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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Is There a Reason Why There is a Specific Finger for Engagement and Wedding Rings?

“Is there a reason why there is a specific finger for engagement and wedding rings?” asked the patron, who assured us that he had no immediate plans. The Newton Falls Public Library staff is aware of the custom of wearing these rings on the next to last finger of the left hand, but never considered the reason behind it.

Knowing that the library has an extensive collection of materials for wedding planning, the staff began with a book having the definitive title of The official know-it-all's wedding planner: your absolute, quintessential, all you wanted to know, complete guide by Edith Gilbert. The book lived up to its title with the information in Appendix A: Wedding Customs. This chapter covered both The Evolution of Wedding Customs and Wedding Customs. According to Gilbert’s book, giving a ring dates back to the Old Testament when it was a sign that an important or sacred agreement had been sealed. Later, the ancient Greeks gave betrothal rings.

The section on wedding rings states that the wearing of them evolved from engagement rings and the earliest record of wedding ring symbolism was in an Egyptian hieroglyphic, a circle representing eternity. Use by Christians can be traced back to 860 AD. “The custom of wearing it on the third finger of the left hand grew from the belief that this finger connected directly to the heart via the vena amoris, or ‘vein of love.’ (p. 263)” Though we most often see the ring worn on this finger, throughout history wedding rings have been worn on both hands, such as the Elizabethans’ practice of wearing on the thumb and the Jewish tradition of placing it on the first finger of the left hand.

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