A circle has no beginning and has no end. So does a wedding ring. The history of the wedding ring dates back centuries. Most notable in Egyptian times as a symbol of loyalty and human property. In Colonial America marriage stood for financial security, a business contract sealed with a ring. A symbolic circle promised a lifetime of obedient servitude, for the woman.
In Masque of the Revolution Anella Bradford, 23, betrothed to John Paul Chantelle’, 27, a French Colonel in the Revolutionary War and from the wealthiest family in Plymouth Massachusetts was her parents most suitable choice to insure financial security for the Bradford family. The arrangement of marriage by Anella’s father, Jonathan Bradford, and John Paul’s father came before the breakout of the Revolution. Once the war was over and uncertain times loomed it was time for her to fulfill her duty. An arrangement of financial security and gentry’ status, a union brought together to secure power and position in Plymouth society. Anella wanted nothing to do with any marriage and tried to get out of it. Until her military officers reactivated her, she had no choice.
Colonial marriages were the path to a secure future with both parties victorious. Often the gift of victory came with a secured parcel of land. Although, the marriage arrangement with fathers choosing a daughters suitor had almost dropped to a small percentage in the late 18th Century it remained common among many families in gentry’ society. They couldn’t risk a pauper marrying their daughter and squandering away the families’ inheritance.
The Puritans banned all jewelry as frivolous. Women instead received a Wedding Thimble as a sign of promise. Women are resourceful and started cutting the ends off and sliding the thimble on their fingers.
The matrimonial rings have evolved drastically over the centuries. Once made of hemp, which became worn and unsuitable for wear after a year. Then iron, a sign of strength, which became rusted over time. Then gold made its way onto the wedding scene at times worn along as a double ring with the iron as symbols of strength and beauty.
Silver bands were worn as “mourning rings” passed onto a woman after a death in the family.
Several religions “loaned” rings decorated with elaborate stones, but when the ceremony was finished, the ring was removed and given back to the church. In today’s times that would be a very ugly scene.
A string of pearls was a customary wedding gift from the groom to his bride, a symbol of wealth and purity offered in place of a ring.
Men in times before the 1930s did not wear wedding bands. The tradition started from jewelers coming up with a new marketing plan after the great depression of 1929.
The wedding ring and its true meaning have evolved over thousands of centuries. But one fact remains; it is a symbol of love and loyalty to the one you marry.
Stones have also evolved in the matrimonial state. Rubies and sapphires were a symbolic gesture of eternal earth and sky. The diamond eventually won out as the stone of choice for the same reason it was in early centuries, durable. Diamonds are the most durable stone and as marriage is/was, viewed too many, a lifetime commitment. You need a good stone to stand the test of time. The larger the stone obvious sign of wealth, but also the most obedient of wives or the one who married the most controlling man in town. Depends on how you look at it.
Rings were not the traditional exchange during a ceremony. The ring was placed on either the right or left finger as the symbol of property, no longer on the market once a woman betrothed to a man. During the wedding ceremony the groom would hand his bride a leather purse filled with gold and silver coins. This sealing a promise of financial security.
With all the history behind the wedding ring I have many options to use in my story. So how will I use them?
Happy Writings and Reading
Teresa L Watts