We’ve seen enough wedding proposals on TV shows and movies to know that we wear an engagement ring on the fourth finger on the left hand. Right? Or do we? In Western culture (ok, TV culture) we've settled on the left side as the prime zone to wear the engagement ring. A flash of a diamond from the left hand instantly signals that you're promised to someone.
It turns out, the tradition of wearing a ring on this finger goes as far back as Ancient Egypt and Rome. Without the benefit of ultrasound machines, the ancients believed that a vein (they coined the ‘vena amoris' or the vein of love) ran from the fourth finger on the left hand straight to the heart. The jewelry literally linked the oath of devotion to the heart. It's a pretty romantic concept. That's if it weren't horribly anatomically incorrect, of course.
Here’s a rundown of how to wear your engagement ring in western tradition, if you're still confused about how to wear your wedding and engagement rings:
When the proposal is made. Some partners propose with a simple non-expensive ring as a stand-in symbolic ring. This is worn on the fourth finger on the left hand and replaced with a diamond ring once it's been designed and made to fit the bride-to-be.
On the wedding day. The engagement ring is worn on the right hand, or not at all. It’s placed on the ring finger after the wedding, with the wedding band closest to your hard.
During the marriage. An eternity ring, which symbolizes eternal love (and is sometimes gifted when a couple has their first baby) is worn on the ring finger after the engagement ring. The rule of thumb is that the wedding ring must always be first on the finger, followed by engagement and then the eternity – but really this is personal choice and could depend on the design of the bands.
It's equally common in some parts of the world for the ring to be worn on the opposite hand. Wearing it on the fourth finger on the right hand doesn't change or diminish its meaning in Russia, India, Scandinavia, and some South American countries. In Chile, specifically, both men and women gift one another engagement rings (hello, man-gagement rings!), which are worn on their right hands and move to their left hands once married.
Religion also determines which hand gives a permanent home to the ring. Catholics tend to wear engagement rings on the right side, and a wedding ring on the left. This dates back centuries to a time when wearing it on the right hand was associated with strength. A touch of religious politics is responsible for the majority of European brides-to-be making the switch and wearing their rings on the left side. When the Anglican Church broke away from the Catholic Church, it was decided to make a move simply because it was the opposite of what their religious rivals did.
But it gets even more complicated than that when it comes to determining which hand to put an engagement ring on. When people of the Jewish faith get married, the engagement ring is placed on the index finger and then moved to join the wedding band after the ceremony. In a similar vein, most western brides choose to walk down the aisle free of their engagement ring. The wedding band is placed on the ‘ring finger' during the vow ceremony. Only after the wedding does the diamond engagement ring take its pride of place with the newcomer. And it's here that ‘location, location, location' becomes more critical than ever. The wedding band should be placed on the ring first, and the engagement ring after. This is to enable the wedding band to rest as close to the heart as possible.
Thanks to globalization and cultures mixing, there isn't an absolutely ‘correct’ way to wear an engagement ring anymore. Modern brides get to break the rules and make the way they wear their rings their own. But if you like to stick to the Western tradition, wear it on your left hand.
If you work with your hands a lot or need to remove your rings before you hit the gym, wearing rings on your fingers at all may be impractical. There’s a growing trend to wear both engagement and wedding rings on a necklace.
Another practical consideration is for left-handed people. We're primed to use our dominant hands more than our non-dominant one. This means if you’re left handed the jewelry on your ring finger is more likely to be scratched and worn. So, if you see a woman sporting a right-handed engagement ring, chances are she’s a leftie doing her best to protect her precious gems. Either way, it really is ultimately your choice.
And just when we think we've got things figured out; engagement rings have found a new home on pinky fingers. Diamond rings are being seen increasingly worn on the fifth finger of the left hands of women, in what's being called a proclamation of ‘self-love'. Wearing a ‘self-love' ring on this finger is said to be a statement that women are making of giving a ‘pinky promise' to themselves to never forget to make their self-care and respect a priority. It’s a pretty beautiful sentiment.
Other women are choosing to skip wearing wedding bands at all. They're choosing instead to have their engagement ring do double duty, and it's (re)placed on their finger during the wedding ceremony.
Celebrities seldom abide by traditions. It’s their prerogative to trailblaze new trends, and this extends to expressing their creativity in what – and how – they wear fashion and jewelry. Kim Kardashian famously took a poke at the tradition when she took up wearing an engagement ring on both hands after Kanye West gifted her a second engagement ring. Two rings are better than one in Kim’s book! More is more in the land of Kardashian.
Little sister Kylie also likes to keep the world guessing. She popped up on Instagram, wearing a sparkling ring on her right hand. It sent her followers into a frenzy speculating if she was or wasn't engaged to Travis Scott. Kylie clearly adored the ring and wanted to share it with her fans. Whether it had any deep symbolism attached, she wasn’t letting on.
When Hailey Baldwin and Justin Bieber became engaged, the engagement ring was hard to ignore. Without announcing their relationship status publicly, they left it up to their fans to come to their conclusions. Within weeks Hailey was sporting not one, but three rings. A giant gold band joined her engagement ring on her left hand. Another diamond beauty appeared simultaneously on her right hand. The duo eventually confessed that they had tied the knot. The oval engagement ring which featured a delicate gold band would look gorgeous on Ms. Bieber, whichever hand she chooses to wear it on.
Choosing an engagement ring with your partner can be an enriching and poignant part of the journey you’re embarking on together. The benefit of pre-engagement shopping is that you can get your ring finger measured so that the ring can be made to fit you perfectly.
Shimansky has a breath-taking selection of diamond engagement rings, with many cuts to choose from. These include the patented My Girl diamond cut and the Brilliant 10 diamond, considered to be the most brilliant cut diamond in the world. We invite you to visit your nearest Shimansky showroom or consultation with a Shimansky expert.