Believe it or not, there are some men out there who still refuse to wear a mens wedding ring. They will claim that the “history of the wedding ring” proves that only women are supposed to wear a ring, and that the idea of men wearing wedding rings is relatively new. Well, they are not altogether wrong; there is some truth to that statement. But the traditions surrounding marriage have changed quite a bit over time, and a mens wedding ring of today has less to do with “propriety” than it does with love. 

According to an early account of the wedding ring’s history, the shape of a circle was meant to signify an eternal bond of love between two people. At least this is what the ancient Egyptians believed when they worshiped the Sun and the Moon. To them, the hole in a ring’s center was considered a gateway that led to future events, yet unknown. While there is no evidence that a mens wedding ring was worn during that time period, the woman’s ring was probably made of a natural material like hemp, followed by leather and then finally a carved piece of ivory or bone. 

Many have wondered why we started wearing a ring on the ring finger of the left hand to signify marriage? Well, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, the Greeks believed that the third finger of the left hand contained a vein that led straight to the heart. Later, when the Romans adopted this tradition, they called this the “vena amoris”, a Latin term for “vein of love”, and wedding rings have been worn on the “ring finger” of the left hand ever since. 

Even when metallurgists began making metal rings, they looked nothing like the women’s or men’s wedding ring of today. More commonly worn by women only, they were actually quite clumsy and fitted with semi-precious and precious stones. Because their value was so great, early wedding rings were rarely worn on a daily basis. They were more likely to be seen as an expression of wealth than as a sentiment of love, and could even be traded as a form of currency. 

Not long after the Romans started giving and accepting rings as a symbol of marriage, the wedding ring was considered a legally binding and enforceable “contract” between a man and his bride-to-be. This not only made it clear that she “belonged” to a man, but also protected her from rivals who may have attempted to usurp her position. 

In medieval Europe, gold became the first choice of metals used for wedding rings, but there was still no evidence of a mens wedding ring being worn. For a brief period in 17th century England, silver become widely used at the height of a wedding ring trend known as “poesy rings”. These silver rings were inscribed with a romantic poem or prose, and became known throughout Europe because of their mention in the works of Shakespeare. Not long afterward, the Irish started to believe it was bad luck to be married with a ring made of any other metal but gold. As a result, a gold ring would be provided for weddings where the couple couldn’t afford to buy one, and then reclaimed by the church after the wedding. 

The more modern practice of wearing a mens wedding ring began during World War II, when men would be separated from their spouse for long periods of time. This was a pivotal moment in the history of wedding rings, and ushered in the mens wedding ring tradition that is followed to this day.