The wedding ring is the most ancient of all marriage traditions. The Egyptians used the wedding ring as a symbol of marriage where, in hieroglyphics, the circle represents eternity. The most common placement for wearing a wedding ring is on the third finger of the left hand. This custom may have originated with the Egyptians, who believed that a vein on the left hand was directly connected to the heart. Since the heart controlled both life and love, this finger was the most honoured and deserved the ring.
There are two other explanations, one being practical in that the third finger is the most protected finger, as the left hand is the least used and of those fingers, the third is the one that can be least extended by itself.
The other reason stems from the Christian Church which declared that the thumb and the first two fingers of the hand stood respectively for the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and that the third finger stood for the earthly love of man for woman, their marriage together, and the hope of Heaven to follow.
“With this rynge I thee wed, and this gold and silver I thee give, and with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly chatels I thee endow.” When the groom had said these words, he held the ring first over the tip of the thumb of the ring hand, saying, "In the name of the father" then over the tip of the second finger saying, "And of the Son" then over the tip of the third finger, saying, "And of the Holy Ghost" and, lastly, placed it firmly on the fourth finger with a resolute "Amen".
Before the use of metals, rings were made of hay, braided grass, leather, bone and ivory. Iron was the first metal used for rings, to symbolise the strength of the couples bond. In the fifteenth century, the British enhanced the symbol by replacing iron with gold.
During Elizabethan times, Gimmal rings (which are a set of three interlocking rings) were separated and worn by the bride to be, the groom to be, and their witness, during the engagement. On the wedding day the three pieces were united as a single ring for the bride. Gimmal rings were also made as a set of two rings for the bride and groom only.