The word “ring” might immediately conjure up visions of dazzling diamond solitaires and glam cocktail baubles, but rings come in many shapes and sizes. From traditional mother’s rings to stackable bands to ’70s mainstay mood rings, there are plenty of types to explore. Whether you’re considering buying a new ring for yourself or selecting one as a gift, there are some important rules to keep in mind.
Rings are worn to send signals of status, wealth, commitment, affiliation, and more. For example, a man wearing a signet ring with his initials engraved on it indicates that he is unavailable, and the ring’s design may signal whether he attended the Naval Academy (a ring from Annapolis) or belongs to a fraternal brotherhood. The ring’s position on the hand also communicates a message—those who wear their rings on the pinky finger are thought to be excellent negotiators.
A ring can be made out of any solid material, including metal, wood, or even bone. It can be adorned with gems, pearls, or other stones, or engraved with inscriptions and verses. Rings have been used as decorative ornaments for centuries, but they’ve become a symbol of engagement and marriage in recent times. The earliest known rings were made from clay and bronze, with gold becoming the standard material for regal jewelry starting in the 15th century.
Although traditionally a ring is worn on the left ring finger, today it can be worn on any digit. Some people prefer to wear their wedding ring on the middle finger, while others like to display it on the thumb. In general, a ring should be comfortable and not feel too tight or loose on the finger.
While there are many different types of rings, most have the same basic structure: a circle, or hoop; shoulders; and a bezel. The hoop can be shaped as a circle with a circular, semi-circular, or square cross-section. The shoulders are a thickening or enlargement of the circle wide enough to support a bezel, which is the flat surface that holds the gemstones or other ornaments.
The study of rings is extremely broad and has applications in a number of areas, such as algebraic number theory via rings that are generalizations or extensions of the integers, and algebraic geometry, via rings of polynomials. The study of rings has been extended to other mathematical contexts, such as topology and mathematical analysis.
When shopping for a ring, it’s important to take your knuckle size into account, as it will affect how snug the ring fits. Pomije recommends warming your hands to room temperature before measuring your ring size, and always choosing a size slightly larger than what you think you’d need—fingers shrink and expand based on activity and the weather. Ring sizes are typically measured in millimeters, but there are a few different scales for sizing, depending on where you live. For example, the United States uses a standard numbered system, while Australia and the United Kingdom use alphabetical sizing.