Rings make excellent symbols of identity, authority, and obligations, being worn on the hand (itself a symbol of power), and visible both to the wearer and others. Hence they can indicate married status, personal pledges of love, legal identity, and family affiliations (the seal-ring), and royal or episcopal authority. For a woman to lose or break her wedding ring was a terrible *omen, probably foreshadowing the husband's death, and even removing it for a few moments was thought wrong, or unlucky. It was and is common to be buried with one's wedding ring. With the growing prosperity of the past two centuries, engagement rings and eternity rings have become widespread, and in the latter part of the 20th century men took to wearing wedding rings too.
   Rings showing a true-love-knot and those showing a heart held by clasped hands have long been favoured as love tokens, as has the gimbal ring, also spelled 'gimmal' or 'jimmal' ring, which is one that can be split in two (the name derives ultimately from Latin geminus, 'twin'), and joined up again at will. It is possible that the many traditional songs of the 18th and 19th centuries in which a sailor breaks a ring in two and leaves half with his sweetheart are referring to gimbal rings, as it would be quite difficult to break an ordinary ring.
   Rings can also be imagined as conferring benefits on the wearer; examples set with gemstones engraved with occult letters and designs were common till Elizabethan times (Evans, 1922: 110-39; Ettlinger, 1939: 167-9), but grew rare with the general decline of magic in the later 17th century. Copper rings and bracelets are now commonly worn to prevent rheumatic pain, but this seems to be a fairly recent development; silver *cramp rings, on the other hand, are attested from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The current semi-playful revival of interest in astrology and magic has created a market for a wide variety of 'lucky' and symbolic rings.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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  • rings — rings:1.⇨ringsum–2.r.inderRunde:⇨ringsum …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • rings — Adv std. (16. Jh.) Stammwort. Zu Ring. Wohl kein ursprünglicher adverbialer Genetiv, sondern aus ähnlichen Adverbien analogisch übertragen. deutsch s. Ring …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

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