Everyone knows what a wedding ring should look like, right? Maybe not. As Sophia Tobin shows, there is a continual evolution happening that runs parallel to our own changing definitions of how to memorialise commitment.
Hidden away in a wooden box, in a locked vault, is a small steel punch which played its part in hundreds of love stories. The end of the punch, barely visible to the naked eye, is a circle with a central section cut out. Most punches made by the London Assay Office are destroyed after use, so they can’t fall into the hands of forgers. But this one has been preserved. It is the wartime wedding ring punch.
During the Second World War the government had planned to stop the production of wedding rings in order to conserve gold. Rings could be provided, it was thought, by the second-hand market. But the sheer volume of couples rushing to marry made this impossible. So instead, the manufacture of wedding rings was restricted to 9 carat gold and a weight of less than 2 dwts (around 1.5 grams). To show that a wedding ring had been produced legally, it was stamped with the Utility mark punch.