Vena Amoris

‘Third Finger Left Hand’, the 1972 hit for English girl duo The Pearls is often still played at weddings today.  But the history of the wedding ring and on which finger it is placed goes back centuries. 

The ancient Egyptians believed there was a vein from the forth finger left hand that led directly to the heart. The Egyptians wove grasses and reeds into circles, symbolising eternity and completeness. Exchanging these rings as a token of devotion. In Greek mythology the base of this finger was known as the Mount of Apollo. A symbol of eternal love, beauty and creativity associated with the god Apollo.  Lovers gave rings depicting Eros the god of love.

The Vena Amoris or ‘vein of love’ was the Roman belief. That a vein from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart; the heart being the centre of our emotions.  Unfortunately the vena amoris does not exist, there isn’t a vein that links directly to  the heart. It’s such a shame as it has lovely romantic connotations.  But it is believed the Romans were the first to associate rings and marriage.  Often with a fede ring, depicting two hands clasped in love.  A derivative of the fede and still worn today is the Irish Claddagh ring, two hands holding a crowned heart. The Claddagh ring was first designed in the 16th century, thirteen centuries after the original fede rings of Rome.

Over time, materials used for wedding rings also evolved.  From the first depictions in reeds, leather and bone, eventually metals such as iron, silver and gold would be popular choices. Later, diamonds and other gemstones would be added as the craftsmen’s skills developed. The first documented diamond betrothal ring was in 1475 at the wedding of Costanzo Sforza and Camilla D’Aragona in Italy. Their wedding poem read;

“Two wills, two hearts, two passions are bonded in one marriage by a diamond”  

Though the significance and practice of exchanging rings has evolved, there are still cultural differences that vary.  In many countries the wedding ring will go on the right hand. The Jewish tradition has the brides wedding ring placed on the index finger of her right hand, as it is the most prominent.  A less cultural but more social development of recent history was the increase in popularity for a man to wear a wedding band.  During World War II many married men would wear wedding rings to remind them of their wives and families while they were away.

The history of the wedding ring is a fascinating one.  Throughout time though, its significance has remained the same. It represents an unbreakable bond of love and commitment between two people.