While the ring is a popular fashion accessory, it is usually attached to romance and marital status. This attachment is due to centuries of evolution and conditioning. However, a detailed review of the history of rings shows that the use of rings had nothing to do with marriage and romance at the start. In this article, we will review the history of rings, their earlier symbolism, and their evolution.
Origin of Rings
Rings may have been in use since the early days of human civilization. However, there is no way to confirm this, as many of the materials that would have been used during that time wouldn’t have survived. Materials such as bones, shells, and plants would have been used to make rings during that era.
Therefore, the earliest record of a finger-ring can be traced to the third millennium, all thanks to the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia. The rings used in that era featured gold rings with carnelian inlays or stone rings with gold caps and swivel hoops. The next stop is the ancient Egyptian civilization where the cylinder seal ring got popular. The gemstones used to make this ring at the time were obsidian, lapis-lazuli, faience, jasper, and glass. The years went by, the designs got more creative and enticing, but the ring kept its basic shape.
This cylinder seal ring type was also adopted by the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Etruscans. The Greeks, however, modified the ring designs as they got more elaborate and intricate. The Greeks passed this ring design unto the Romans and by extension, the early Christians also imbibed the design. The only difference is that the early Christians replaced the pagan designs with motifs and symbols pertaining to their faith.
Historical Use of Rings
More than a fashion accessory, rings are symbols of romance. However, it was not always like that. Along with the evolution of cultures and civilizations, the use of rings has also evolved. From the start, rings were worn as a sign of wealth and power. In ancient Egypt where the creation and design of rings got elaborate, rings were worn as a sign of wealth, power, and status. It was also worn for religious and spiritual purposes.
In ancient Rome, rings were also worn as a sign of political power. This was because the first rings were made with used as seals. This means that only senators serving as ambassadors of the Republic could wear rings at the time. However, the right to wear rings was later extended to all members of the civilian population. This led to the popularity of gold rings with heavy gemstones, worn to show wealth and opulence.
The use of rings for romantic purposes came with the generalization of the right to wear rings. This was because it was customary to exchange rings upon agreement in business dealings, thus a ring was used to signify the acceptance of a marriage proposal. However, the acceptance of the ring, at the moment, doesn’t mean that the proposal is permanently binding.