This little perfect figure may seem to be a trifling matter on which to found an essay; and yet we shall find it connected with history and poetry. It is indeed, a small link, although it has bound together millions for better for worse, for richer for poorer, more securely than could the shackle wrought for a felon. An impression from it may have saved a or lost a kingdom. It is made the symbol of power; and has been the mark of slavery. Love has placed it where a vein was supposed to vibrate in the heart. Affection and friendship have wrought it into a remembrance; and it has passed into the grave upon the finger of a loved one.1
In existence for over six thousand years, rings appear in almost every culture of the world. In addition to satisfying purely decorative needs, rings have served a multitude of purposes, both practical and symbolic. Rings have been used to pledge one heart to another, to seal correspondences and authenticate documents. They have served to memorialize a friendship, honor the dead and as talismans to provide protection against the forces of evil. Rings have also been used as symbolic expressions of faith or as tangible evidence of power and wealth. So ubiquitous an item, rings of all periods have survived providing valuable historical insight into various cultures and as a timeline of major design themes and materials in jewelry history.