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If you’ve never heard the word gimmel before, don’t beat yourself up. A lot of people don’t know what a gimmel ring is, but this is such a romantic tradition that we really hope it is revived and becomes widespread!
A gimmel or gimmal ring (also called fede) is a type of promise ring exchanged by lovers at the time of their engagement. It’s full of meaning and symbolism, with its roots in a tradition of equality and respect for both parties of the relationship.
Keep reading for this guide on gimmel rings.
Three Reasons to Wear a Gimmel Engagement Ring
A vintage gimmel ring. See it on Etsy.
What is a Gimmel Ring
The word gimmel comes from the Latin gemellus meaning ‘twin’. Fun fact: Gemellus is the diminutive of the word geminus, from which the zodiac sign Gemini (the Twins) gets its name. If you’re a Gemini, you might like this association with gimmel rings.
Anyway, back to gimmel rings.
This name is due to the nature of the gimmel ring which can be taken apart into two (or three) rings. A gimmel ring features several loops or links that can fit together to form a single ring or taken apart to be worn as individual rings. Commonly, the gimmel consisted of two or three loops, but later more elaborate versions were designed, containing at least 5 rings with a small pin that held them together.
These loops were worn by the bride and groom at the time of their betrothal until their wedding, when they would be united to form a single ring, worn by the bride.
A modern gimmel ring. See it here.
Gimmel rings functioned much like engagement rings or promise rings today. The difference is that while traditionally it’s common only for the female to wear the ring, here both the man and the woman wore one of the loops during the engagement. On some occasions, gimmel rings were given as friendship rings between men.
Watch this video to see the gimmel ring in action.
History of Gimmel Rings
In the 17th century, gimmel rings were extremely popular in parts of Europe and many betrothed couples wore them to signify their betrothal. During this medieval period, the wearing of wedding rings had already become a popular concept, and couples wore rings to represent their ‘taken’ status. The gimmel ring allowed for personalization and symbolism that went beyond the simple wedding ring.
Traditionally, a two loop gimmel ring would be taken apart and worn one each by the bride and the groom. If the ring had three loops, the third link would be kept safe by a witness until the wedding at which point all three rings would be reunited. Often this person was someone who had brought the couple together and was close to them.
One of the most famous gimmel rings can be found in The Met. It’s dates back to the second half of the 16th century and is made of gold, rubies, emeralds and enamel with the words ‘Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder’ inscribed on its hoops.
Gimmel Ring Designs
The gimmel ring gives you a lot of different ways to customize it. The traditional gimmel/fede ring consisted of two bands that were linked together. These later evolved into more elaborate designs, featuring hands that clasped together when the links were joined. Sometimes, a third link with a heart is added, where the heart is held hidden and safe by the pair of hands. The loops would commonly be engraved with quotes such as ‘What God has joined, let no man put asunder’.
Engraved gimmel ring. See it here.
Today, while not many know of the gimmel ring, those who do love the romance, nostalgia and sentimentality that it evokes.
Variations to the Gimmel/Fede Ring
Claddagh ring. See it here.
The claddagh ring is the Irish variant to the gimmel ring. The claddagh ring is a traditional Celtic design that shows a pair of hands holding a heart with a crown placed above the heart, representing friendship, love and loyalty. These characteristics make the claddagh a meaningful engagement, promise or friendship ring.
The way you wear the ring can also hint at your relationship status. If you’re single, the Claddagh ring is generally worn on the right hand. However, if you’re engaged, the ring is worn on the ring finger of the left hand with the heart facing upwards, pointing towards the sky. Once married, the ring will be turned around and worn with the heart facing downwards.
Where to Buy a Gimmel Ring
Your best bet when looking for a gimmel ring is to take your search to a marketplace. Because these rings are not very common, finding them at your local store might not be an option.
Also, if searching online, note that gimmel/fede rings are sometimes mistakenly called claddagh puzzle rings so try putting this in your search bar for more options.
Etsy has a range of gimmel rings, including highly valuable antiques gimmel rings and vintage designs.