Ever wonder why the wedding ring is worn on the next-to-last finger? Did you know some cultures use the left-hand ring finger, and others the right? Though most modern-day ring wearers don't know the reasoning, when it comes to rings, there is a place for everything and every ring in its place.
Ring placement is two parts symbolism and three parts fashion, and has been, historically. A portrait of Henry VIII shows him with three rings: one on each index finger, and a third on the pinky of his left hand. In Germany, Charles V posed while wearing one large ring on the ring finger of his left hand, while on the right he wears a glove, slit for rings on his index and ring fingers.
In the early days of the Roman Catholic Church, the thumb and first two fingers of the hand were used to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. For this reason, a priest wore a ring on the "Holy Ghost" finger, according to Webster's On-line Dictionary, as a token of his spiritual office.
This symbolism carried into the wedding ceremony. Medieval wedding rituals from Spain to Norway required the groom to first place the wedding ring on the bride's thumb, then pointer finger, middle finger, and finally the ring finger. This was to symbolise the marriage's unity with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Another reason that the finger nearest the pinky on the left hand was chosen for the wedding ring comes from Egypt. Appianus, a second century Greek historian, writes that the Egyptians believed a most delicate vein travels from the ring finger of the left hand to the heart. They chose this finger with the Venus amoris for wedding rings. Still others in history claim it is a nerve which connects the ring finger to the heart.
Palmistry takes a slightly different look at the subject, naming each finger for a Greek god. Starting next to the thumb, which remains unnamed, there is Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo and Mercury. According to Wellstone Jewelry, the index finger (Jupiter) is the leadership finger. It represents confidence and ambition. The middle finger (Saturn) is the moral compass, where the understanding of right, wrong and justice reside. Wellstone states that the ring finger (Apollo) is such because a ring brings attention to its qualities: creativity, grace, and compassion. The little finger (Mercury) is the place of intuition. Finally, the thumb represents will.
The wedding ring's placement is explained well by all three theories. From palmistry, there are creativity, grace, and compassion, and from Catholicism, there is unity with the Creator. From ancient Egypt comes the mistaken, but beautiful notion, that the ring finger and the heart are connected.