The traditional Jewish wedding band is remarkable only in its particular simplicity. The ring used in the marriage ceremony is customarily made of a single solid band of metal that contains no gemstones and is not carved through. It can be platinum, gold or even silver as long as it is worth at least a p’rutah (a coin of small value).
The minimum monetary value of the ring is necessary, since it serves as a means of affecting the marriage contract. In fact, before it became a tradition for a ring to be given, the groom gave the bride an actual coin. The use of a ring in the wedding ceremony is traced back to the 10th century, although many scholars believe it started several centuries earlier.
Perhaps it was during the transition from coin to ring that there developed a unique custom now often referred to as House Rings. These often ornate rings featured a miniature house or temple on the top of the ring. Some had Hebrew engraving, ornate fillagree and even movable pieces such as roofs that opened to reveal a tiny compartment. Most historians believe that, given the extreme detail and costly materials, these rings were actually owned by the community and were used as ornaments only during the actual ceremony. The persecutions that the Jews faced during the Middle Ages led many of these rings to be either stolen or hidden, and thus lost to history.
Additionally, the ring must be owned by the groom, who places it on the bride’s index finger in front of two witnesses and declares “Behold you are consecrated unto me with this ring in accordance with the Law of Moses and [the People of] Israel.”
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