As jewelers, we often forget the real symbolic significance of our work and how to translate it into unique design ideas. Culture and tradition can be used as valuable tools that can aid in the creation of original design work.
If you think that tradition and innovation do not go hand in hand then, in my earnest opinion, you have a fundamental mistake. Innovation, when it comes to design or to any other subject in the world, can come only when you grow out of a culture and a tradition. Creators cannot truly be original without knowing what came before them.
The wedding ring presents jewelers with a great opportunity to combine tradition and innovation. Let’s take a look at the history of wedding rings and some of its unique aspects.
The Early Ages
The wedding ring is a universal symbol that can be found in almost every culture and tradition. The symbol of the ring itself as an expression of love, fealty and devotion and specifically as a symbol of love between a man and a woman, can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. It signifies the belief that the ceremony of marriage joins the spirits of a man and a woman and makes them one.
The circular shape is an ancient symbol for eternity and therefore, in a wedding ring, it connects the personal with the godly and signifies a bond of love that cannot be broken.
Interestingly enough, the Egyptians believed that the fourth finger contains a vein, called the vein of love, that leads straight to the heart and therefore the wedding ring should be worn on the fourth finger of the left hand.
Roman Times and Onwards
Like the Egyptians, the Romans wore the wedding ring on the fourth finger of their left hand. In time, the fourth finger of the left hand was referred to as the ring finger. The Romans considered the wedding ring as a sign of ownership, allowing a man to take possession of a woman. During Roman times most wedding rings were made out of iron, but from the third century onwards the tradition changed and rings were made of silver or gold to avoid rust. In Asian countries too, the wedding ring was a symbol of ownership and possession.
Giving Meaning to the Modern Wedding Ring
As we can see, the wedding ring has two main contextual meanings, one has to do with love, loyalty and eternity and the other one, which most people, myself included, will consider today to be negative has to do with possession.
Understanding both meanings helps me in my work when I come to design a new ring. I always try to keep in my mind the ideas of equality and love and the idea of eternity when I approach a new design.
Doron Heifetz is a professional jeweler and the publisher of a monogram necklace blog advancing the promotion of popular jewelry ideas and creations.
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