Why is there a finger called the ring finger? When people refer to the ring finger, they are referring to a specific finger: the third finger (or fourth if you count the thumb as a finger), the finger next to the pinkie. It got it’s name because it is by far the most common finger for rings. It is the finger for the wedding, engagement and anniversary rings and connected with love and the heart in diverse cultures and traditions. The story of the ring finger dates back to Roman times and earlier in Western Civilization.
The Roman Tradition
The Romans had a belief that the third finger of the left hand was where a special vein resided: the heart vein or “Vena Amoris”. The Roman early tradition was to take women into ownership by placing a ring on this finger. This was essential laying claim to a woman. That tradition died out later and the husband did not have any rights over his wife. The Christian tradition of the wedding ring may have simply borrowed to ring placement from the Roman culture, and restored to the ring finger its tradition as a symbol of eternal love.
The Wedding Ring
In Western culture the wedding ring is usually worn on the left ring finger. Christian culture began to use wedding rings as a symbol of betrothal in the 9th century. These early wedding rings were very ornamental. It was not until the 14th century that the wedding ring as we know it, the simple gold band, came into common use. The church at that time began to discourage ornamental rings. The ornamentation was associated with the ‘heathen’ past and the simple new look was associated with a spiritual new beginning.
So why was the wedding ring placed on the third finger of the right hand? There is no correct answer to this question. Some people minimize the Roman roots of this practice. More practical people have minimized the Roman tradition and put forth the idea that the ring placement was a result of minimizing damage and maximizing value. The third finger on the left hand was a place where a large ring could be put and still stay out of harms way, since most people were right handed. In this matter, you can decide: romance or rationality.
The wedding ring tradition in England, where the ring was worn on the left third finger, did not really become an established tradition in Western culture until the 17th century. Before then, it could have been worn on any finger. The left third finger of the wedding ring is the tradition we currently follow here in the USA, England, France, Brazil, and many other countries. Many countries, such as India and Brazil prefer the right hand, as the left hand is considered to be unlucky.
The Engagement Ring
The engagement ring is usually presented to the woman as a gift when the man proposes to the woman. It represents an agreement to get married. The engagement ring is always put on the ring finger. This is where some Western traditions diverge. The general custom is to put the ring on the left hand, but this is not always the case. Some traditions have the engagement ring on the right hand. Even others have it on the right hand and then move it to the left hand after marriage. Today, you do not need to be overly concerned with which hand, right or left, is the correct hand, or if you should move the engagement ring. You can do what best suits you. In our modern world, tradition is optional.
The Anniversary Ring
An anniversary ring is a ring given after the first year of marriage. It is put together with the wedding and engagement rings on the ring finger. The anniversary ring does not have any historical underpinnings. This ring is where custom, tradition, and marketing blur, so I will not spend too much time on it. Suffice to say that if you do decide to get one, you will want to put it on the ring finger. It is a nice gift for your wife, who has now put up with you for one whole year and should be rewarded!
Astrological Meaning of the Ring Finger
The ancient tradition of astrology has its own take on the ring finger. Astrologist say that the ring finger signifies emotion, creativity and the heart. A ring on the “ring” finger represents a connection to the heart and our feelings of affection and love. This connects with the more traditional meanings of the ring finger as a symbol of love and marriage. Astrology differentiates the meaning of the ring on the ring finger based on whether or not the ring was a gift, or if the ring was put on by the owner. If a gift, then it is about love and romance and love for another. If a gift to yourself, then it represents self-love and an egotistical nature, or someone trying to boost those natures in themselves.
Much Ado About A Finger
Of all the fingers on all the hand, the ring finger stands supreme. It is intertwined with love, marriage, history, and culture and as its name suggests, it is the most important finger for rings. If you are buying a ring for yourself, you may want to put it on the index finger, but if you are buying it for your sweetheart, the ring finger is where it should be.