Wedding rings have been on my mind the past few days, with an abundant arc of images ranging from the simplest of bands to the most glamorous and sophisticated rings passing through my mind. Why wedding rings? Am I getting married? Not at all.
Rather, I’ve been remembering my research for a quilt design to reflect the contents of Chapter 3 in my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life. The chapter tells the story of my parents’ meeting when they worked for 20th Century Fox in Manhattan in the early 1940s and their subsequent marriage. When I found two patterns I liked, the “Single Wedding Ring,” and the “Double Wedding Ring,” I became curious about the origin of wedding rings. How long had humans worn rings as a symbol of marriage?
Research revealed that historians believe the ancient Egyptians started the ring-giving tradition more than 3,000 years ago. Interestingly, those earliest-known rings were usually braided of hemp or reeds. The circular shape represented endless love between a man and woman. The third finger of the left hand was chosen as the ring finger because of the belief that particular finger held a special vein connected directly to the heart. This idea passed on to other cultures, and centuries later, became known by the Latin term vena amoris or “vein of love.”
I wondered next when and why men started to wear wedding bands and found that a small minority of bridegrooms began wearing them toward the latter part of the last century. I also found a suggestion that World War II had, in part, occasioned a shift to men wearing wedding rings, particularly soldiers, who wore them as a comforting reminder of wives, children, and family back home.
I liked both wedding ring patterns, and my choice of which to use was easy. I’d make the Single Wedding Ring because my father had never worn a wedding band. Then I became curious to know when and where the design originated, and turned to a great quilt research site I’ve found during my present quilt journey, The Quilt Index. There, in an essay by Wilene Smith on June 30, 2011, “Wedding Ring? or Single Wedding Ring?” I learned the earliest known Wedding Ring design was published as an engraving on October 1, 1887 in a Springfield, MA magazine named “Farm and Home.”
Later, in 1930 , Wedding Ring was renamed Single Wedding Ring, and although, as with many patterns, it acquired other names–for example, Saw Tooth, in 1890-1894, and Odd Scraps Patchwork in 1895-1897–it continued to be known as Wedding Ring in most publications for the next 41 years.
Smith’s essay also answered the question: When did the Wedding Ring pattern become the Single Wedding Ring? She found “…it was April 12, 1930, in the Kansas City Star newspaper illustrated by Eveline Foland and has been generally known by this name ever since.” She explores why the name changed and if the popularity of the new Double Wedding Ring pattern influenced the change. That, and a multitude of information about single and double wedding ring patterns is included in the essay at the above link.
Here is my own version:
One Wedding Ring, May, 2016