The tradition of engagement rings and wedding bands have been around in America for ages. Although some elements have changed, like the popularity of diamond engagement rings and the loosening of some strict practices, much of it has stayed the same. These are just American traditions, however, there are many cultures and countries that have different ones. Some are extremely similar, others completely unique, but all are interesting to learn about.
Engagement rings are believed to have begun appearing in marriage traditions in ancient Egypt where braided reed rings were worn by a soon-to-be-married couple to symbolize eternity. They would wear them on their left ring finger as it was believed there was a vein that leads to the heart. This custom carried on for centuries and some cultures, including the United States, still wear their engagement rings on the left hand.
Some cultures embraced the ring tradition a bit differently though. In many Western European countries as well as England, France, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Russia, the engagement ring is worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
In Chile, both the soon-to-be spouses receive an engagement ring to be worn on the right hand. Instead of having a second ring as a wedding ring, the couple transfers these engagement rings to their left hands to symbolize the transition to marriage during the ceremony.
Ring Types and Stones
Diamonds became the engagement ring standard in the United States as recently as the late 1940’s. The story of the diamond engagement ring is an interesting saga in its own right, but some countries and cultures prefer other stones for their rings. French couples, for example, tend to go for gemstones like rubies, sapphires, or emeralds when proposing.
Various Native American tribes opt for silver banded rings set with semi-precious stones that are traditionally important to their societies, such as turquoise or red coral. As with most traditions in Native American culture, there is great variation from tribe to tribe, but this is a trend amongst some of them.
Some Hindu brides-to-be receive a toe ring, called a bichiya, rather than a finger ring. This ties into a belief in promoting health to the reproductive system and thus fertility to the engaged woman.
For some Irish men and women getting married, the ring of choice is not a traditional gold or silver band but a specially shaped ring called a Claddagh. The ring depicts two hands holding a heart with a crown atop it, and each element symbolizes friendship, love, and loyalty, respectively. This ring depicts all stages of a relationship for the wearer based on how it is worn. It begins on the right hand with the crown turned away from the wearer to symbolize they are single. Then it is turned around on the same finger to show the wearer is in a relationship. If the wearer is engaged, the ring moves to the left hand and the crown faces out again, then turns around once they are married.
Some cultures don’t participate in any sort of ring exchange at all as part of the engagement process, but still do use jewelry as a symbolic gesture. In a West Bengal, Indian wedding tradition, the women will wear bangle bracelets of various metals and materials as a sign of engagement, and on their wedding day, these brides are often adorned with numerous pieces of beautiful jewelry of all kinds.
Of course, all of these are simply traditions practiced by the majority of people in these cultures. Everyone should be able to show their engagement or marriage status in whatever way they desire. If you’re in the market for an engagement ring or any other sort of jewelry to give to that special someone in your life, be sure to visit Precious Metals Refinery to find that perfect piece to wow them.