recorded diamond engagement ring was given to Mary of Burgundy from the Archduke Maximilian of Austria (clearly ahead of his time).

Da Vinci a la Mode (Renaissance 1300-1600)

In the 1600’s the fashionable wedding ring was the Fede (faith) ring which showed two hands clasping. The Fede ring inspired the still popular Irish Claddagh ring, which has two hands clasping a heart topped with a crown. Another engagement ring which became in vogue during the renaissance was the Gimmel ring. This ring had two interlocking bands, one which the woman wore and one which the man wore during their betrothal. At the wedding ceremony they would take off their rings and lock them together to become one, which the woman would then wear.

All Work and No Play (Puritan New England 1630-1800)

The Puritans were definitely not the most fun group of people, in fact they went so far as to ban Christmas! So it’s not that surprising that they prohibited their members from wearing any jewellery due to its ‘moral worthlessness’. A common wedding gift from husband to wife was a practical thimble. However, after the wedding many women would remove the top of the thimble and wear it as a ring (when a woman wants jewellery she gets it!).

We are Not Amused (Victorian England 1837-1901)

Although Victorians are often portrayed as being uptight and stuffy they were actually quite sentimental, and Queen Victoria herself was very much in love with her husband Prince Albert. Rings during this era often had terms of endearment spelt out using the language of stones, which used the initials of gemstones. The word LOVE was often spelled out using lapis lazuli, opal, vermeil, and emerald. Another attractive engagement ring style was that of the serpent wrapping around the finger, often with rubies for eyes or an emerald for its head.

Diamonds are Forever (1867- Present)

In 1867 Diamonds were discovered in Africa, which opened up a huge supply of the precious gem. Before this time diamonds were very rare and only found in India and Brazil. In 1880 the DeBeers Mining Company was formed and within a decade they controlled 90% of the world diamond production. In 1886 Tiffany &Co. introduced the Tiffany setting, a 6 pronged ring designed to maximize the diamonds brilliance by raising it up from the band. In the 1900’s the princess ring with three to five large diamonds became a sought after engagement ring. The fashion in the 1920’s was to have one solitaire diamond set on a platinum band for durability. During WWII platinum was restricted for military use, and yellow gold rose to prominence. In 1947 DeBeers presented their brilliant marketing slogan “A diamond is forever” and since then the appetite for the strong and beautiful diamond has endured.

The Tradition Continues with Kimberfire

While the style, sentiment and symbolism of engagement and wedding rings has changed throughout history, the gesture of giving a permanent symbol of love and fidelity to ones beloved has remained. When deciding on a style for your special ring, whether it be a classic solitaire or something completely unique, Kimberfire can answer all your needs. We specialize in creating engagement and wedding rings which will endure and sparkle until the end of time.

 

(Photo Credit: Berganza)