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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Thimbles - 17thCentury Engagement Rings
Thinking about Valentine's Day ahead, I thought I'd share with you a snippet of research I discovered when I was writing my novel 'The Lady's Slipper' which features a woman who travels to the New World (ie America) in the 17th century.

I read that the Quakers and Puritans -some of the first settlers in the New World - did not like to wear jewellery, including wedding and engagement rings. This was because of their beliefs in living a simple and unostentatious life without embellishment or adornment - plain clothes in muted colours, and no unnecessary decoration.

17thC open-topped thimble

Instead of the giving of a ring, it apparently became the custom for a betrothed couple to exchange a thimble. The thimble was something practical and was used by young women to sew household linens, and garments used as part of their dowry.

After the wedding, the man would cut off the cup of the thimble thus symbolizing that the young woman's sewing was over and the dowry was complete. The rim was then worn as a ring.
02 Le dé en argent de Fernande DESVIGNES
Some people dispute this claim, that thimbles were used as wedding rings, as a sort of 17th century urban myth. Click the link for the arguments against the idea.

Also, Quaker weddings at the time were not like the usual 17th century wedding in that they were agreed by the whole community of Quakers and subject to the feeling of the meeting as to whether the union was 'right.'

But being an old romantic, and loving a good story I like to think that young men would have used a romantic gesture like the giving of a thimble - so I prefer to believe this is true!


  1. What a lovely, romantic idea, Deb. I would like to think this was true as well. maybe not the ring thing but definitely giving the thimble as a token of love

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  9. This is indeed a nice romantic story. It's the first time I have ever heard of it. For me it is a bit hard to believe that wowen wore cut off thimbles as wedding rings. Mainly because it must have been uncomfortable tight and the sharp edges would hurt. However, I still think that for the sake of the romantics among us, it should be true.

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  19. This was because of their beliefs in living a simple and unostentatious life without embellishment or adornment - plain clothes in muted colours, and no unnecessary decoration. best wedding rings

  20. I, also, found this in a story - The Ringmaster's Wife,set in the 1920s.
    Brings to life, the Greatest Show on Earth.
    A golden thimble is important in the rivalry between Bella, a trapeze artist and Rosamund, English lady and bareback rider. Bella sabotages Rose's first costume. The second one, Bella brings to her, Rose rips it during fitting. Bella is an excellent seamstress and picks up her thimble.
    They are both after the same man.
    Bella tells the story of the
    ring being a part of it. Plus,Colin will never marry Rose.
    She said her days of sewing
    were ended and for unknown reasons, passed the thimble to Lady Rose....

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