Engagement rings are 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 left ring 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 finger.
Engagement and Wedding Rings
The earliest example of a wedding ring comes from Egypt, almost five thousand years ago.
The circular form of the wedding ring represents eternity, with space in between serving as a gateway. Essentially, the wedding ring represents an entry into immortal love. It is plain to see how the beautiful symbolism surrounding wedding rings has stood the test of time.
Now, engagement rings are a bit 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 Diamond Engagement Rings?
Why diamonds? Well, although we don’t know Maximillian’s reasoning for choosing a diamond engagement ring, 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 engagement 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. Pair that with the beautiful symbolism of wedding rings and the ring finger, and it is easy to see how these traditions have stood the test of time.
What is the Difference Between Engagement Rings and Promise Rings?
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.
Promise rings have stuck around throughout the centuries, though their meaning has become somewhat varied (from simple romantic gestures to promises of chastity and more).
What Finger Do You Wear a Promise Ring On?
You can wear The promise ring on either ring finger. A promise ring is traditionally worn on the left-hand ring finger. Some choose to wear it on the right so that people are not confused, thinking it is an engagement ring or wedding band because it is worn on the same ring finger.
Wearing your promise ring on the fourth finger of the left hand as one would an engagement ring or wedding ring will have some advantages. By placing the ring where engagement rings are worn, you’re showing the world that you are in a committed relationship. For many young women wearing a ring on the same finger, an engagement ring or wedding ring may keep away unwanted suitors.
Which Finger Does a Wedding Ring Go On?
If you’re looking for a definite answer on the correct wedding ring finger… there isn’t one.
For instance, while much of Western society agrees the wedding ring finger is on the left hand, that isn’t the case everywhere. Some cultures consider the left hand unlucky, therefore not a great place for your wedding ring. Many countries like India, Norway, and Russia place the wedding ring 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 finger is on their right hand, so rings are worn on the right during the engagement period and once married. However, the couple switches the rings over to the ring finger of their left hands.
The Engagement Ring, The Wedding Ring, and Wedding Traditions
Still, the engagement ring hand is also the wedding ring hand for most. Since it is your love to express, we encourage you to wear your wedding ring however you please.
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.
What Hand Does the Engagement Ring Go On?
Of course, this is just part of the puzzle. Have you ever wondered why people often call the fourth finger the engagement ring finger? After all, the wedding and engagement rings both go on this hand.
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. Then, wearing a ring on this finger would symbolize keeping the love close to one’s heart.
Cute, right? Unfortunately, as the Romans imagined it, this vein 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 makeup engagement rings are exciting and sweet. And it can be comforting to know there’s a history behind the finger you wear your ring on. But not everyone is super keen on following the crowd, and that’s okay! There is no law telling you how to wear rings.
After all, even though Archduke Maximillian’s diamond ring idea took off, the lettering definitely did not. The important thing is that whatever engagement and wedding ring you choose is significant to you, and it must represent your unique bond. Express this in whatever way worked best for you and your partner.
Maybe you and your partner are caught between two cultures with very different ideas of how the wedding ceremony should work. Or perhaps 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.
Do All Cultures Wear Engagement Rings on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand?
Just like wedding rings, engagement rings are sometimes worn on the right-hand ring finger. About 70 % of people worldwide wear the engagement ring on the left hand, so the remaining 30 wear it on the right ring finger. There are even cultures that use different fingers or types of jewelry altogether.
So whether you want to speak to tradition in your particular culture or forgo the engagement and wedding rings altogether is entirely up to you. Just make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Traditionally in western culture, wearing wedding rings on the ring finger of the left hand signifies to the world that you are spoken for. You and your partner are wearing wedding bands on the same finger, and you are both broadcasting that message. You want to make sure that your decision to keep a bare left ring finger isn’t upsetting to your partner.
Final Notes on The Engagement and Wedding Ring Finger
Whether it’s a declaration of love, a promise to stay faithful, 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.