In most of the Western world, weddings and engagements are celebrated with diamond rings – a simple, sparkling gem that represents the longevity and loyalty of love and marriage. Other conventional rings are made of precious metals, such as solid gold or platinum. But elsewhere in the world, other traditions are commemorated by unique wedding rings that hold cultural and personal significance.
A Russian wedding band has three interconnected rings that combine to form one intricate piece, each ring representing one face of the trinity. This religious jewelry is typically worn by devout Catholics who consider faith to be a central element of marriage. The three rings may all be the same color, or may be made from different precious metals for added texture and depth.
Hawaiian wedding rings will often bear the name of the wearer’s spouse engraved in an old-fashioned or elaborate font, adding a highly personal touch.
Irish weddings and betrothals often feature the traditional Claddagh ring (pronounced “clad-daw”), named after the village where it was popularized. The ring features a crown, heart, and clasped hands, symbolizing loyalty, love, and friendship, and is worn in different directions to indicate friendship, betrothal, or marriage.
Puzzle rings, also known as Turkish wedding bands, may be worn to show loyalty to an absent partner. These Asian rings have many small pieces – 4, 5, 6, or 24 odd-shaped rings – that fit together into one solid ring, but crumble apart when the ring is removed from the finger. The design looks very similar to Celtic knotwork when the ring is assembled.
In India, women traditionally wear a bichiya, or a toe ring, to show their married status. Although bichiya can be worn on any toe, married women will usually wear a large, ornate ring on the big toe of either foot (or both feet). The rings are not supposed to be made with gold, which is normally worn only above the waist by Hindus, but gold and diamond bichiya are not uncommon today.
Although most couples choose to exchange similar or identical wedding rings during the ceremony, Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition calls for the bride and groom to only exchange wedding rings earlier, upon betrothal. The groom’s ring is made of plain gold and the bride’s is made of silver, and both are blessed with holy water.
In most of the world, wedding rings are worn on the third finger of the left hand. The “ring finger” was so designated because it was believed by the Romans and Egyptians that there was a nerve or vein that passed down it and ran straight to the heart. The vena amoris, or “vein of love”, was the closest jewelry could come to putting a mark of love and devotion around the heart. In some parts of the world, the ring is worn on the right hand because it is considered more righteous.