(Candace and Oscar – Q3 2021)

In my past when I’d look at a Tiffany, Zales, or Kay Jeweler’s TV commercial, they all would be in a similar headspace when it comes to advertising their wedding rings. Trying to add their own spin on the product itself, I wasn’t moved by an insight. It all felt like a sea of sameness. Bear with me for a moment. It’s a focus on the couple emotionally connected with a close embrace. Some slow or dramatic cuts either in full color or varying tones of monochrome. A music bed that tugs on the heartstrings or pulls in an undeniable talent like Adele or Lady Gaga. Mix in a few close-up frames of the ring itself and the person gently finding a home for it on their fiancé’s finger. Don’t forget the “power close” with [insert jeweler] name or website and viola! You have an ad that isn’t speaking any kind of revelatory truth to the consumer; it tends to be self-serving. Not helping the buyer gain perspective on what that ring “actually” means beyond that one fleeting moment of a proposal. As I look forward to a wedding journey of my own, I thought it might be helpful to look at what history says about wedding rings.

History of Wedding Rings (a quick summary)

The tradition of wedding rings dates back to early Greek, Egyptian, Roman, and Medieval times according to GIA—one of the world’s most trusted diamond and precious gem certifiers. Ancient Egyptians believed that the ring finger contained a “vein of love” that reached directly to the heart. The Romans adopted this belief and wore wedding rings on that finger. Although their belief isn’t actually correct, that tradition of where you wear your ring continues to this day. During Medieval Times, wedding rings were set with precious gems. Europeans used rubies to symbolize passion, sapphires to symbolize the heavens, and diamonds to symbolize steadfast strength.

Wedding rings also have a complicated past as it relates to slavery. Something that wasn’t taught in schools as I was coming up through the Minnesota educational system. When I had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History in 2019, I found this small exhibit that details how in the 1830s enslaved African Americans temporarily wore an expendable brass wedding ring. Enslaved couples could not be officially married because the law defined them as property.

A Rev. Alexander Glennie informally married slaves in South Carolina’s All Saints Episcopal Parish. After the service, he removed the ring. Baptized into the faith and equal in the eyes of God.

(Courtesy National Museum of African-American History)

The Real Reason We Buy Diamonds
Many of us today just believe that proposing with a diamond ring is the natural part of getting married. It’s what you do. Actually, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. Due to diamond sales dropping off during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the De Beers Company commissioned an ad agency to convey the idea that diamonds were a gift of love in the early 1940s. Between 1938 and 1941 diamond sales went up 55% according to Bloomberg. In 1947, De Beers introduced the advertising slogan “a diamond is forever.” And in 1953, Marilyn Monroe made “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” a household phrase.

What do wedding rings represent now?
After looking at what history has to say about rings, advertising and sales campaigns aside—the ring and symbol itself are one of the strongest connectors on earth. It transports people to a new way of life where two individuals can experience a fuller capacity for love. Standing together through the test of time, living through revolutions, pandemics, and growth of all kinds.

Lauren, with what you’ve experienced—what do you believe wedding rings represent now and what meaning can they continue to hold in the future?

Rings have ancient and sacred meaning. It’s really fascinating to read about how meaning has been chronicled throughout history and think about the millions of people who have utilized their symbolism over thousands of years.

The reason why wedding rings are known to be circular in shape is that a circle has no beginning or end. When two people stand at the altar and exchange vows, they slip rings on each other’s fingers to symbolize that their love will last forever. The braiding of two souls is embodied in a variety of ways during a wedding, but rings are one of the very physical and visual reminders of that eternal covenant.

For many years, wedding rings were passed down in families, and the ring carried with it the meaning of generations past. Some families still do this, and it’s a wonderful option. There’s also beauty in getting the chance to speak into the aesthetic of what kind of ring ends up on your finger. Whether vintage or modern, gold or silver, rings come in a wide variety of shapes, styles, gem colors, and precious metals.

Choosing a ring can feel exciting and special—after all, you’re selecting something that will stay on your finger for the rest of your life. Consider discussing what your rings will mean to you with your significant other, what types of styles represent you and your relationship, and of course, some of the more practical elements like your budget, timing, and how you want to go about looking for and selecting a ring.

Your ring tells a story about who you are as an individual and who you and your spouse are as a couple. It’s a token that tells the world that you are romantically bound to another, that you’re all in, and you’re willing to dive deep with another human. The shape and cut of the gem, the style of the band—all of it hearkens back to beauty, and the root of it in this world tells a story of goodness.

The most beautiful part of your relationship, however, doesn’t lie in your rings. It’s in your commitment to love each other day in and day out, it’s in the attachment and respect those rings symbolize, and it’s the way that love ends up looking like sacrifice some days. Full of mystery and delight on others. It’s important to have this mindset as you do set out to look for rings, as it can be easy to strive for bigger and better, spend way too much money, and keep up with the Joneses. Remember why you’re looking for a ring in the first place and try not to get caught up in the status of it all.

On the flip side, there’s something remarkable about the idea of wearing a precious gem or precious metal on one’s hand for decades. If able, many spend some extra money on these things because they mean something. These symbols are worth spending money on because we often spend money on what’s most important to us. Our hands are always before us, and so the token of a ring and its meaning are ever before us.

On planet Earth, when one is bound forever to the heart and soul of another, a ring is one of the embodiments of that promise. These things of old tell stories of love, adventure, sacrifice, and longing, and the tradition continues to be passed down through generations. We use beauty to represent depth—the things that are out of the ordinary—because beauty has meaning for us. We long to make sense of our existence, to seek out the good and beautiful, even amid hardship.

Our rings give form to that idea. Each has a story to tell.

For more context about this blog post, read the first in the series “Relationship is a Dance With Tension.”

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