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Wedding band

A wedding band is the traditional European token of marriage worn by a spouse to indicate a marital commitment to chastity. It consists of a precious metal band worn on the base of the fourth finger (thumb counted as no. 1). This custom is echoed by the "enagement ring" traditionally given as a betrothal present, and the "promise ring" often given when serious courting begins.

It is rude to make sexual overtures to a man or woman wearing a wedding ring. It is common for chaste married people, especially men, to fail to wear a ring. People often remove wedding rings for comfort or safety.

A band of any material (even a rubber band) is accepted to complete most religious marital ceremonies, with unusual substitutions permitted in marriages under unusual circumstances. Rubber bands are often used when people marry on ship-board, and no ring can be fitted.

The most traditional material is a precious yellow alloy of gold, hardened with copper, tin and bismuth. Platinum and white alloys of gold are accepted as equivalent or superior to gold. The least expensive material in common use is nickel silver, the traditional choice of poor young couples who marry for love. Stainless steel is so cheap that many consider it insulting. Silver, copper, brass and other corroding metals are never used because they stain the skin. Titanium, aluminum and other poisonous metals are never used. Rings made by either spouse are considered so precious that any material is acceptable- even if practically unwearable.

If a woman's ring becomes unwearable, it is unremarkable for the woman to wear it on a chain around her neck. This is socially equivalent to wearing it on her hand.

Christians, or traditionalists wear the ring on their left hand. Jews traditionally wear it on their right hand.

The plain gold band is the most popular pattern. It is commonly worn by medical personnel because it can be kept very clean. Woman usually wear narrow bands, while men wear broader bands.

In France and French-speaking countries, a common pattern is three interleaved rings. They stand for "faith, hope and love," where love is that particular type of perfect distinterested love indicated by the ancient Greek word agape. It is provocative that this pattern slides off quickly, because the rings flow over each other.

Puzzle rings are sometimes given to and worn by men in Greek, Italian and Anatolian cultures. These are sets of interlocking metal bands that must be arranged just so in order to be worn as a single ring. Women wryly give them as a test for their mens' chastity. Even when the man masters the puzzle, the ring still cannot be removed and replaced quickly!

In North America, many women wear two rings: an "engagement ring" at the base of the finger, and just above it, a plain wedding band. The rings are often purchased in pair that were designed to fit together.

Engagement rings

An engagement ring is given as a betrothal gift by a courting man when a woman agrees to marry him. It is a formal agreement to chastity and a future marriage. It traditionally is a precious band, and mounts a diamond or other gem.

Women traditionally refuse offers of marriage by refusing to take the offered engagement ring.

A woman who accepts an engagement ring, and then does not marry the man is considered dishonorable. If she keeps the ring, she is considered grasping and dishonest as well as dishonorable.

An engagement ring is intentionally expensive as a sign of the man's permanency of interest. It is universally held that if the betrothal fails because the man pursues other women or breaks off the engagement, the woman is not obliged to return the ring.

Diamond is traditional because it is the most enduring, beautiful and expensive gem. Stones above five carats indicate wealth. Stones below a half carat, or very cloudy (low grade) are the traditional sign of impoverished love.

Many women prefer colored stones. Sapphires, star sapphires, emaralds and rubies are often used in engagement rings. Pearls and opals are rare, because these are soft stones.

At one time, engagement rings mounted sets of stones. One traditional sentimental pattern mounted six to celebrate the joining of two families: The birth stones of the brides parents and the bride (on the left), and the birth stones of the groom and his two parents (on the right). The parents' stones were mounted with the mother to the left of the father. The bride and groom's birth stones would be adjacent in the center. Another similar pattern, for four stones, mounted the borth stone of the parents' marriages, and the birth stones of the bride and groom. These token rings often disassembled, to expose a channel in which a lock of the suitors' hair could be treasured.

Promise rings

Promise rings are small, inexpensive rings given to a boy friend or girl friend, to promise not to court a rival. These indicate merely that serious courting is under way. No permanent commitment has been made by either party, but they give a girl an excuse for refusing a social invitation by her suitor's rival. Girls traditionally judge the seriousness of a promise ring by its value, and the size of its gem.

Promise rings with a value of more than a half-week's pay are considered engagement rings- and refused if the girl lacks a desire for a permanent relationship with the man.

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