When did the tradition of exchanging rings begin as a symbol of marriage?
According to several sites that I found in a Google search, there’ve been wedding rings since ancient Egypt. Others claim that the idea originated in Rome. And one supposes that the idea has its origins in cavemen tying up their mates.
Either way, we’re talking Way Long Ago.
Don’t know about wedding rings per se, but engagement rings are a relatively new development (relative to racinchikki’s troglodytic derivation, at least). A quick search of Cecil’s archives brings us this Staff Report on Engagement rings.
In any case, thank the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 for that big rock on your ring finger.
Great! Now I know where to send the bill.
The Staff missed the Dope on this one. While it appears that it is a historical fact that in 1477 the Archduke Maximillian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a diamond engagement ring, it is a little misleading to say that this began the tradition of diamond engagement rings. The tradition is essentially a 20th century phenonmenon, created by a deliberate marketing scheme devised by the De Beers cartel. This story was invented by an advertising agency hired by De Beers and has been repeated so many times it appears to be fact.
Here is one of the many marketing strategies used to brainwash the American public:
Read more about these marketing strategies and the history of diamonds here. It just goes to show how the wealthy and powerful can manipulate the truth.
In the Bible, it is recorded that Abraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for his son Issac. When Eliezer found Rebecca, he presented her with a ring as a gift.
Perhaps this is the first recorded engagement ring. This would have been about 4000 years ago.
We know by oral tradition that this ring was a nose ring.
Jews have been giving a ring in the marriage ceremony (groom to bride only, not an exchange of rings) since at least Mishnaic times. This predates the Rome-originated-it theory.
The “Ancient Egypt” theory holds up, though. Not that they originated it, per se, but that they had them.