At Antiquities Giftshop, we stock a variety of Roman Handfast Rings. These are usually
[caption id="attachment_630" align="alignleft" width="108"] A typical bronze Roman Handfast Ring in excellent condition[/caption]
made of bronze, and depict the clasped right hands of a man and woman as a central motif. The correct term for this motif is ‘dextrarum iunctio.’ Most handfast rings date from the first to the fourth centuries AD, and they are regularly being unearthed all over Europe.
When a Roman girl’s husband was chosen for her, usually in her early teens, the deal would be sealed with the exchange of rings, and the clasped hands motif was very popular. In fact, the modern engagement and wedding rings originated in ancient times. Many experts claim they were a Roman invention, although others credit the Celts with starting the tradition. The Celts certainly started the custom of handfasting, which was the inspiration for the Roman rings.
Either way, it is an enduring custom, and in recent years, modern couples have expressed the desire to have an ancient ring as a wedding ring. Due to the vogue for including a pagan handfasting ceremony within the wedding service, Roman Handfast Rings are increasingly sought after.
In Roman times, this type of ring was frequently referred to as a Concordia, after the Roman goddess Concord, the bringer or marital harmony. Handfast rings are being uncovered in all sizes, so clearly they were worn by men as well as women. The central motif is a metaphor for harmony, loyalty and fidelity, all admirable sentiments in a betrothed couple, and of course every time they looked at the rings, they would be reminded of their vows.
The Roman Handfast Ring then, is a deeply symbolic piece of ancient jewellery. These days, symbolism and spiritualism seem to figure majorly in weddings, which is why many modern couples are keen to have one of these rings that was first used to seal a marriage around 2000 years ago. There really is nothing new under the sun!
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