The Significance of Rings on Particular Fingers
Rings are one of the most accessible forms of jewelry for men and were regularly worn by gentlemen of style throughout history. But did you know that there can be a meaning for each of the fingers on which you wear your ring?
Based on cultural, traditional, and mystical associations, the ring on which you choose to wear a finger can be very significant. It can reveal your relationship status, concepts that are important to you, or groups with which you are associated.
This article will cover each of the fingers on your hand, revealing what a ring on those fingers can mean according to different belief systems and cultures. This information will help you decide the best way for you to wear your rings.
Why the Fingers You Wear Your Rings on Matter
Which Rings You Wear Are Entirely Your Choice
It is important to be clear at the onset that you have complete freedom to wear your rings as you choose and should not feel bound by any rules. That being said, the society in which you live likely has some assumptions and cultural associations about the meaning of rings, and to prevent confusion it is useful to be aware of them.
How You Benefit from Understanding the Meaning of Rings on Different Fingers
Being aware of the potential significance of rings on fingers can also make you more circumspect as you decide where to wear your rings. It can stoke your creativity to work within an existing framework of rules and guidelines so that you are able to subtly convey messages or ideas to others through the language of your rings and their meaning.
With your newfound knowledge, you might find yourself inspired to wear types of rings, or wear rings on fingers, you would not have considered before.
“We will have rings and things and fine array”
William Shakespeare, from The Taming of the Shrew
Finally, from a purely practicable perspective, wearing rings on different fingers will allow you to wear a wider range of rings that might have not been sized for you. An inherited ring that is too large for your ring finger might fit nicely onto your middle finger, while a relation’s wedding ring that might be too small for your ring finger might fit well on your pinky finger.
How the Meaning of Rings on Fingers Developed
Historical and Cultural Traditions
Some of the cultural traditions associated with the meaning of rings on particular fingers developed from particular beliefs, often centered in ancient medical knowledge or historical rites. Others developed organically, as men through the ages found that certain rings simply worked best on certain fingers and this reality developed its own significance.
Palmistry and Astrology
An influential component of the meaning of rings on each finger is the traditions of palmistry. Palmistry, also referred to as palm-reading, is the act of telling the future based on the appearance of the human hand, such as lines in the palms, the length of the fingers, and the shape of the hand.
The palm is also an influential component of astrology, the belief that certain aspects of our being and our futures are influenced by the stars.
This article is not about palmistry or astrology, but some elements of these belief systems have influenced the traditions associated with the meaning and significance of each finger. You do not need to believe in palmistry to benefit from knowing the significance of each finger.
The Purpose and Significance of Gemstones in Rings
Precious and semi-precious gemstones are often employed as decorative elements in men’s rings. In general, we feel that you should select your preferred gemstones based on how well they complement your larger wardrobe and personal style.
That being said, in recognition of the previously mentioned topic of astrology, we will indicate, for your edification, some of the stones that are astrologically connected to each of the fingers.
What Rings on Different Fingers Mean
Distinguishing Between Fingers on the Right and the Left Hand
Traditionally, the right hand has been considered the hand of activity and the left hand the hand of intellect. This association likely stems from the fact that the majority of people throughout history have been right-handed, which has influenced the functionality and meaning of rings on fingers. As a result, in some instances, a ring can have different meanings based on the hand on which it is worn.
Factors for Left-Handed Gentlemen to Consider
If you are a left-handed gentleman, following the traditional conventions associated with these rings will make it easiest for others to recognize the meaning of the rings on each finger. It may not, however, be as practical for you, because these conventions were not created with you in mind.
Therefore, we encourage you to determine what makes the most sense for you and act accordingly: this can mean flipping what is associated with the right and left hands to reflect the realities of your dominant hand.
The First Finger: The Index or Pointer Finger
What It Represents
The index finger, sometimes called the pointer finger represents authority and leadership. As one of the most active and functional fingers, it plays a major role in most of your daily activities, and as a result, is often identified with the self.
Because the index finger is often associated with the change you are able to affect in the world, it, therefore, stands for your power and authority, especially on your dominant hand. Conversely, the non-dominant hand index finger is sometimes associated with the ability to be cooperative or maintain good friendships.
Historically, the ring finger has been favored for rings that designate authority, power, and prestige. Because they were valuable, portable, and relatively difficult to replicate, rings often served as emblems of authority or warrants of power.
To some extent, you could think of authority rings as badges of office. They indicated that the wearer was due certain respect and deference, usually, because he held a prominent position in the government, commanded a feudal position, or was high-placed in the hierarchy of a religious institution.
While rings of this kind still exist today, there are usually prescribed guidelines that will indicate to you how you are intended to wear them. Therefore, most of the rings you will be selecting for yourself to wear on your index finger should instead convey the sense of your authority and leadership.
Modern Rings Similar to Authority Rings
To convey a sense of your leadership skills and authority with rings on your index finger, favor larger rings that either feature prominent stones or ornate detailing; for a very bold look, consider rings with both. Rings like these are well-suited to the breadth and length of the index finger.
Because mid and early 20th-century class rings were often worn on the index finger, consider reserving your left or non-dominant index finger for any large rings you might have inherited from family members. Rings you purchase for yourself could therefore be worn on your right index finger.
Rings to Wear on Your Index Finger
Statement rings come in a variety of styles, from plain but oversized rings to highly ornate and detailed rings. They function primarily as a decorative element or an opportunity for you to express yourself with unique imagery or designs.
Although commonly worn on the ring finger today, class rings were sometimes worn on the index finger in the past. Because they are often highly detailed and feature prominent stones or insets, a large class ring could be the perfect for your index finger. Image via Wikimedia.
While signet rings are often associated with pinky rings today, historically they were often larger and worn on the index finger. This larger size can make it easier to appreciate the design on the ring. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As the effective “king of the fingers,” it seems appropriate that the index finger is associated with the Greek god Zeus and his Roman counterpart, Jupiter. This pedigree further cements the index finger as representing your power and influence in the world.
If you wish to capture the majesty associated with the king of the gods, favor rings on this finger made from gold with luxurious stones like lapis lazuli, ruby, or even diamond.
What’s the Significance of that Stone?
A metamorphic rock known for its rich, deep blue color, lapis lazuli has been sought-after since the 7th millennium before Christ. Its decadent color was soon associated with royalty and nobility across the world, and both the stones and the dyes derived from them were literally worth more than gold. Lapis lazuli represents excellent of spirit, dignity, and personal honor.
The Second Finger: The Middle Finger
What It Represents
While in the Anglophonic world the extension of the middle finger has a very particular vulgar meaning, the finger itself represents personal responsibility and balance. The sense of balance likely derives from the finger’s presence in the middle of the hand. As such, fingers worn on the middle finger can reflect things for which you feel responsible or ways that you seek balance in your life.
That being said, because of its prominent position in the middle of the hand, the middle finger is often employed to showcase large and highly-decorated rings that simply look good in such a prime location, and will not necessarily convey any inherent message by their position.
The Difficulties of Wearing a Ring on Your Middle Finger
Historically, the middle finger has been the least popular ring for fingers. This fact could be attributed to the physiology of the finger. Larger rings, which look more balanced and visually pleasing, tend to greatly impact the functionality of the finger, and by extension, the entire hand. Conversely, smaller rings, which do not restrict the finger, tend to look too diminutive on the large middle finger.
From an aesthetic point of view, larger rings with broad bands or hefty decorations will look best on the middle finger, but be aware that they might compromise the use of that hand.
It might be advisable to start out wearing a plain ring with a broader band but no decoration on your middle finger. Once you grow accustomed to wearing it and decide that you like the look, you can transition to chunkier rings. To minimize the impact that the ring has on the functionality of your hand, it might be prudent to also limit middle finger rings to your non-dominant hand.
Rings To Wear on Your Middle Finger
Because statement rings function primarily as a decorative element, they are ideal for expressing yourself with unique imagery or designs and are well-suited to the middle finger. To avoid appearing too flashy, consider limiting yourself to relatively plain, but still sizable, statement rings. Image via Wikimedia.
Because they are often highly detailed and feature prominent stones or insets, a large class ring could be the perfect for your middle finger, especially if you inherit a class ring from a family member but it is too large to wear on any of your other fingers.
Larger signet rings will usually have sufficient bulk to appear pleasing on the middle finger. This larger size can make it easier to appreciate the design on the ring. To prevent your ring from appearing too flashy, consider limiting the signet ring design to initials or relatively simple designs. Image via Wikimedia.
Astrologers associated the middle finger with the Greek titan Kronos, known as Saturn to the Romans. It is somewhat ironic that while the planet Saturn has rings, rings are not often worn on the middle finger.
If you do wish to wear rings on your middle finger, they should be large and sedate, like Cronus, who maintained order among the other divinities. For gemstone options, consider anything bold and stolid, like malachite, bloodstone, or tiger’s eye.
What’s the Significance of that Stone?
Despite its name, bloodstone is often dark green with vibrant red speckles. It is a type of quartz consisting primarily of jasper. According to ancient mystics, it could grant magical powers like invisibility, but today it primarily represents vitality, longevity, and overcoming adversity.
The Third Finger: The Ring Finger
What It Represents
In general, the ring finger represents devotion and obligation. This association was established by the belief, allegedly taught by medical scholars in Antiquity, that a major vein ran directly from the heart to the ring finger of the left hand. This vein, known in Latin as the vena amoris, or vein of love, would be a natural location for rings pertaining to romantic affection.
Relationship and Family Status
Accordingly, in many countries, rings indicating marital status are often worn on the ring finger. These can include promise rings, betrothal rings, engagement rings, wedding rings, and any ring that indicates your interest, or lack of interest, in romance.
In reality, however, betrothal and marriage rings have been worn on nearly every finger of the hand based on the traditions of different cultures. Even in the West, traditions can vary as to which hand the ring is worn on.
Wedding Ring Conventions by Nation and Region
In the Anglophonic world, men usually wear their wedding rings on the ring finger of their left hand, although this tradition did not take hold until after World War II; earlier, the wedding ring was often worn on the pinky finger. In some areas of Western and Eastern Europe, South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia, wedding rings are traditionally worn on the right ring finger. Members of the Orthodox Christian faith also keep this tradition.
Conversely, in Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon, Turkey, and Syria, a wedding ring is often worn on the right ring finger prior to the wedding, like an engagement ring, and then moved to the left ring finger after the ceremony has been completed.
Need help choosing a wedding ring? We’re here for you!
Avoid Confusion By Knowing the Wedding Rings Customs of Your Community
Despite this multitude of traditions, conventions around marital rings and the ring finger tend to be fairly universal in individual societies, and you should take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to wear a ring on your ring finger.
The fact of the matter is, if you choose, for instance, to wear a ring on the ring finger of your left hand in the United States, the majority of people are going to assume that it means that you are married. This assumption should not dictate your actions, but it is important to keep in mind.
Secular or Religious Obligation
Marriage represents a commitment, and so other types of rings that represent other types of commitments can also be worn on the ring finger. For instance, rings associated with United States military academies were traditionally worn on the ring finger of the left hand, although now the ring finger of the right hand or any other finger has become commonplace as well. Service rings associated with various branches of different nations’ armed forces are also commonly worn on the ring finger, although which hand varies according to local custom.
Conversely, some men wear rings of personal significance on their ring fingers to show that they are happy being single, while other men who have embraced celibacy and abstain from romantic affection choose to wear rings on their ring fingers to reflect their choice. In the Roman Catholic Church, some clergymen wear rings with religious imagery on the ring finger of their left or right hand to express their devotion to God, and many high-rank prelates in the Roman Catholic Church and other religious organizations wear a ring on the ring finger of their right hand as a sign of their authority and religious devotion.
Reflecting a sense of affection and obligation, class rings, which honor your school, college, or university, are often worn on the ring finger as well. This tradition reflects the strong connection that many men have to the places where they were reared and educated, and is reflected in the Latin term alma mater, which literally identifies places of higher education with a “nourishing mother.”
Likewise, rings that represent fraternal organizations, like the Masonic Order, the Knights of Columbus, or the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, are sometimes worn on the ring finger to show devotion to the association and its members.
To prevent confusion, such rings are traditionally worn on the opposite ring finger for which the local culture has reserved wedding rings.
Rings to Wear on Your Ring Finger
Whether you wear it on your right or your left hand, the ring finger is, in many cultures, the most common place to wear a wedding ring. This ring can serve as a personal reminder of your marriage and an outward sign of your love to others.
As a special sign of devotion to your school, consider representing it on your ring finger as a sign to all of the affection you have for your alma mater. To avoid confusion, consider wearing it on the ring finger of the hand opposite the one reserved in your culture for wedding rings. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A fraternal ring marks the wearer as a member of any one of the plethora of men’s clubs and fraternal organizations active today. It showcases your pride in your group, introduces you to other members, and helps advertise your organization. Image via Wikimedia.
Ancient mystics associated the ring finger with the Greek god Apollo, who is known by the same name in the Roman pantheon. Wearing a ring on your ring finger could evoke Apollo in his capacity as a seeker of truth and pursuer of what is beautiful and right, or perhaps, if you are in a medical field, it could represent Apollo in his capacity as god of healing.
In Western astrology, Apollo is often associated with mystical stones, like onyx, moonstone, opals, or pearls. Conversely, many cultures also associate the ring finger with the moon, and as such, it is especially appropriate to wear silver, a metal often associated with the moon, on your ring finger.
What’s the Significance of that Stone?
Onyx has been a popular stone for jewelry since Antiquity because of its unique color and durable qualities. While it’s inky color bespeaks mystery and romance, this stone has traditionally been associated with protection and healing. Some Roman legionaries, for instance, carried onyx tables dedicated to Mars into battle with them, while women in the Middle Ages wore onyx items to stave off pain during childbirth.
The Fourth Finger: The Pinky Finger
What It Represents
The pinky finger is thought to represent communication and socialization. As the smallest finger, located on the periphery of the hand, it stands apart from the other digits and attracts attention despite its diminutive nature.
The pinky is also farthest from the primary gripping fingers, meaning that it tends to be less involved in manual activity and labor. Conceptually, the pinky is therefore suited to more abstract functionality like communicating, and practically, it means that any rings on the pinky are less likely to be scratched or damaged.
For this reason, the pinky finger is often favored for highly-decorative rings that tell others something about you.
Since the Victorian Period, the pinky has been a favored location for signet rings. Signet rings usually display a family crest, coat of arms, or initial, and are descended from functional rings that were historically used to seal documents with a wax impression.
Signet rings represent you or your ancestry. If you want to emphasize your family history, consider wearing your signet ring on your left hand, as it reflects how your lineage has influenced you and your development as a person. Alternatively, if you want your signet ring to emphasize your own achievements, consider wearing it on your right pinky finger. This styling is especially appropriate for initialed or monogrammed rings.
Historically, two smaller rings could be worn on the pinky finger, and signet rings were often paired with wedding rings, likely to represent the larger family and the immediate family, respectively.
Rings associated with certain professional trades, like engineers, architects, and lawyers, are often worn on the pinky finger because their presence would not interfere with the operation of daily tasks and labor. To acknowledge and celebrate your professional status as the result of your own hard work, it is common to see rings like these worn, traditionally, on the right, but now on the dominant hand.
In the popular psyche, especially in North America, pinky rings are often associated with organized crime. Films like The Godfather series and Goodfellas have immortalized the lackey reverently kissing the ring of a powerful mafia don. Do not let these associations dissuade you from wearing a pinky ring, however, as countless men, not just mobsters, have worn pinky rings through the ages.
Especially during the late 19th and 20th and 21st centuries, pinkies have become a preferred location for decorative rings that might not have any intrinsic meaning other than expressing the style and taste of the wearer. These rings can be plain or ornate and assume any appearance and are generally referred to simply as pinky rings.
“Some people put all their rings on their little finger only, while others wear only one ring even on that finger, and use it to seal up their signet ring, which is kept stored away as a rarity not deserving the insult of common use … thus even wearing a single ring on the little finger may advertise the possession of a costlier piece of apparatus put away in store.”
Pliny the Elder
The first century AD Roman writer and philosopher Pliny the Elder mentions in his opus Naturalis Historia that Roman nobles would sometimes wear pinky rings as a subtle way to show off. A small ring worn on the pinky finger, instead of a large ring worn on a more prominent finger, was meant to hint at the existence of other, more expensive rings that the wearer could not even be bothered to put on.
This tradition presaged the modern convention of wearing expensive and luxurious rings on the pinky finger as a means to indicate wealth.
Rings to Wear on Your Pinky Finger
Despite its small size, the pinky, positioned at the periphery of the hand, can visually handle surprisingly bold rings. A statement ring that features a large and classically cut gemstone is the perfect piece for a pinky.
In the West, in particular, a signet ring is often worn on the pinky, because it attracts attention without interfering with the operation of the hand. A perusal of classics films, vintage fashion magazines, or old photographs will illustrate how popular these rings were. Image Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Whether it marks your membership in a fraternal club, a professional organization, or a loyal body of alumni, a ring that conveys your association with a particular group or school is an excellent choice for your pinky finger, because it will be located on such a visible part of your hand. Via Wikimedia.
Fittingly enough, the pinky finger is associated with the Greek god Hermes, known to the Romans as Mercury, the messenger of the gods. This association reinforces the pinky finger as a way to communicate about yourself.
Accordingly, we recommend that you feel especially free to wear on your pinky finger whatever stones are the most meaningful to you. If you prefer to emphasize stones associated with Hermes, consider vibrant stones like amber, citrine, or carnelian.
What’s the Significance of that Stone?
The oldest extant carnelian jewelry consists of beads found in Bulgaria that date to the close of the Stone Age. The Romans favored it for signet rings and it was also a popular ingredient for Early Modern alchemists. With its bold color, carnelian usually symbolizes life and energy, and is believed to help encourage passion and motivation.
What It Represents
The thumb represents strength and status. Like the index finger, the thumb plays a vital role in many of the functions of the hand. As the most unique digit, prominently positioned on the edge of your hand, any ring on your thumb will be immediately noticeable.
The Thumb is the Most Unique of Your Digits
A ring on your thumb will also affect its functionality. While your fingers have three major joints, the thumb only has two, and a ring will noticeably alter your ability to move your thumb, in addition to employing it.
Therefore, rings on the thumb are most often associated today with ambition, self-assertion, and as a sign of wealth. Wearing a ring on your thumb conveys to others that you want to present yourself as an accomplished person who appreciates not only possessing, but also displaying, the finer things in life.
There is not a consistent distinction between the meaning of the right thumb and left thumb, but considering how much a ring can impact your thumb, you will likely be well-served restricting thumb rings to your non-dominant hand.
Because of the impact the thumb ring has on the ability to undertake manual labor, the thumb ring has historically been favored by men who are in charge, whether that means the boss of a company or the king of a nation. In fact, throughout the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, thumb rings were especially favored among the noble, royal, and imperial classes.
The same factors that make the thumb ideal for authority rings also make it ideal for rings that establish your place and position in the world. In the present day, a thumb ring is usually worn as a status symbol that is very likely to attract considerable attention.
Rings to Wear on Your Thumb
Bold Statement Ring
To a certain extent, a bold, visually impressive statement ring is the ideal ring for your thumb, as it will draw immediate attention and afford ample opportunity for you to express your personal style and personality.
Plain Statement Ring
Although the thumb may be one of the most bold locations for a ring, a ring does not have to be ornate to be noticeable. Even a plain and simple band, rendered in a base or precious metal, will catch people’s attention when worn on the thumb. Via Wikimedia.
If you find yourself in possession of a ring that it too large for any of your fingers, it may fit perfectly on your thumb. The thumb is an excellent location for large class, signet, or other rings that you would not be able to wear otherwise due to size issues.
Historically, the thumb was not associated with a Greek or Roman god. Modern adherents of palmistry, however, have associated the thumb with the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, venerated by the Romans as Neptune. Just as the thumb is a part of the hand but also separate, so too, they argued, is Poseidon separate from the other gods, as he does not reside on Mount Olympus.
As an exemplar of Neptune, rings on the thumb can be said to represent strength, majesty, and individuality. Consider wearing bold, robust rings that are evocative of the sea, like aquamarine, turquoise, and malachite.
What’s the Significance of that Stone?
Malachite is often formed by the weathering of copper ore and it is an immediately recognizable, unforgettable gemstone. Historically, it was associated with protection in the West and was thought to bring happiness and good health. The Ancient Egyptians, meanwhile, associated malachite with divinity, and one of their heavens was called A’Wadj, or the “Field of Malachite.”
How Many Rings Should You Wear and How to Wear Them
The Choice is Yours
The simple answer is that’s up to you how many rings you wear. There have been men who’ve worn rings on every finger, sometimes even stacked on the same finger. Others wear six rings or four, or one or two, or of course, none at all.
Wearing many rings on your fingers will be noticeable and attract considerable attention, but if you have a sizable ring collection, it’s a great way to share your rings with the world. Numerous rings are often associated with the dandy style and this look is becoming more popular as a form of conspicuous consumption.
Less Can Be More
According to the conventions of the Classic Style, however, a gentleman would usually wear one or two rings, or perhaps in very particular circumstances, three. This understated approach encourages you to invest in just a few high-quality rings and ensure that they are counted among the centerpieces of your ensemble’s jewelry.
Maintain a Balance
To ensure an ordered and appealing look, we recommend that you roughly balance the fingers worn on each ring, taking into consideration any other jewelry you might have on. For instance, rather than wearing rings on your pinky, ring, and index finger of your left hand, consider moving one of two rings to your right hand.
What To Do When Wearing a Watch
Note also that a wristwatch, especially one with a metal bracelet, can visually balance out one or two rings. Therefore, a wristwatch on your left hand could be nicely balanced by a ring on the index finger and pinky finger of your right hand.
Traditional Ring Arrangements
Traditionally, a gentleman would wear one ring on each hand, such as a wedding ring and a signet ring. If desired, he could add a third ring, wearing one ring on the arm that also wore his wristwatch and wearing two rings on the other hand. This arrangement encourages balance and is very visually appealing, ensuring that your hand jewelry does not appear cluttered.
How to Stack Rings
Occasionally, you will see men stacking their rings, by which we mean wearing more than one ring on the same finger. In the West, this effect was mostly achieved with rings on the pinky finger, which, because of the rings’ small size, were well-suited to stacking. However, you can stack rings on any finger you desire, with the understanding that this look can be particularly bold and the additional ring may further affect your finger’s motor function.
The Potential Pitfalls of Rings in Close Proximity
Some gentlemen find that wearing rings on fingers that touch each other, such as the ring finger and the pinky finger or the middle finger and the index finger, can be unpleasant. The metals can clank against each or rub together, producing an annoying noise or disagreeable sensation.
To avoid this, you can stack your rings or spread them out over your two hands. Oftentimes, this will also produce a more visually pleasing distribution of your rings.
In general, your overall look will appear most harmonious and elegant when all of your metals match. This refers not only to your rings, but also to your watch, cufflinks, and any other jewelry pieces you may have on.
That being said, it may not be practical to match all of your metals. For instance, it is unlikely that you will have your wedding ring struck in multiple metals, and you should not feel like you have to consign yourself to only wearing the same metals as your wedding ring.
Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to match all of your metals with the exception of one or perhaps two rings. The fact that the majority of your metals do match will ensure that the entire look still appears uniform.
Alternatively, you can intentionally embrace an eclectic look, mixing up the color of your jewelry. This styling is not conventionally Classic but can exude a casual, bohemian charm.
We hope that today’s video will inspire you to experiment with different types of rings and on which fingers you wear them. Whether you believe that a particular ring on a particular finger channels a deep spiritual force connected to the stars, or you just want to understand the traditions behind the significance of each ring, what you’ve learned in this article will help ensure that you understand fully the significance of the rings you have on your fingers.