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Photo by Yohann Libot on Unsplash

The groom traditionally adorns the bride's finger with a ring as a token of love

During the days of slave trade in the ancient Roman Empire, it was a common practice to place a ring on the slave's finger as a sign of possession. Sometimes, they were even made to wear a ring on the septum of their nose. The slave ring was traditionally made of iron, with a ring attached to it on top.

Over the years, the idea of possession grew into a symbolism that needed expression. Men began to mark everything that belonged to them with a symbol allocated to their family name. they wore a signet ring which bore this mark, and every object in the household, from the cattle, to the vase, was marked. The Romans looked upon their wives as property too, and made them wear rings as a sign of being taken. To differentiate between the slaves and the mistress of the house, different metals were used. The slaves wore iron rings, and the master's wife, wore a golden band. Back then, the rings also symbolized social status.

Rings of the Roman and Byzantine empire bore a signet mark Image source: wikimediawikimedia

Once the slave practice was abolished, men used to tie reeds, braided ropes, and other such materials to their wives, as a symbol of ownership. They did not tie these to the finger, but to the extremities of the body, more out of superstitious beliefs than anything else. It is probable that men believed that tying the ends of a woman's body prevented her spirit from leaving the body. Early death was common due to early marriage and unhealthy birthing practices.

It was much later that the idea of a more durable wedding ring came into place. It held differing connotations to the people, and continued to symbolize social status based on the metal it was made of. History has a record of puzzle rings, gimmel rings, and posy rings. These were tokens of love, and were also used as tests of fidelity.

Puzzle rings were a test of fidelity, as removing them resulted in the whole thing falling apart Image source: wikimediawikimedia

During the world wars, men also began to wear wedding rings. There were two reasons for this. The men who left their wives behind wanted other men to know that she was already committed to another, and the wedding band on her finger signified this. For the men who went to war, the rings on their fingers were reminders of those at home who awaited their return. The ring took the shape of a thick metal band with no meeting end. This symbolized unending love and was durable enough to survive war.

Posy rings were engraved at the back with poems or pledges of love Image source: wikimedia

Although today, the wedding ring is just a piece of jewellery that carried romantic notions, it is still a reminder of the rather unfortunate history associated with it. to a certain extent, it holds true to the nature of its everlasting commitment, and still is a mark of ownership. In Oriental and Asian countries, the ring is accompanied by another matrimonial symbol and so is not solely responsible for upholding the social bearing it originally had. Yet, many couple smile fondly to think that they belong to their significant other once a ring is placed on their fingers.

Keywords: Weddings, Rings, War, Promise


Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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