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Q: Victorian women wearing wedding rings ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Victorian women wearing wedding rings
Category: Reference, Education and News
Asked by: kh22-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 26 Apr 2005 07:08 PDT
Expires: 26 May 2005 07:08 PDT
Question ID: 514391
Did middle-class British women in the nineteenth century always wear
wedding rings on the fourth finger of their left hand?  When did
engagement rings become the norm for this kind of woman?
Subject: Re: Victorian women wearing wedding rings
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 26 Apr 2005 07:52 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello kh22~

The average 19th century middle class Englishwoman did wear her
wedding ring on what we now call "the ring finger" (fourth finger,
left hand). It's true that the 1549 Book of Common Prayer designated
the third finger of the left hand the wedding band finger. However, by
the 18th century, the placement of the wedding band moved, at least in
part because of the way it was placed on the hand. During the wedding
ceremony, the groom held the ring over the bride?s hand. Beginning
with the left thumb, he said ?In the name of the Father, in the name
of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Ghost,? and with each name,
moved the ring over one finger. When he said ?Amen,? he placed the
ring on what is known today as ?the ring finger.?


While most Englishwomen wore a wedding band, engagement rings were not
considered mandatory in 19th century England. Nonetheless, betrothal
rings go back to ancient times, and it's likely that many, if not
most, middle class Englishwomen had some form of engagement ring.
However, it wasn't until the 1870s that the diamond solitaire
engagement ring came into vogue, made popular by the famous jeweler
Tiffany. Still, it's unlikely that the average middle class woman
owned such a ring. She was more likely to receive a gold band with
engraving on it, or a ring with less-expensive gemstones, or even a
"regard" ring. (For the latter, each gemstone used spelled out the
bride's name, or some other pertinent word.For example, the word
?dear? was ?spelled? with a Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby.)

Kind regards,



Researcher's personal knowledge

Book: "A Bride's Book of Wedding Traditions" by Arlene Stewart,

Book: "Carry Me Over the Threshold" by Kristina Seleshanko

Request for Answer Clarification by kh22-ga on 26 Apr 2005 08:26 PDT
Thank you for this. 

I have a photograph of a young woman, taken around 1854 in a
commercial studio in Cheapside.  She is London born and bred and her
father is a well-to-do printer.  She is not wearing rings on any of
her fingers.  Am I safe in assuming that she was certainly not married
and probably not engaged at the time the picture was taken?

Clarification of Answer by kriswrite-ga on 26 Apr 2005 09:11 PDT
Hi again kh22~

Yes, you can be reasonably certain that she was neither married (she
would be wearing some sort of ring), nor officially engaged (she'd
most likely be wearing a ring).

I hope this helps!
kh22-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Really prompt and precise answer and clarification.  Perfect.

Subject: Re: Victorian women wearing wedding rings
From: answerfinder-ga on 26 Apr 2005 08:59 PDT
Dear kh22-ga,
You may find these contemporary accounts from the Times Newspaper of
interest. I accessed them through my library.

Times Tuesday, Feb 11, 1840
Wedding of Queen Victoria
?...The Archbishop of Canterbury then took the ring, a plain gold
ring, from his Royal Highness, and placing it to the fourth finger of
Her Majesty returned to His Royal Highness. Prince Albert put it on,
repeating after his Grace these words- With this ring...?

Thursday, Feb 11, 1858
Court of Exchequer
Killick v. Wilkinson
Civil Court case on a breach of promise to marry. Daughter of a
jeweller and an army Captain.
Father?s evidence
?...He brought an engagement ring for my daughter. It was arranged
that the wedding should take place in a fortnight or three weeks.?

Tuesday, Sep 01, 1868
Liverpool Summaer Assize
Booth v. Hudson
Breach of promise to marry bteween a cook and a coachman. During their
?courting? he had given her an ?engagement ring?.

Tuesday, Aug 31, 1869
Highgate Petty Sessions
Unlawful damage case
Doctor Barson, teacher of languages and Doctor of Divinity, gave
evidence of purchasing and giving an engagement ring to Miss Cox a
daughter of the proprietor of East-End College.

Monday, Jul 24, 1876
Midland Circuit
Civil Court
Morley v. Wiggington
Breach of promise of a marriage between the daughter of Post-Master and a chemist.
?There was no dispute there was an engagement, and the defendant gave
the plaintiff an engagement ring, though he hesitated for some to do
so, thinking it unlucky.?

Several other later references during the Victorian period to court
cases for breach of promise to marry where engagement rings were

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