June 13, 2022
One day many moons ago, someone said "I like circles, I like fingers, let’s get this party started" and just like that, rings were born. Some maintain that rings were created by a time traveling Vera Wang, but recent discoveries point towards Ryan Reynold in an effort to expedite his 2011 cinematic masterpiece, Green Lantern.
Rings have been around for millennia and, though their exact origins are unknown, it is believed that rings were first worn by Egyptian pharaohs around 5000 years ago. With their meaning and popularity growing and changing over thousands of years, rings have had quite a journey from being made with woven grasses and bone to the enormous precious stone and metal industries that dominate the wedding and fashion industries today.
The first recorded instance of rings being worn is from Egyptian hieroglyphics, which date back as far as 2,800 BC. These early rings were originally plant based, made from grasslike plants such as sedges and reeds that could be braided to form a ring. These materials, unlike our bamboo rings, weren’t durable and ancient Egyptians transitioned to more robust materials like bone, wood, and leather.
Rings continued to be popular in ancient Egypt, with both men and women wearing them. They evolved to use a variety of materials such as gold, silver, ivory, and carnelian which were often decorated with images of gods and goddesses.
Interestingly, Egyptians thought of rings’ circular shape as having no beginning or end and saw them as symbols of eternity that represented the sun and moon and their associated gods, Ra and Khonsu. Not only did the ring itself symbolize eternity, but the open area inside the ring was thought to be a portal to another unknown world (like Stargate for your finger).
As rings began to make their way around the world, their styles and meaning changed. Their use made its way through the Greek and Roman empires, where we first began to see rings used as symbols of betrothal towards the late 800s. These rings became increasingly ornate and in the 13th century the Church told its followers to tone it down and the good people obliged. Wedding bands were much simpler from then on.
From the Middle Ages through modern times, rings began to quickly gain popularity and function. In the Middle Ages, knights wore rings with their lord's crest to show allegiance. They were also outward symbols of power and status, passed down through generations. This marked the rise of the signet ring, which was used to seal important documents, letters, and convey privileges (as we’ve seen in a million movies and all wish we signed documents with a wax seal). They were even bestowed as gifts to mark special occasions.
This is when people really started to get the memo, rings were great, and their popularity took off. For nobility, rings were an essential part of courtly attire, and their selections were carefully scrutinized for political significance. Kings and queens exchanged rings as a sign of peace, while rivals vied for control of powerful rings that had once belonged to fallen enemies. (Watch “Lord Of The Rings” for reference)
In an era when gestures carried great weight, the giving and receiving of rings held immense importance. And for those who wielded them, rings could be the keys to their claim to power or the source of their undoing.
Rings in the Renaissance saw the incorporation of gemstones, with some believing that they even had talismanic powers to ward off evil. Inscriptions also became popular, featuring devotional or romantic messages, sometimes written in the timeless love language of French.
In the Victorian Era, rings were widely adopted. Gold and silver rings with gems adorned the fingers of the aristocracy, while cheaper versions were worn by the working class.
However, all rings shared one common purpose: to show the world that the wearer belonged to a certain group. In a time when rigid social divisions were the norm, rings played an important role in indicating a person's place in society. But rings also had a more personal significance. They could be used to send secret messages or signal clandestine meetings.
In a time when propriety was everything, rings allowed people to communicate in ways that were both subtle and dramatic. In the Victorian era, rings were not just pieces of jewelry—they were pieces of history.
While rings are a very common part of today’s culture, their history is anything but simple. For centuries, rings have been used as a symbol of power, status, and love. Kings and queens have adorned their fingers with lavish jewels, while couples have exchanged modest bands as a sign of their devotion.
In the past they may have had immense power and signified control of a kingdom, today they are most commonly symbols of engagement, marriage, achievement, or just fashion. With advancements in technology, rings have become much easier to manufacture with precision, giving rise to an opulence not before achievable.
The typical engagement ring consists of a precious metal band with a diamond focus. Many have been led to believe that diamond engagement rings are based in centuries old tradition but the truth is that it wasn’t a common practice before the 1930s. Enter one of the most successful marketing campaigns of all time, created by De Beers.
In the 1930s De Beers decided to undertake a massive marketing campaign. The goal: to increase sales of their diamonds. How they planned to do it: equate a diamond ring to the strength of love in a relationship. They even went as far as to set their own price by suggesting men spend 1 month’s salary on an engagement ring (that number has since risen steadily). This is the very campaign from which the famous slogan “A diamond is forever” originated. To say this was a wildly successful marketing campaign is an understatement. As a matter of fact, only around 10% of brides received a diamond ring in the 1940s, compared to around 80% in the 1990s. De Beers wholesale diamond sales between 1939 and 1979 increased from $23M to $2.1B.
But engagements haven’t been all diamonds and forevers since. A major controversy has erupted in recent years due to the origin of the diamonds and the means taken to acquire them. Conflict diamonds, or “blood diamonds” as they are called, generally come from parts of Africa and became a huge topic of conversation and concern. Conflict diamonds are those which have been stolen or illegally mined and sold to fund violent militia or terrorist groups. These groups often commit unspeakable atrocities and force men, women, and children to dig for diamonds under unimaginable conditions. To combat this, the UN and the Conflict Free Diamond Council have put strict regulations in place to ensure these diamonds do not make it to market, in an attempt to discourage the Blood Diamond trade.
Let’s move right on to love, something happier. Wedding rings are an outward symbol of eternal love, about 50% of the time and (at least) temporary love the other half-ish times. Like we mentioned before, back in the 13th century when rings were getting a bit ridiculous, the Church made a stern suggestion that rings should be simple as to let a couple’s love, not their rings, speak for the relationship. While you’ll still see wedding rings with diamonds and gems, they are traditionally less ostentatious than engagement rings. Men’s wedding rings are especially simple, as a standard band made from a precious metal. While gold has typically been the go-to for men’s wedding bands, recent years have seen other metals increase in popularity, like tungsten, titanium, platinum, and other rare precious metals.
It wasn’t always the case that men wore wedding rings, that was typically reserved for women, but a few things changed that. In the 1900s when men were going off to war, some started wearing wedding bands as a way to remember their loved ones at home. Men also started wearing rings as an outward sign of betrothal as to reduce temptation of infidelity. Naughty naughty.
Aside from engagements and weddings, there are plenty of reasons that people wear rings from school graduation to symbols of sports achievement like the enormous Super Bowl rings warn by each year’s winner. Some precious rings were even highly sought after in ill-conceived, greed-filled attempts to control Middle-earth and turn invisible. In other cases, the mere thought of rings has been enough to terrify bachelors for hundreds of years.
Lately, rings have become a huge fashion trend with many different types of shapes, designs, and styles from skinnies and fat rings that go knuckle to knuckle to toe rings. They continue to be a popular choice for jewelry, with many people wearing multiple rings on each hand.
While metal rings are still the most popular choice for engagement and wedding rings, a new trend has emerged in recent years, wooden rings. Made from a variety of different woods, these rings are unique and stylish, and they offer a rustic look that is perfect for those who want something a little different.
The history of wooden rings go back to 1775. In many cultures, wood was the preferred material for making wedding and engagement rings. As a natural material that is strong and durable, wood has a warm, earthy quality that is very appealing and a welcomed choice as we find ourselves increasingly surrounded by metal and glass.
Wooden Rings are a way for us to connect back to our roots and the softer, natural side of life. For us, we chose a material that is both beautiful and strong like wood but is, in fact, a grass. Bamboo has a gorgeous grain that is made up of hundreds of tiny fibers that run the length of the culm through nodes that give it it’s iconic look. What’s incredible about our bamboo is that how we shape and finish our rings gives a different vantage point of these fibers in a 360 degree look. While most wood rings are light and look good, single layer hardwoods can often break easily since the grain runs in only one direction. Our bamboo rings are crafted from 3 plies of bamboo, which makes them extremely strong, durable, light and, best of all, won’t break the bank. As one of the Earth’s most sustainable materials, we thought sustainability was a nicer symbol than over-used, expensive, controversial diamonds.
Rings have had quite the journey and are more than just pieces of jewelry—they are symbols of love, friendship, achievement, and commitment. Throughout history, rings have been used to express the wearer's deepest emotions to their status and now can be as simple as an accent to an outfit. Whether they are given as a gift or passed down through generations, rings are here to stay, and we are along for the ride.