Rings have been around for a long time. Their history has some interesting bits and pieces and, over the centuries, myths have also grown up around these sometimes simple, sometimes elegant bands of metal or stone.
There is archaeological proof that rings have been worn as far back as Ancient Egypt. The rings of the Ancient Egyptians were often adorned with a scarab beetle or with some sort of decoration that identified the wearer.
The wedding rings of the Ancient Egyptians were not necessarily made of stone or metal. The first 'rings' of this kind were probably made from plants like papyrus, twigs or grasses braided together and twisted into a circle.
The Romans also loved wearing rings. In fact, they went so far as to make wearing rings a law. As time passed, the rings became an indicator of the social status of the person. Roman citizens wore golden bands, slaves that had been freed or bought their freedom wore silver rings, and slaves wore simple copper or bronze rings. Rings of iron were used as wedding bands to indicate that a woman 'belonged' to another man.
The Arabians invented a wedding ring to ensure a wife's fidelity when he had to go on long trips. These puzzle rings were made up of more than one circlet and had to be combined in a specific way to create the final design. If the ring is removed from the finger – a necessary action if the wife wanted to cheat on her husband – the ring came apart and it could only be reconstructed by someone who knew how it fit together.
Ancient peoples placed the wedding ring on the 4th finger of the hand because they believed that the finger contains a very special vein. According to their beliefs, the vein, called the vena amoris was a direct link to the heart. In essence, the ring was connected straight to the heart – a symbol of eternal love.
The idea of putting a precious stone in an engagement ring only came around in the 14th century. At that point only very rich merchants or nobles could afford this practice, but as time passed it became more common. Today, it is expected that an engagement ring have a stone of some sort, usually a diamond, in the setting.
In colonial times, the Puritan colonists in America did not wear rings because they did not approve of useless decoration. Instead, a man would give the woman he loved a thimble of special design. Not only was the thimble practical, but it was at least beautiful in some way. When they got married, the bottom of the thimble was traditionally removed and used as a ring.
Rings have long since been associated with magic and other mystic powers. The shape of the ring symbolised to many the idea of eternal life or the never-ending cycle of being. Since they were portable and could be unobtrusive, gems that were thought to enhance or add to these powers were also often set into the rings. These belief of rings having power have carried over in stories and novels about magic rings and their powers like Aladdin and Lord of the Rings.
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