The Foundry Journal

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The Foundry Journal

Why We Wear our Wedding Ring on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand

October 24, 2015

In the News

Style Guide

Why We Wear our Wedding Ring on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand

October 24, 2015

Diamond Industry

Why We Wear our Wedding Ring on the Fourth Finger of the Left Hand

October 24, 2015 BY Alon Ben-Shoshan IN Style Guide

In ye oldie times, before science demystified things like thunderstorms and pregnancy, people believed all sorts of crazy stories. Oh yes, these were the days of grand metaphors like “the rain is God’s tears” and “childbirth is a punishment.” One of the most complicated systems to understand was, of course, the human body. Many cultures held taboos against cutting the body open (there was no “donating the body to science” back then). So, these societies had to come up with their own colorful theories about how the body functioned.

The Greeks were some of the best storytellers, and they invented fascinating theories surrounding the human form. They thought, for example, that the sperm lived inside the skull of a man. That’s why, in Greek mythology, things are always being born out of the heads of other things – like Athena out of Zeus.

wedding bands

Where is Athena’s mother, Metis, you ask? Oh, she’s also in Zeus’ skull. Metis, the goddess of wisdom, was Zeus’ first wife. (The two, however, did not exchange wedding bands.) Zeus ate her to absorb her wisdom and benefit from her council.

They also had some super interesting and super incorrect ideas about how the circulatory system functioned. The Greeks believed that a vein ran directly from the fourth finger on the left hand to the heart. While this is technically true, the heart pumps blood to veins all over the body – including every finger and toe, not just the one. The Romans, who were about as good at thieving as the Greeks were at storytelling, adopted this idea and named the vein “vena amoris,” which means “vein of love.” Apparently, when someone in the Roman wedding planning industry got ahold of this information, he wrote that couples should wear the wedding ring on this finger to symbolically declare their love.

There might also be more practical reason why the Romans chose the fourth finger. Since wedding bands were made out of precious metals (a tradition that the Greeks stole from the Egyptians, and then the Romans stole from the Greeks), they were also valuable commodities. The ring finger is not easily extended from the hand without moving all the other fingers. Hence this finger is the best protected, and the least likely to lose its ring.

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