Posy Rings and Braided Reed: Love Before Diamond Engagement Bands

All love stories are beautiful. But out of all the love stories I’ve heard, the one on why ladies wear their engagement bands on the fourth finger is my favorite.

Historical evidence shows that married couples in the past used to wear their wedding bands on every finger, even the thumb. Egyptians, however, wore both their wedding and engagement rings on the fourth finger. This is due to their belief that it is the only finger with a vein that connects directly to the heart.

Moreover, engagement rings weren’t always about diamonds. Before the arrival of diamond engagement rings, people used unlikely materials for stunning yet meaningful designs to signify their union.

Bones and Braided Reed

Ancient Egyptians were the first people to use rings in wedding ceremonies. In 3000 BC, the Egyptians made circles – the symbols of eternity – from braided reeds or hemp. The man then places the ring on his wife’s finger as a symbol of his confidence in her ability to keep the home together.

As reed wasn’t very durable, ancient people eventually turned to leather, bone, and ivory in crafting wedding rings.

Iron Rings

Engagement rings didn’t always signify romance. In the 2nd century B.C., the groom would give the wife a gold ring to wear throughout the betrothal ceremony and during special occasions, and then an iron ring to wear when at home. The iron ring symbolizes the binding agreement that the wife will remain the groom’s property.

Posy Rings

In the 15th century, posy rings rose in popularity. These bands often included a posy (a short verse) inscribed on the outside of the rings. As time progressed, the inscriptions became more personal, prompting goldsmiths to learn how to engrave the words on the inside of the bands to keep the messages private.

Diamonds didn’t enter the engagement ring scene until 1477, when Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with a ring with thin, flat diamonds that formed the letter M. Hence, today, about 80% of brides-to-be tend to receive engagement rings.