Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/84

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74
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tues of the various gems, indicating also the month in which it was proper to wear particular stones in order to secure the best result. The idea took, and for some time it was the fashion in several Italian cities to have the precious stone of the ring determined by the month in which the bride was born. If in January, the stone was a garnet, believed to have the power of winning the wearer friends wherever she went. If in February, her ring was set with an amethyst, which not only promoted in her the quality of sincerity, but protected her from poison and from slanderous tongues. The blood-stone was for March, making her wise, and enabling her with patience to bear domestic cares; the diamond for April, keeping her heart innocent and pure so long as she wore the gem. An emerald for May made her a happy wife; while an agate, for June, gave her health and protection from fairies and ghosts. If born in July, the stone was a ruby, which tended to keep her free from jealousy of her husband; while in August, the sardonyx made her happy in the maternal relation. In September, a sapphire was the proper stone, it preventing quarrels between the wedded pair; in October, a carbuncle was chosen, to promote her love of home. The November-born bride wore a topaz, it having the gift of making her truthful and obedient to her husband; while in December the turquoise insured her faithfulness. Among the German country-folk, the last-named stone is to the present day used as a setting for the betrothal-ring, and, so long as it retains its color, is believed to indicate the constancy of the wearer.

From Italy this fanciful notion spread to France, and French bridegrooms would sometimes insure themselves against a bad matrimonial bargain, and, as far as they could, guarantee to their brides a variety of good qualities, by presenting twelve rings, one for each month, with occasionally one or two extra as special charms. However, this extravagance in the number of rings used at weddings is not a solitary instance, for the use of several rings at the marriage ceremony has often been known. Four rings placed on her hand at her marriage could not keep Mary Stuart faithful to Darnley; and the annals of European courts record many instances similar, both as to the rings and to the result. The Greek Church uses two rings, one of gold, the other of silver; while in some districts of Spain and Portugal, three rings are placed, one at a time, on the fingers of the bride, as the words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," are pronounced.

Fashion has also determined, not only the style of the wedding-ring, but the finger on which it is to be worn; and so capriciously has custom varied, that the symbol of matrimony has traveled from the thumb to the fourth finger, where it now reposes. In the time of Elizabeth, it was customary, both in England and on the Continent, for ladies to wear rings on the thumb, and several of her rings now shown in the British Museum, from their size, must have been thumb-