Circular bands worn on the fingers, rings have been at the cornerstones of jewelry for centuries. Whether plain or set with precious stones, rings are typically made from materials like metal, wood, plastic, or even gemstones. Most people are familiar with the more traditional rings like wedding bands, engagement rings, and class rings, but there are various rings that are much less usual. The subsequent text explores some of the world’s most unusual rings.
Poison rings date to sixteenth-century Europe and appear to be at the heart of intrigues and dark plots. Poison rings were designed with a container beneath the bezel to hold a small amount of any imaginable substance. The bezel might be circular or square, but they were designed in a way to mask their hidden compartment. The rings could then be used to slip poison into someone’s drink or dinner plate. Poison was also hidden inside the ring in case the wearer needed to quickly commit suicide in the case of capture in order to prevent a more gruesome death or torture. Poison rings are still available today and come in many styles like Gothic, religious, or Art Deco—nearly any historic jewelry style, though they are rarely worn for their sinister purposes of yesteryear.
Puzzle rings traditionally date to the Renaissance and were worn most often in England and Italy. They are comprised of four, six, eight and as many as twelve interconnected (and interlocking) rings that, when assembled on the finger, resemble an endless knot. Nearly mechanical in nature, these intriguing rings may stem from Celtic cultures, but they are making a comeback in popularity today. Puzzle rings have also been called Turkish rings and Harem rings. There are many types of puzzle rings that vary in complexity. Most puzzle rings are composed of sterling silver as other kinds of metal may wear with time and damage the puzzle.
Chastity rings, also known as purity, celibacy, and abstinence rings, are more modern than the previous examples. They were invented in the 1990s in the United States and are associated with Christian pro-abstinence groups. The rings were targeted at teens in the hopes of increasing their likelihood to remain chaste until marriage. Worn by both boys and girls, the rings are meant to be a symbol of their oath to remain a virgin. Rings may feature a band of crosses, a botanical design, a carved message, or a gemstone as well as many other designs.
Other unusual rings include mood rings which were popular during the 1970s; the rings were composed of a thermochromic element that was supposed to change colors according to the wearer’s moods. Posie rings date to fifteenth-century Europe, but were popular for centuries after. They are simple bands engraved with a short sentiment or poem. Sometimes the engraving is on the inside of the band and sometimes on the outer band. Some example engravings of museum-held posie rings include “forget me not” and “dear love of mine my heart is thine.”