Today, it is most common to see a married woman wearing both an engagement ring and a wedding ring. It is also becoming more popular for men to wear engagement rings. There has been a huge increase in the variety of men’s engagement rings.
The History of Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings
The origins of the wedding ring can be traced back to ancient times and the Egyptians for whom the exchange of a ring was filled with symbolism. The ring was placed on the fourth finger of the left hand because there was a belief that the ‘Vena Amoris’ (vein of love) ran from this finger to the heart.
The endless circle of a ring also embodied the sense of forever – a symbol of eternal love and the lifetime commitment of two people to one another. The Ancient Greeks and Romans followed the same practice. Wedding rings were cemented into the western culture by the early Middle Ages, becoming a specific element of the medieval wedding ceremony. Initially, wedding rings were ornate and ostentatious but the church denounced these and rings became the plain (usually gold) metal bands most common today.
At this point, it’s worth noting the difference between a wedding ring and a wedding band. There is no difference. The terms are completely interchangeable.The engagement ring came to us via the Ancient Romans. The betrothal ring worn by a woman was a mark of ownership. It was “to signify a business contract or to affirm mutual love and obedience.” Betrothal rings took many forms for hundreds of years until in 850 AD, Pope Nicholas I gave engagement rings official meaning.
He declared that an engagement ring represented a man’s intent to marry. Gold was the most popular material for engagement rings at the time. The first diamond engagement ring is recognized as being the ring Archduke Maximilian of Austria presented to Mary of Burgundy in 1477. the gold ring featured diamonds in the shape of the initial M. This act also cemented the fact that engagement rings would be more costly than wedding rings. Wedding bands are mostly quite simple. While some may have some detail, the majority are plain circles of precious metal.
Engagement rings are far more intricate. They feature different jewelry-making techniques and settings and always contain gemstones. It might a large center stone of significant carat weight – typically a diamond, or a collection of stones. Although diamond rings are by far the most popular choice, it is a matter of personal preference and there is a massive range of engagement ring styles.
Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring Both or Either?
Though the convention has been to wear two rings, it is a matter of choice whether you wear an engagement ring and wedding band or just the wedding band. The two rings, though intrinsically linked, are designed for different purposes. An engagement ring is presented at a marriage proposal. A wedding ring is exchanged during the marriage ceremony and represents the official bond of marriage. Together, they are a symbol of commitment and love.
Wedding rings are usually quite simple rings, a plain metal band worn on the left hand, on the fourth finger, which has become known as the ring finger. Yellow gold is the most popular color, but wedding rings might be white gold, platinum, rose gold, or tungsten. Some brides might choose a band with some detail such as an engraved surface or being channel set with pave diamonds but typically, wedding rings don’t feature large diamonds or other gemstones.
While a solitaire diamond is the most popular choice, an engagement ring is not bound by any convention of style or fashion. An engagement ring can be any ring – it is what it represents that is most important. Some people also choose an engagement ring that can be worn as a wedding ring, rather than having two separate rings. Another option is to have a matching engagement ring and wedding ring. When specifically matched, it is known as a bridal set.
Very often though, an engagement ring is purchased before a wedding ring. A matching set may not always be possible so a wedding band that complements the engagement ring is the next best thing.
For complementary rings, the precious metal should be the same color and the rings should sit well together on the left-hand ring finger. You also need to consider whether both you and your spouse are going to wear a wedding band. You can wear matching rings or not. With many options in men’s wedding bands, it is a nice dilemma to work through together to reach a decision. Whichever route you follow for your style of rings, there is one convention that is rarely broken. Whether just a wedding band or a wedding band with an engagement ring, the wedding band is always worn on the left hand. Worn on the right hand, it will never be recognized as a wedding ring. It is also usual to wear the wedding ring closest to the hand (and closest to the heart) with the engagement ring above it, closer to the knuckle.
Engagement and Wedding Ring Combinations: Getting it Right
How you style your two rings is up to you. You don’t have to consider matching rings at all – it’s down to personal preference. This applies equally to both men and women. Maybe there was no option for a matching wedding ring at the time of purchase, the particular engagement ring style is no longer available ergo no matching wedding ring, or maybe the person who purchased the engagement ring didn’t even consider the notion of a matching wedding ring while at the jewelry store.
Engagement rings are meant to make more of a visual statement than the wedding band which has more specific symbolism. If a unique engagement ring was chosen, there is every possibility a matching band isn’t available. No one nor convention should dictate how you wear your rings. You can wear different styles and even different colors of gold or different precious metals if you want. Some people want a complete bridal set that is then joined later by a matching eternity band, while others like to see their rings as completely individual pieces of jewelry.
There are plenty of options to explore for your engagement/wedding ring combo.If you have a diamond engagement ring with a nice big carat center stone, you’ll want it sitting proudly on your ring finger and in no way overshadowed by your wedding band. If your engagement ring is set with small diamonds, you might want a wedding ring set that is complementary and shows both pieces of jewelry to their best advantage.
Talk to a jeweler for expert advice or visit several jewelry stores to try lots of different styles of wedding rings to find something you like. Remember too, you can commission a wedding band to be made to your specifications.