When the words “ring finger” are mentioned, it’s immediately understood that we’re referring to the fourth finger (just east of the pinky) on the left hand. The wearing of a ring signifying love or commitment on this particular finger is more or less a global practice.
While most of us understand the “where” of the ring finger, a detailed knowledge of the “why” often proves more elusive. As proud purveyors of engagement ring knowledge (as well as engagement ring insurance), all of us here at Zillion are quite happy to shed some light on this story. Check it out…
As far as most historians can determine, the time-honored tradition of exchanging wedding rings dates back to the seats of so many modern-day conventions and fascinations — ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the all-time OGs in ancient Egypt. Since all these cultures believed that a vein in this particular finger ran directly to the human heart, it only made sense to adorn them with decorative, expensive bands signifying committed love.
The Romans even dubbed this main vein the “vena amoris” (Latin for “vein of love”). While we now understand that all veins map back to the heart, this hasn’t stopped the majority of the world from continuing the “ring finger” practice (though we’ll get into a few interesting deviations a bit later on).
There’s also an interesting theory regarding the left hand in China. According to this Chinese belief, each finger is a representation of the past, present, and future generations within your family. The thumb symbolizes your parents, the index finger represents your siblings, the middle finger represents yourself (not exactly the same symbolism as in America, eh?), the fourth finger stands for your life-partner, and the pinky finger symbolizes your future children.
An Ongoing and “Heartfelt” Legacy
As we all know, people today continue to proudly and naturally display their wedding and engagement rings on this particular finger. Even though we no longer believe that love and other powerful human emotions emanate from our physical hearts, we continue to associate romantic, loving, and emotional attributes and actions with this most vital of our organs. In 2022, we even have a wide variety of “heart emojis” available for convenient and cute text-based communication.
Speaking of the history and traditions surrounding love and jewelry, the Zillion blog once chronicled five of the most famous engagement rings in human history.
Exceptions to the Ring Finger Rule
Of course, there’s always an exception (or two) to every rule. This is no different when it comes to the location of the ring finger. Just like nobody says an engagement ring absolutely has to be a diamond engagement ring (and there’s an increasing trend involving alternative engagement ring gemstones), there’s no hard-and-fast, written rule that specifies wearing the most prized of all rings on the fourth finger of your left hand.
Throughout the course of recorded human history, societies have been observed where wedding rings have been worn on every single finger — including the thumb.
Married men and women in Spain, Germany, Austria, Norway, Denmark, Venezuela, and India (home to a staggering 1.38 billion people as of 2020) often wear their rings on the fourth finger — as in the fourth finger of their right hand. Why? According to popular cultural belief, the left hand is viewed as a “dirty” or even “unlucky” body part.
The Facts of the Stack
For people who opt to wear their engagement and wedding rings on the same finger, the practice of “stacking” comes into play. Married couples typically wear their wedding bands closest to their hearts, meaning they’re situated at the bottom of the ring stack, below the engagement ring and wedged close to the base of the knuckle.
In some cases, brides even opt to solder or otherwise fuse their wedding and engagement rings together, creating one beautiful, blended, and deeply connected piece of dazzling jewelry. Talk about a beautiful union.
By the way, if you want to learn more about the ins-and-outs of “stacking” wedding and engagement rings, we encourage you to read this Zillion blog post about stacking bands.
Engagement Ring Insurance: Zillion Making History
We haven’t been around all that long here at Zillion. But in just a handful of years, we’ve already carved out a nice niche as one of the most innovative and consumer-friendly names in engagement ring insurance (of course, we proudly and affordably insure a wide range of other jewelry pieces too).