Right Hand or Left Hand?
Right vs. Left: A Cultural Perception
An engagement ring used to serve as a token of financial commitment and a placeholder for virginity. Today, the world embraces it as a symbol of love, passion, and closeness between two consenting adults. A wedding ring signifies eternal love, eternal commitment, and (hopefully) eternal happiness.
Across the globe it is generally recognized that an individual (or couple) can choose to wear wedding and engagement rings on whichever hand they please. Right or left hand - neither is correct or incorrect; it is a matter of personal preference.
Wearing your engagement and wedding bands separately is culturally and socially acceptable to most people. Different cultures observe different rituals.
In the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Iran, Chile, Italy, France, Sweden, Slovenia and other Commonwealth nations, an engagement ring is generally worn on the left hand.
In other countries such as Germany, Greece, Russia, Spain, India, Colombia, Venezuela, and Poland it is most often worn on the right hand. Orthodox Christians and Eastern Europeans also traditionally wear the wedding band on the right hand.
Jewish couples wear the wedding ring on the left hand, even though it is placed on the right hand during the marriage ceremony. In The Netherlands, Catholic people wear it on the left, all others on the right; in Austria Catholic people wear it on the right hand, but Old Catholics often wear it on the right. In Belgium, the choice of hand depends on the region of the country.
In Scandinavia, women wear three rings, one is for their engagement, the other is for their wedding vows and the third stands for motherhood.
Muslims do wear wedding rings, but this is a Western and not an Islamic tradition - one that Muslims have adopted. The ring that male Muslims are allowed to wear can be made from any material except gold. Platinum rings are allowed. In Muslim tradition there is no difference between which hand the ring is worn - usually the right, but there is no set rule or tradition.
In China the bride and groom wear their wedding rings on opposite hands. The bride wears hers on her right, while the groom wears his on the left. This is based on the Chinese custom of “nan zhuo, nu you.” The Chinese believe that since the woman is the one in charge of the family household, her ring should be worn on the right hand because the right hand exerts more influence. In Chinese tradition, engagement rings are worn on the middle finger.
According to ancient Chinese philosophy:
- The thumb represents your parents
- The index finger represents your siblings
- The middle finger represents yourself;
- The ring finger represents your life partner
- The little finger represents children
If you close your hands, with all your fingers tip-to-tip except the middle fingers, which you bend inside you will be able to:
- Open your thumbs: your parents are not destined to live with you forever.
- Open your index fingers: your siblings are going to leave you to have their own life and family.
- Open your little fingers: your children will also settle someday with a family of their own.
- Finally, try to separate your ring finger. You can't do it, since as husband and wife you are destined to be together forever.
There is, however, a less romantic and more anatomic explanation for this: All of the other fingers have two extensor tendons, while the ring finger has just one. All four fingers have the extensor digitorum communis that straightens the fingers. The small finger has the extensor digitorum minimis and the index has the extensor indicis proprius. The ring finger does not have a secondary tendon.
What you are going to read here applies to all rings, not just those made by us. The reason we are willing to share this information with you is that we are not a retail store in the conventional sense of the word.
We are not afraid to "lose a sale" by telling you the truth. There is no sale to lose. We see plenty of damaged jewelry and we feel that it is our obligation to inform you before you make the vital decision... Wearing two rings next to each other will eventually damage either one of them or both. It might take a while, but it will definitely happen. If any ring has diamonds or gemstones exposed you will see the damage faster. Even if you wear a plain solitaire next to a plain wedding band there will be eventually a groove where the two meet.
Most gemstones are much harder than any metal used in jewelry. When the two grind against each other, stones will prevail over metal. A ring is oscillating left and right on a finger during the normal course of everyday wear, and you cannot stop that movement. These minute but constant vibrations are what cause the most damage. The only type of ring that is designed to withstand the abuse of continuous wear next to another is the stackable ring.
A stackable ring is a ring where the whole surface of one ring is touching the whole surface of another ring. Of course both surfaces must be smooth and have no stones. The damage will be minimal because the physical force (friction) is spread evenly over a wider surface.
It's often incorrectly assumed that engagement rings that are modified to fit flush with wedding bands will not get damaged. This assumption does not take into account a lateral shift. The soft tissue of a finger cannot prevent the rings from shifting up and down in relation to one another. In this case, the parts that come into contact are not the smooth sides of the rings.
The top of the wedding band will have its stones ripped off by rubbing against the stems or prongs of the engagement ring. In turn, the crown or basket of the engagement ring will suffer damage as well. Diamonds are, of course, the most common gemstone used in pavé, and they also happen to be the hardest material on Earth.
Faceted diamonds have even sharper edges than rough diamonds, which are used in industrial oil drills. When two diamonds come into contact, they will chip or crush each other. A diamond coming into contact with any metal will simply grind a groove. Thin metal parts coming in contact with stones (for example prongs) will be cut in half.
So, dear friends, you might think that wearing your wedding band and engagement ring is symbolic of eternal togetherness. Yet, this togetherness is not healthy for either party. Separate the rings, maintain their individuality, and show love for your beloved (ring). Cherish it and it will serve you for eternity.
Yet Another Conspiracy
Wearing both engagement and wedding bands next to each other is often explained as “tradition.” The truth is, however, that people in the past who were conditioned to wearing both rings together were completely unaware that instead of ancient tradition, they were in fact following a clever marketing ploy.
Retail jewelers, backed by an all-powerful diamond syndicate, heavily promoted the idea in order to lock engagement ring customers into returning to the same store for their wedding band. When both rings sit right next to each other, they must look very similar in style. Someone who purchased an engagement ring in a store would hesitate to buy a wedding band at a different store in case it did not match.
If both rings are worn on different hands, then the need for an exact match is nonexistent. As a matter of fact, most bands made to match an engagement ring would look insignificant and understated on their own.
Another reason for retailers to promote wearing both rings together is that it will reduce the average life expectancy of your engagement ring significantly. This is great for the retailers who get to replace your engagement ring after only a few years. It is not so great for the customer, who not only has to deal with the emotional distress of replacing the original engagement ring, but also has to pay for it.
Engagement rings were very different in the past, and styles have evolved significantly in the last few decades. Jewelry became lighter, more intricate, with more (and often much smaller) stones encrusted on every imaginable surface. This kind of design is more delicate, and therefore its beauty must be protected by taking extra care. This extra care is nothing complicated or costly, it is as simple as minimizing the contact between any two rings.
History: Fact & Myth
Pliny the Elder tells us: "It was the custom at first to wear rings on a single finger only — the one next to the little finger, and this we see to be the case in the statues of Numa and Servius Tullius. Later it became usual to put rings on the finger next to the thumb, even with statues of the gods; and more recently still it has been the fashion to wear them upon the little finger too. Among the Gauls and Britons the middle finger — it is said — is used for the purpose. However, in our society today this is the only finger that is excluded. All the others are loaded with rings, smaller rings even being separately adapted for the smaller joints of the fingers."
The custom of placing the betrothal or wedding ring upon the fourth finger owes its origin to the romantic, albeit false theory that a special nerve or vein ran directly from the finger to the heart. This theory is originally thought to be from the Roman grammarian and Neo-Platonist philosopher, Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, who in turn received this information from an unnamed Egyptian priest.
Macrobius also explained that the fourth finger is the one protected the most. We don't even want to think what his other fingers were used for. Isadore of Seville, writing in the early part of the seventh century, also declared that the betrothal ring was placed on the fourth finger. It seems likely that this rule was generally followed in the Roman Empire up to its end.
Since Roman times, the hand used for engagement and wedding rings has changed many times, along with the reasoning behind it. For example:
- There is substantial evidence that at an early period among the Gauls, the engagement ring was placed on the right hand, and not on the left.
- A skeleton from around the seventh century was discovered in an ancient burial site wearing a gold ring on its left hand which closely resembles our wedding rings of today.
- Ecclesiastical rituals in France from the eleventh to the fifteenth century prove, with few exceptions, that the nuptial ring was to be placed on the right hand of the bride (in most of the dioceses, this was upon the middle finger, but in the diocese of Liège it was worn on the fourth finger).
- In England, prior to the Reformation, the third finger of the right hand was used, and it was only in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer when this was changed to the left. However, before this, King Edward VI of England had decreed that the third finger of the left hand should be the official ring finger (Clare Phillips, Jewels and Jewelry, 2000).
- During the Renaissance, rings were strung upon men's necklaces or hung from a thin cord around the neck. Frequently, betrothal or engagement rings were even worn on the hat.
A nameless writer tells us the fourth finger of the left hand was chosen for the placement of an engagement ring because this is the weakest finger and it cannot be used independently. A ring on that finger signified subjugation of the wife to the husband. Women are far from being dependent or subjugated, but the finger is still considered the appropriate place for wearing the engagement ring. The belief that the fourth finger should be used for placement of the ring has existed at least since the fifteenth century.
At the betrothal by proxy of Lucrezia Borgia (her previous engagements to two Spanish nobles were conveniently broken by Pope Alexander VI) to Giovanni Sforza, the record specified that twin gold rings were set with precious stones and that they were placed on the fourth finger of the left hand "whose vein leads to the heart." Apparently that vein was somewhat blocked because just in a few years they were allowed to divorce after he signed a paper attesting to his own impotence. In the year 1549, those of the Protestant faith switch the wedding ring finger from the right hand to the left hand. However, those of the Catholic faith stayed with the right ring finger as the wedding ring finger.
During the reign of George I of England (who ironically was born German and could not speak a word of English), it was not unusual to wear the wedding ring on the thumb, although it was placed on the fourth finger at the marriage ceremony. Possibly, this custom may have arisen because exceptionally large wedding rings were favored in fashion at that time. There was one notable exception in which a nobleman entering into a morganatic marriage (marriage between a high noble and a lesser noble or a non-noble) would present his left hand to receive the ring (as in "left-handed marriage").
There is another myth whose existence seems to be an invention of an unknown Wikipedia author that was left unchecked by editors and later copied by a myriad of plagiarist webmasters. It is that Baron d'Orchamps of France. The Baron was presumably an oracle and international man of mystery – informed his clients that evil influences could be warded off and good fortune could be attracted if a diamond was worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. You can search online for Baron d'Orchamps and see a list of websites who shamelessly copied this Wikipedia article without even reading the content.
There is no logic in wearing two matching rings sitting flush because both rings will merge visually into one thick shank. The combo ring will appear lopsided, and most people will assume that the craftsman had one too many Jägermeister’s. However, for those of you who really must wear your rings together, here are a few suggestions to try and minimize the damage that will inevitably occur.
We do not endorse these solutions and do not recommend using any of them. We list them so you are aware of the possibilities.
- You can permanently attach rings together. This solution is totally void of any logic - in essence you are wearing just one pregnant ring.
However, this will guarantee that neither ring will be damaged unless you recognize that permanently attaching rings is in fact damage. If you are considering this solution you might as well consider a design similar to our "Marianna" style with an air-spaced double band. With enough imagination you can call this a band and an engagement ring in one
- You can choose a fitted style of wedding band - specifically curved to hug the outline of the shank.
- You can use a "spacer," which is essentially an extra band with one side fitted to hug the engagement ring and another to be flush against the wedding band.
- You can modify your engagement ring design to have your band fit flush with the shank - essentially reducing the design by getting rid of important visual/structural elements, as well as raising the head of the ring to an undesirable height.
- You can use a tongue and groove construction (simply a set of strategic hooks) to prevent any relative movement