WHY ARE WE SO OBSESSED WITH RINGS?
We look to Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Middle Ages to help us answer our question, “Why are we so obsessed with rings”. During this period of history, rings were used to sign documents, show your status in society, symbolise love and betrothal, express faith and honour the dead.
Ancient Egyptians wore scarab rings carved from precious stones such as lapis lazuli and turquoise on a simple silver or gold wire. The rings served as a visible symbol of rank, power and as a means to authenticate documents. Rings were worn for a purpose rather than just being decorative.
Ancient Egyptian Ring
In early Rome gold rings were worn by senators and ambassadors of the Republic, it wasn’t until later all citizens were awarded the right to wear gold rings. Heavy gold rings with rare gemstones would have been worn to display wealth and status.
Ancient Roman Ring
The ‘fede’, or hand-in-hand ring appeared in the Roman times when two clasped hands represented a contract of betrothal or marriage, a motif that would continue to be used for another 1000 years. According to ancient texts, the betrothal ring was worn on the fourth finger of the left hand in the belief that this finger had a vein, the vena amoris that flowed directly to the heart.
The Greeks used rings as a token of love and affection, they would engrave symbols of Eros (Greek god of sexual attraction) and Aphrodite (ancient Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation).
Ancient Greek Ring - Eros
Rings were the most popular piece of jewellery to wear in the Middle Ages, they were decorative and easy to wear. The fashion would have been a ring on each finger, including the thumb. In the mid 1300s Europe, rings were used as a status symbol supported by law. Gold and silver rings with precious stones were for the royalty and nobility, base metal rings such as gilt bronze, pewter and copper were for the lower classes.
Sapphire ring 'belonged to Anglo-Saxon or Viking royalty'
Maybe we love rings simply because they can say so much, privately to the wearer or loudly to passers by. The rings I wear today are not used to sign documents or represent a betrothal, they remind me of those who have passed, the successes in my life and the people I love.
Antique rings are particularly special, I imagine the master jeweller hand making the piece and the people who have worn it and what it meant to them, maybe it represented love, death or success. We may never know.