An engagement ring is exciting. Not just because that means you’ve committed to spending your life with someone (though that’s certainly good news too!), but because of all the history and tradition behind the ring — and the finger you’re wearing it on. From the ancient Egyptians to the Romans, to the royalty in France, pretty much everyone agrees that there’s a lot of meaning behind your engagement ring.
The earliest example of a wedding ring comes from Egypt, almost five thousand years ago. The circular form of the ring represents eternity, with space in between serving as a gateway. Essentially, the wedding ring represents an entry into immortal love.
Now, engagement rings are a little different. The first diamond engagement ring can be traced back to fifteenth-century France when the Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave his fianceé, Mary of Burgundy, a ring with diamonds that spelled out the letter “M.” Whether or not the M stood for Maximillian or Mary (or both?) the elaborate gift seems to have been received well. At the very least, it was liked among royalty in general, because the diamond engagement ring started to become a tradition — one that’s continued to this day!
Why diamonds? Well, although we don’t know Maximillian’s reasoning, it likely had to do with the rarity of the gem. Rumor has it that he spent quite a bit of his fortune on the ring. That said, the meaning of a diamond ring has evolved over the centuries. Diamonds are the strongest substance on Earth and each one is unique, which symbolizes the enduring strength of each individual love story.
It’s also worth noting that, though similar, engagement rings have always been different from promise rings — which originated in 2nd century Rome. Roman law stipulated that couples had to be promised to each other for a certain amount of time before a wedding ceremony could occur, and thus promise rings were born. Throughout the centuries, promise rings have stuck around, though their meaning has become somewhat varied (from simple romantic gestures to promises of chastity, and more).
The Wedding Ring Finger (and Hand)
If you’re looking for a definite answer on the correct wedding ring hand… there isn’t one. For instance, while much of Western society agrees the wedding ring hand is the left hand, that isn’t the case everywhere. Because the left hand is considered unlucky by some, many in countries like India, Norway, and Russia place the rings on the right hand.
In Chile, the tradition is a bit different. For one thing, both the bride and groom receive engagement rings. For them, the engagement ring hand is their right hand, so rings are worn on the right during the engagement period. Once married, however, the couple switches the rings over to their left hands.
Still, for most, the engagement ring hand is also the wedding ring hand. The only time most cultures stray from this practice is during the wedding ceremony itself. After all, it can be a bit tricky to slide a wedding ring onto a finger that already has an engagement ring on it. In these cases, many brides (or grooms) will opt to wear their engagement ring on their right hand during the ceremony, leaving their wedding ring finger open. Once the wedding is over, they’ll usually transfer the engagement ring back to the left hand.
Of course, this is just part of the puzzle. Have you ever wondered why people often call the fourth finger the ring finger? This, like many of the other traditions that have gone into the engagement ring we know today, started hundreds of years ago with the ancient Romans. They believed the fourth finger had a vein, known as the Vena Amoris (“vein of love”), which ran from the finger directly to the heart. Wearing a ring on this finger, then, would symbolize keeping the love close to one’s heart.
Cute, right? Unfortunately, this vein as the Romans imagined it doesn’t really exist. If you really want the ring close to your heart, you’d have to wear it on a necklace. Still, it’s the thought that counts — or rather, it’s the thought and years of tradition. This is why, if you’re from the United States or a similar Western country, you’ll probably still designate the fourth finger on your left hand to be the engagement ring finger.
Engagement Ring Fingers Today
For some people, these traditions that make up engagement rings are exciting and sweet. It can be comforting to know there’s a history behind the finger you wear your ring on, for instance. But not everyone is super keen on following the crowd, and that’s okay! After all, even though Archduke Maximillian’s diamond ring idea took off, the lettering definitely did not.
Maybe you and your partner are caught between two cultures with very different ideas of how the wedding ceremony should work. Or maybe you just enjoy going off the beaten path and marching to the beat of your own drum. And that’s great. The most important part of a ring isn’t where you wear it, or even what it looks like, but what it means to you and your partner.
Whether it’s a declaration of love, a promise to stay true, or something else entirely, ultimately you decide what your ring means. At Clean Origin, we want to help you choose that meaningful symbol for your loved one. With ethically sourced diamonds and high-quality rings, your engagement ring is sure to please…no matter which finger it’s worn on.
Want more information on diamonds? Contact us today; we love talking about diamonds, and we’re always up for a chat.