There are a lot of different kinds of rings that exist today. Most people think of wedding bands or other simple, decorative rings. Aside from these, there are also a lot of other rings that have been used throughout history and have managed to survive in some form or another today.
Championship rings are commemorative rings that are given to the members of winning teams. This is a custom in North America especially during professional and college sports tournaments. The tradition started with football, but has spread to some other sports as well.
Also known as an Irish friendship ring, this ring has two hands clasping a heart that is surmounted by a crown. It is sometimes used a an engagement ring or simply as a gift between friends. According to tradition, if the person wears the ring on the right hand with the heart facing outwards, they are unspoken for but if the heart points, inward then they are in a relationship. When worn on the left hand with the heart outwards, it indicates that the wearer is engaged and when the heart is inward, the wearer is married.
Amongst the clergy of especially the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran traditions, ecclesiastical rings are signs of office often worn by bishops. Symbolically the ring represents the bishop's betrothal to the church and is often worn on the fourth finger of the left hand – the traditional wedding ring finger. While bishops are most often seen wearing this ring of office, other rings are also common like rings worn by nuns that are part of a specific convent as symbol of their 'marriage' to the church or by cardinals as an indication of favour.
An example of a ring associated with a particular organisation is the engineer's ring. This plain, stainless steel ring is worn by members of the Order of the Engineer in North America. The ring is presented to an engineer when they take the oath and serves a reminder of the oath that they have taken. Traditionally the ring is worn on the pinky of the working hand. This allows the ring to drag across surfaces when the engineer writes so he or she is reminded of their oath.
A common sight in the Goth sub-culture but also seen in other places, the finger armour ring is a decorative element made of pewter or silver. These rings cover a large part of the finger, often from the base of the finger to the nail or just beyond the second knuckle. These rings are often heavily ornamental and carved and while they may look intimidating serve no actual real purpose. Some variations have the ring ending in a claw that cover the nail.
A favourite in the 16th and 17th century, the gimmal ring was used a betrothal ring. This ring is usually made of two or three hoops that, when combined, form a the complete ring. Engaged couples would wear a one of the hoops until the marriage day at which point they would be combined to form the bride's wedding band. These rings incorporated interesting designs including the now well-known clasped hands, heart and crown that were each one part of a three-part gimmal ring. A century later it would become the base design for the Clannegh ring.
The mood ring is apparently able to tell a person's mood by virtue of the colour of the stone set in the ring. The secret of the mood ring is a piece of thermochromic liquid crystal that changes colour in response to a change in temperature – like the temperature strips used by paediatricians. Slight changes in the ambient or skin temperature of the person would cause the ring to change colour. Whether or not this is any indication of a person's mood is open to debate.
An example of a memorial ring is the mother's ring. This ring comes from an old design where two bands where often soldered together along with the birthstones of a woman's sons. The idea stayed roughly the same except that contemporary designs now have a birthstone for each of the woman's children – living and deceased. There are also variations where there is a birthstone for each of the grandchildren.
The posie ring isn't all that common these days and really had its day a hundred or so years ago. These simple bands, engraved with some special message for a loved one are still seen today, but not as often as the were once. The short inscriptions included messages like 'never to change', 'love is enough', or 'many are the stars I see but in my eye no star like thee'. Rings engraved with messages of love are still around today, but they are no where as prevalent as they were a century or more ago.
A subject of much controversy, purity or chastity rings are a relatively new phenomenon. Started in about 1990 by groups for teenage abstinence, these rings usually have some sort of religious design associated with them. They are bought or given along with a vow of chastity. Traditionally they are worn on the same finger as a wedding ring with the idea that it will only be removed when it is replaced by the wedding band.
An interesting piece, the puzzle ring is related to the gimmal ring but with some extra features. These rings usually consist of four, six, eight or twelve interconnected rings that, when put together in the correct configuration, created a design. Often these rings look like complicated interconnected knots, though other intricate designs are also possible.
The poison ring is an image from Hollywood, old novels and comic books, yet it really existed. The use of this ring came into fashion in around the 17th century. The ring was modified so that a poison or some other substance could be kept inside or under the bezel. Obviously it was used to poison the food or drink of rivals with no one being the wiser or it was used as way to escape capture or death. Today some these rings still exist though they are more often used to keep medication in case of emergencies than poison – or so we hope.
The signet ring also saw a lot of use centuries ago and is still around today, though the focus of the ring has changed a little. A typical signet ring bears the coat of arms of a family or the initials of the owner in a stone or metal on the ring. It served a dual purpose. On the one hand the ring was a way of identifying the wearer and on the other hand it was useful for impressing a seal onto wax or other substances. Traditionally the ring is worn on the pinky facing outward though traditions differ from country to country.
These are just a few examples of the many different kinds of rings that are available. Some of them come from early years while others are rather recent additions. Small, yet elegant, the ring has had a lot of incarnations throughout history and is sure to have quite a few more.
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