From the moment we start our early grasp on life around us, we are taught as children the names of each of our fingers. Our thumb, index, middle, ring, and pinky finger, right? We all know this without any question.
Now you probably have known why we named that finger the ring finger. Obviously, it’s because traditionally we wear our engagement rings and wedding bands. But who decided that is where we’d wear our wedding rings? Where did the tradition of exchanging rings even come from?
Come with me and we shall explore the answers to these questions and more!
In the Post
- Ring Finger Meaning – Origins
- It’s not Always on the Left
- Why Men Didn’t Wear Wedding Rings
- Cultures That Don’t Use Wedding Rings
- Ring Finger Meaning – If Put on Other Fingers…
- The Evolution of Ring Finger Meaning
- To Wrap Up
Ring Finger Meaning – Origins
It is thought that the Egyptians were the first users of the wedding rings, but it was actually our prehistoric cavemen who came up with the first concept or representation of wedding rings. But they didn’t actually exchange what we know today as rings.
Instead, of putting a ring on a finger, they actually fastened large rings of grasses and twigs around the ankles of their love. They also thought by giving her a ring, he was sending her blessings of prolonged life and protection of the soul.
Egyptians were the first ones to wear rings on the hands. The circle was observed in many different cultures as a symbol of eternity and never-ending. There is no beginning and no end. The Egyptians also believed this and also saw the significance in the space inside the ring, signifying the entrance to the unknown journey you’d start in marriage.
But back then, they didn’t use the luxurious metals we have today. No, early wedding rings were made out of fragile materials such as grass, reeds, and papyrus. They were twisted and fashioned into a makeshift ring.
Those were breaking so often that they begin making rings out of more expensive materials like bone or ivory. You were also to have a deeper love for the person if the material was nicer and more expensive. Pushy salespeople were a thing back then too, apparently.
The Romans also exchanged wedding rings, but add in their own traditions. Their wedding ring traditions were a bit more barbaric than romantic Egyptians. Rings were put on ladies’ fingers as a sign that they were property, or owned.
To the Romans, a ring was given to the woman a man claimed as his own. Their rings were made out of iron that symbolized strength and eternal belonging. They were also the ones thought to have the first engravings on their rings.
Similar to the Romans, early Asian cultures regarded the wedding ring as means of a legally binding contract. In fact, they took it a different route by creating puzzle rings.
Puzzle rings fell apart when a woman tried to take it off. Unless she knew how to put it back, which most women did not, it would stay in pieces. By doing that, the man would know his wife was either trying or was unfaithful.
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The Christians and the Catholics adapted the custom of wedding rings into their wedding ceremonies, but at the time rings were very gaudy. The religion viewed such rings as immoral and thus, simpler wedding bands were used.
To them, the rings symbolize the biblical passage of the two becoming one, and the symbol of circle as eternal and never-ending. It also represented the commitment you were making to your spouse, to God and to your marriage.
It’s not Always on the Left
Believe it or not, in many different cultures and countries, the wedding rings is not actually worn on the left hand. The Romans and the Greeks were thought to be the first cultures to wear a wedding band on the left hand.
They both believe that inside the fourth finger in the left hand, a vein ran all the way to the heart. They called in vena amoris or “vein of love”. Kind of poetic, right?
Interestingly enough, there is a similar meaning in the order you’re supposed to place an engagement ring and wedding band on that finger. The wedding band is worn closest to your heart and the engagement ring follows after.
When it’s on the other side?
For Christians the wedding band was put on the left hand because it was the most protected from everyday damage because most people were right-handed. Not using the left hand as much would preserve the ring longer.
Also, during Catholic wedding ceremonies, the priest would tap the thumb, index, and middle fingers signifying the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He would then place the ring on the fourth finger. This sealed the marriage.
In India, their custom was to wear the ring on the right hand because the left hand was considered unclean. However, in modern times, you can find Indian people wearing it on the left too.
A fair amount of Northern and Eastern European countries opt for the right hand. Russia is also a right-hand wearer. Predominantly. North and South American, and European nations like the UK, Italy, and France wear ring on the left.
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Why Men Didn’t Wear Wedding Rings
In Egypt, both men and women exchanged rings as a symbol of their undying love. But, everywhere else, men did not wear wedding rings. In many early cultures, men did not have to commit themselves to one woman. Many of them owned multiple wives, so they wives were the ones committed to him.
In many countries, including America in early times, it was a very male dominant society, so men didn’t wear rings. But after World War II, men began to wear rings as a sentimental and comforting expression to remember their wives back at home while on the battlefield.
But they were only popular for military men. It didn’t become mainstream of men to wear wedding bands until after the Korean War. Still today, many wives have issues trying to get their husbands to wear rings. Luckily, many of the objection men usually have to rings have been replaced with alternative metals and silicone rings.
Cultures That Don’t Use Wedding Rings
Hindu cultures do wear rings in jewelry, but use other representations of marriages. A Hindu woman would wear glass bangles around her wrists. She also will wear sindoor, a red powder, on her forehead to indicated she was married.
If the marriage should end, she’d break the bangles and wipe the sindoor off her forehead. Most of the time, the bangles were made of glass, but middle-class women wore bangles of golds and silvers.
For other cultures, like the Orthodox Judaism, the symbolization of marriage came from their hairstyles. A woman was required to cover her hair if she was married. Turkman wives had a special hat to wear when they were married. The Zuni people also had a hairstyle in which displayed their marital status.
Other signs of marital status came from clothing items. Tibet wives wore aprons when they were married. In some Jewish circles, a groom was given a tallit, a decorative shawl from the bride’s father. In other Jewish circles, all men wear a tallit, but only husbands wear it a certain way.
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Ring Finger Meaning – If Put on Other Fingers…
So, we now know the different reasons why certain cultures keep up with the tradition of the wedding ring, and why we call it the ring finger. Still, we have four other fingers out there. Let’s find out more ring finger meaning – what rings on the other fingers signify.
Back in Victorian times, the wedding ring was worn by men on the pinky finger. Price Albert was one of those men. Pinky rings have also been associated with the mafia in pop culture. Mafia members would wear a pinky ring to show they were part of the family. The pinky was also a popular choice to wear a signet ring.
For women, a ring on the pinky finger demonstrated self-love or self-care. The ring was meant to exude confidence and the commitment to stay true to oneself. This tradition was brought upon by Fred + Far, a jewelry company ran by two women. They used the idea of the pinky promise and made wearing a pinky ring to represent a promise made to themselves.
Other than its obvious symbolism, the middle finger has an entirely different connation with rings. In fact, the middle finger is the most common finger to wear a ring on. Wearing a ring on the middle finger is said to represent balance and responsibility.
A ring on the middle finger is the most eye-catching one of all, so usually the most expensive and wider cocktail rings were worn on this finger.
Today, to wear ring on your index finger has no real common meaning or symbolism. It more often worn as a statement piece or a way to express one’s individuality or uniqueness.
Years ago, men wore rings on their pinky fingers of their family crests and coats of arms so show their wealth and status. Men below a certain wealth status were not permitted to wear pinky rings.
In modern times, more men began wearing rings on their index fingers. The index finger was a common choice for class rings or fraternity rings.
With most men, the index finger is the largest finger, so it was common to wear a larger ring on it. Wearing a ring on that finger also represented authority and leadership, due to the dominance of the finger itself.
The thumb is probably the most unique and awkward ring to wear on a finger. Thumb rings have been known to represent a multitude of things, but in present times, they are often thought of as a statement piece, similar to pinky rings.
A thumb ring was meant to symbolize something important or special to you. In the 90s, lesbian women wore rings on their thumbs to symbolize their sexuality. While this isn’t the only reason thumb rings are worn today, many LGBTQ people still hold the tradition.
Thumb rings were often made of a chunky ring, but not to restrict movement. Many had Celtic themes or bohemian styles.
In early times, thumb rings were thought to signify wealth and influence. A ring on your thumb is very impractical while working, so if you had a ring on your thumb, you probably didn’t need to work. Only the wealthy people didn’t need to work.
The Evolution of Ring Finger Meaning
It’s crazy to think about how we’ve come so far with the development of the wedding band. Just think. From the cavemen, rings were made of grass and twigs. Then the Egyptians continued to use reeds and grass, but found papyrus a suitable replacement.
From twigs to grasses to papyrus, the next phase of development of rings was to make them out of ivory and bone. From that point, seashell rings were popular, as were glass and stone rings.
With the arrival of signet rings, ring materials began to become more like what they are today, made out of gold. Of course, back then, the gold karat amount was higher and the jewelry was softer.
While wedding bands were pretty much always just bands, diamonds were not introduced in a ring until 1477. The Archduke Maximillion of Austria had presented his betrothed with the first diamond engagement ring. The Egyptians sometimes used gemstones in their jewelry, so gemstones were also being put into rings.
To Wrap Up
After reading this post, you probably now know a lot more about the meaning of the ring finger than you did before. Today, the tradition of a wedding ring is looked down upon more. Marriage is not as common as it once was, so less wedding rings are being worn.
Also, many believe the tradition of wearing a wedding ring is an old-fashioned gimmick that jewelry stores use to try to get you to buy something you don’t need. For this reason, many married couple are opting for ring tattoos, instead of diamonds and gold. Silicone rings have also been a popular inexpensive choice.
But hopefully now, you don’t see wedding rings in a negative light, or from a consumer perspective. The traditions of wearing a wedding ring is quite beautiful in some cultures, and not so beautiful in others.
Even though the meaning of the ring finger is presented differently in some cultures, we can all agree that the base of world believe that wedding rings are meant as a sign of an eternal commitment made to one another.
The beauty for you today