Claddagh ring

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Unusual Engagement Rings: Gimmel Rings

Personalisation is a key trend in modern jewellery, with customisation becoming increasingly important to engaged couples. From simple engraved messages to fully customised pieces, the movement shows no sign of abating. But did you know that this practice has been alive and well since the dawn of Ancient Rome?

In this blog, we’ll discuss a truly unique jewellery piece that serves as an ideal alternative wedding ring for couples looking to put their stamp on their special relationship. Introducing the gimmel ring…

What is a gimmel ring?

How did gimmel rings get their name?

The word gimmel comes from the Latin germellus, meaning ‘twin.’ Fun fact: germellus is diminutive of the word germinus, from which the Gemini (the Twins) zodiac sign gets its name.

Intriguingly, Gemini is considered the most adaptable zodiac sign thanks to its ostensible mutable energy, that enables individuals to view life from different angles. And this is fitting, given that adaptability and empathy are two fundamental pillars of every happy, long-lasting marriage.

Gimmel ring tradition

Structurally, traditional gimmel rings can be taken apart and made into two rings. According to tradition, the separate rings were worn by the bride and groom at the time of their engagement until their wedding day, when the rings were united to form a single ring to be worn by the bride.

As such, the purpose of gimmel rings mirror the function of engagement and promise rings today, the main difference being that both the man and woman wore a loop each during the engagement period.

The ring’s unique structure, therefore, underpins its powerful symbolism, namely equality and the joining of two lives to make one, cohesive whole.

Who wears gimmel rings?

The marriage of structure and symbolism make them perfect for couples looking for a unique engagement ring that defies typical gender roles, while they also represent a great choice for LGBT couples seeking a unique alternative to the traditional wedding band.

Moreover, gimmel rings were sometimes exchanged between men to symbolise their friendship, making it a jewellery staple that transcends deep-rooted traditions and the rigid roles of old.

The history of the gimmel ring

The use of gimmel rings stretches back centuries, with the first wave being produced during the Ancient Roman Empire to signify a couple’s betrothal.

On British shores, the Count of Gynes gifted Henry III a gimmel ring in 1202, while Martin Luther’s marriage to Katharina von Bora in 1525 was also symbolised by the exchange of gimmel rings.

Despite these early exchanges, the popularity of gimmel rings didn’t gain momentum until the 1600s, when scores of couples throughout Europe began to wear them to signify their newly engaged, ‘taken’ status. Their burgeoning popularity during the Middle Ages is perhaps due to the emerging trends of the period; notable references to gimmel rings spiked during the era too – Shakespeare’s Othello (1604) being a prime example.

The evolution of the gimmel ring

Before their popularity surge in 17th Century Europe, gimmel rings were often inscribed with religious scripture, like this example from Southern Germany circa 1550-1600.

Aside from opening up avenues for personalisation, gimmel rings offer a highly symbolic and unusual alternative to traditional wedding bands, making them perfect for those seeking a rare and romantic commemorative piece.

The increase in gimmel rings’ popularity, however, brought about alterations to the original design, and by the 17th Century, most gimmel rings incorporated clasped hands and a third heart symbol, the latter being a feature of many love rings, including Irish Claddagh rings.

The physical alterations gimmel rings underwent ushered in new traditions. Rings with a third loop, for instance, saw the third link kept safe by a witness until the wedding, when all three rings would be reunited to symbolise the marriage. Often the ring bearer was someone close to the couple, or in some cases, the individual who brought them together – thus providing the ‘link’ between the couple.