Monday, January 23, 2012

Ancient Roman Betrothal Jewelry

Spring in Italy, by Michael Longo
Purchase this and other pieces at

"Italy and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy."
~Bertrand Russell

In in effort to spread happiness, I am bringing first love, spring, and Italy all into one post for you. Though I can't physically alter the fact that the whole West Coast is experiencing winter in all its glory, I aim to bring a little sunshine into your home with this beautiful painting of Italy in the spring, as well as a few tidbits from the research I've done on Italian betrothal jewelry and customs.

Though I must stick to my focus and write about the jewelry, I was thrilled to read about how the men at Italian weddings customarily dance with their suit jackets open, something I've seen my Italian relatives do on occasion with great flair. Any guesses as to why they would do this?

evviva gli spossi
Photo credit: NozzeClick

There is also the tradition, customarily the role of an inebriated gentleman guest, of calling out "evviva gli spossi" ("hurray for the newlyweds"). Following the lead of this first hurrah, if there was even a hint of a lull in the dancing, eating, or partying, someone else in the crowd would inevitably liven things up with a hearty shout of "evviva gli spossi".

Hands down, Italians know how to party with flair, and they also know how to bring style to all they do. Here we turn our attention toward the jewels. Though at the outset the custom of presenting a woman with a diamond engagement ring may seem timeless and universal, it is imperative that we pay homage to Ancient Rome, one of the founding mothers of this modern-day custom.

Fede Ring
Photo Credit: Explore Italian Culture

In Ancient Rome, betrothals were tantamount to corporate mergers. A betrothed woman was presented with an iron ring (commemorated now in the Italian custom whereby the groom carries a piece of iron in his shirt pocket to ward off evil spirits).

Said iron ring served as a sign of the iron-clad, binding contract between families, pardonable only by the death of the intended. Thankfully, the custom of business mergers went out of fashion just as the iron ring gave way to the more beautiful gold bands which became popular in the third century.

Eventually, these simple gold bands gave way to carved bands in the shape of bodies entwined or clasped hands. Similar in style and symbolism to the Irish Claddagh rings, these "fede" ("trust") rings marked this transition toward exchanging rings as a pledge of trust and love, which has remained a timeless custom ever since.

I'd love to hear your thoughts as to why Italian men dance with their suit jackets open at a wedding. Leave me a comment and come back next Monday for the answer.


Research Credits:
World Wedding Customs
Explore Italian Culture

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