The exchanging of wedding rings is a constantly evolving tradition. In our current global economy, we see an intermingling of rituals, practices, styles, and mores. This constant symbiosis of cultural traditions increases the possibilities in wedding ring fashion. Below are just a few examples of the changes in cultural wedding rings, past and present.
Mokume Gane Rings
In Japan, the tradition of wearing a wedding ring is relatively new. Exchanging of rings often replaces the ancient custom of ohugaru, which is the practice of staining a woman’s teeth black to show fidelity to her husband. Despite this change of ritual, Japanese wedding rings still incorporate many of the cultural beliefs and historical traditions of the past.
One of the most common traditional rings of Japan is the Mokume Gane ring. Its uniquely crafted design can be used as both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. Mokume Gane translates to wood eye metal, a combination of both elements to create a strong representation of culture and commitment. Ancient Samurai used Mokume Gane material to construct the handles of their swords. These weapons featured intricate designs, patterns, and engravings. Today, the Mokume Gane ring undergoes a similarly involved process of bonding, twisting, and forging metals to create a stunning swirl design to the ring. Although many metals can be used to create a Mokume Gane, most rings include yellow and white gold weaved into other stronger red and gray metals. You might not find a Mokume ring in a typical jewelry store, but many online websites sell these rings, as they gain popularity in both Eastern and Western culture.
In France, couples traditionally wear three interlocking rings on their right hand. These rings stand for the three Christian virtues of hope, faith, and love. Stylistically, each ring can vary, but many of these wedding rings include different metals and engravings of the cardinal virtues. Several other cultures use interwoven rings as well. In Russia, couples traditionally wear three interlocking rings made of yellow, white, or rose gold. These rings are called “engagement rings” but are exchanged and worn during the ceremony. They are selected by both husband and wife and must be paid for by the groom.
In Greece and Turkey, exchanging of complex puzzle rings is still a common practice. Puzzle rings were originally given to women in order to test their monogamy. Women who could unlock the puzzle rings supposedly had the intellect and character of a faithful wife. Today, puzzle rings are still used, but are given to both husband and wife.
Many new wedding bands are used to incorporate cultural traditions. Today, engraving and incorporating symbols is widely popular in custom rings. With softer metals such as gold and silver, a variety of traditions and cultures can be incorporated into wedding rings. In Ireland, the Celtic trinity band is often worn as a wedding ring or engagement ring. The Ancient Celts used the sign of the three interwoven strands as a symbol of their Christianity. By weaving these bands of faith, the design emblemizes eternity and everlasting commitment.
Another common ring in Ireland is called the Claddagh ring. Claddagh is named after a fishing village in Ireland. In the 17th century a local townsmen designed the ring and gave it to his wife. Each part of the ring has its own symbolic purpose. The heart represents love, the hands friendship, and the crown fidelity. Today, many couples choose to wear matching Claddagh rings as wedding bands. As it is common for both men and women to wear a Claddagh ring before marriage, custom bands with stronger metals and intricate designs are now offered.
Male Wedding Bands
In many cultures, only the woman was required to wear a wedding ring. Men were not forced to show the symbol of their marriage because they were considered above the woman in status. It wasn’t until World War II that the practice of men wearing wedding bands became widely popular around the world. Male soldiers began wearing wedding rings as a reminder of their wives and loved ones back home. Today, many cultures celebrate the exchanging of rings to both the bride and groom as not only a symbol of love but of equal commitment in marriage.
Gifts to the Bride
Some cultures believe that the wedding ring is part of a series of gifts for the bride. Today, we see this tradition further enacted through the exchanging of three rings: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the eternity ring. All three rings are given at different stages of the marital process, and all three must be worn on the left hand ring finger. This is a common practice in both the U.S. and Great Britain, and is further gaining popularity throughout Europe.