When one thinks of Catholic jewelry rings, especially rings Catholic men's rings, most likely the first they think of is the Pope's ring. Commonly called the 'Ring of the Fisherman' but also known as the 'Piscatory Ring', this ring is an official part of the ceremonial dress worn by the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope is considered to be a successor of St. Peter to whom Jesus, figuratively, handed the 'keys of the kingdom of heaven'. Until 1842 the Fisherman's ring was a signet used to seal official documents signed by the pope. It features a bas-relief of St. Peter fishing from a boat. This symbolism of this Catholic ring is derived from the traditional belief that the apostles were 'fishers of men' ( Mark 1:17).
During the ceremony of Papal Coronation the Dean of the College of Cardinals places the ring on the third finger of the new Pope's right hand. When each pope dies the ring he wears is ceremoniously crushed in the presence of the other cardinals. This is done to prevent the seal of backdated or forged documents during the period until a new pope is elected. A new ring is cast and presented when the next pope is elected.
Cardinals and bishops also wear 'clerical rings'. In the past Episcopal rings were sometimes used a receptacles for relics. Traditionally three rings were given; the pontifical, the gemmed and the ordinary. However, today most bishops only receive one ring for the sake of costs.
Rings are also worn by bishops of the Anglican and Lutheran churches.
It is also customary for certain orders of nuns to wear wedding rings. They are traditionally referred to as 'the brides of Christ' and this ring is worn to symbolize not only their faith but their vows of chastity and betrothal to their heavenly Spouse.
During the first century small keys which contained filing from the chains of St. Peter when he was martyred have been welded to bands of metal and worn as reliquaries (the physical remains of a saint). The relics of other saints or of the True Cross of the Crucifixion had been incorporated into rings.
Today rings made of metal, wood or plastic are constructed with ten small knobs and used to pray the Rosary. This is called a Catholic rosary ring.
The used of purity rings, Catholic chastity rings or Catholic promise rings originated in the United States during the 1990's when young Christian began to swear to 'sexual abstinence'. These rings are worn by both males and females and usually are accompanied by a religious vow to practice celibacy until marriage.
Purity, chastity or promise rings have no particular style. Those worn with a vow of celibacy are sometimes designed with a cross in reference to the Crucifixion of Jesus. (Stuller R16684 or R7027)
Wedding rings, again worn by both men and women have been used since before the Roman Empire. There is no proof but the custom may have begun with a ritual of religious significance. The wedding band, whether gold or silver, is constructed as a circle to signify eternity, the on-going relationship that forms from marriage until the death of one spouse or the other.
In some customs the wedding is the last in a series of gifts. At the time of betrothal the man gives his intended wife a betrothal ring which traditionally includes at least one diamond. When serious dating begins the male may give his intended life partner a 'Catholic promise ring'. (R16616)
The custom of giving the future bride a jeweled ring when proposing is also common among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians. However, the betrothal ring need not be a ring at all. It can be a bracelet, brooch or earrings.
Some 'promise rings' have small stones in them and are gift of a boy to a girl in the promise to remain 'true' to one another until they marry in accordance with chastity or purity vows.
Another tradition of Catholic rings occurs after the birth of a first child the father sometimes gives the mother a trilogy ring. Three round diamonds represent the past, present and future of an intended spouse.
A European tradition encourages the engraving of the initials of the spouse and marriage date on the inside of the wedding band. This strengthens the symbolism and adds to sentimentality that these rings may become family heirlooms.