Ring (in Attire)
Ring (In Attire).
The practice of wearing rings has been widely prevalent in different countries and at different periods. They have been used to decorate the arms, legs, feet, toes, fingers, nose, and ears. The most general and most distinguished use of rings is on the finger. In ancient times the ring was a symbol of authority, and power was delegated by means of it. Finger rings are alluded to in the books of Genesis and Exodus; Herodotus mentions that the Babylonians wore them; and from Asia they were probably introduced into Greece, doubtless subsequent to Homer's time, as he makes no mention of them. Rings worn in early times were not purely ornamental, but had their use as signet rings. The devices in the earlier rings were probably cut in the gold; but at a later period the Greeks came to have rings set with precious stones Among the Romans the signs engraved on rings were very various, including portraits of friends or ancestors and subjects connected with mythology or religion. Rings entered into the groundwork of many Oriental superstitions, as in the legend of Solomon's ring, which, among its other marvels, sealed up the refractory Jinn in jars and cast them into the Red Sea. The Greeks mention various rings endowed with magic power, as that of Gyges, which rendered him invisible when its stone was turned inwards; and the ring of Polycrates, which was flung into the sea to propitiate Nemesis and found by its owner inside a fish. Wedding and other rings have been thought to possess curative powers. Sometimes they owed their virtue to the stones with which they were set; thus diamond was believed to be an antidote against poison, etc. The Gnostics engraved ring gems with mystic symbols, names, monograms, and legends. In early times the names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph on rings were deemed to be preservatives against the plague.
The early Christians adopted the use of rings, being at first simple circles of ivory, bronze, iron, or some other cheap material. Many of them were adorned with symbols connected with their faith, such as the cross, the monogram of Christ, the dove, anchor, ship, palm branch, etc.; others had simple religious phrases, among the most common of which was Vivas in Deo or Spes in Deo. Rings to be used as seal rings alone were fitted with a plate of metal, often of the form of the bottom of a sandal or of the human foot, this, according to ancient tradition, being the symbol of possession. Among the rings found in the catacombs are some with a key, and some with both a key and a seal, the latter for both locking and sealing a casket. See Appletons' Cyclop. s.v.; Chambers's Encyclop. s.v.; Gardner, Faiths of the World, s.v.