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Engagement

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Romantic rings from the time of the Roman Empire sometimes bore clasped hands symbolizing contract, from which the later Celtic Claddagh symbol (two hands clasping a heart) may have evolved as a symbol of love and commitment between two people. Romans believed the circle was a bond between the two people who were to be married and signified eternity, but was first practiced on the fourth finger/ring finger by the Romans, who believed this finger to be the beginning of the vena amoris ("vein of love"), the vein that leads to the heart. In cultures with European origin, and many other countries, an engagement ring is worn following the practice of the Romans who ". . . wore the ring either on the right middle finger or the left ring [4th] finger, from which, according to ancient Egyptian physicians, a nerve led directly to the heart. " The custom in Continental Europe and other countries is to wear it on the right hand. One historical exception arose in monarchical regimes, in which a nobleman entering into morganatic marriage, a marriage in which the person, usually the woman, of lower rank stayed at the same rank instead of rising ranks, would present their left hand to receive the ring, hence the alternative term 'marriage with the left hand' (Ger. Ehe zur linken Hand), the offspring of such marriages considered to be disinherited from birth.

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