Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Finger Rings - Fact And Folklore

What are signet rings? Were there such things as rings that held poison? Why are engagement and wedding rings worn on the fourth finger of the left hand? Some facts and folklore about finger rings:
  • The wearing of finger rings of various materials goes back to ancient cultures. There have always been mystical qualities about them, from early cultures up to the present day traditions of engagement and wedding rings.
  • Signet rings had designs in them unique to the wearer, who was usually a member of the nobility or ruling class. Coats of arms, initials, facial profiles were some of the designs used on them. They would be used to verify documents such as treaties and decrees. To hold the ring impression, warm wax or ink would be used. Sometimes the design would be impressed into the material of the decree itself. Signet rings are mentioned in the bible, and are used right up to the present day.
  • Rings made with compartments for images of loved ones (and to hold poison!) are thought to have originated in India and the Far East. These became a fad in Europe during the Renaissance. They were introduced into Europe with the Holy Relic Trade routes. Pieces of the 'true cross' would be placed into the compartments of the jewelry and sold to the nobility. It didn't take long for the more nefarious members of society to realize these could hold other things besides images of loved ones and pieces of holy relics.
  • The engagement ring's history began in 1215 with the decree of Pope Innocent III that there should be a longer waiting period between betrothal and marriage. It is worn on the fourth finger of the left hand in The United States, but on the fourth finger of the right hand in other countries. Our traditional ring finger comes from the ancient Greeks who mistakenly thought that the vena amoris or vein of love ran from this finger directly to the heart.
  • The wedding ring has a much longer history than the engagement ring. Ancient Hebrews wore them, and they have been an official part of Christian weddings since the 7th century.
  • The modern tradition of diamond engagement rings and wedding rings is said to go back to the 15th century when marriages within noble families used them. But the diamond jewelry trade has had more to do with this modern use than anything historical or traditional.
  • What's the most expensive ring? One bought by Donald Trump for his engagement to Slovenian model Melania Knauss is sure in the running. It is reportedly worth $2 million, and would have been valued at even more if it wouldn't have been personally engraved.

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