How to Wear Rings: A Definitive Guide on Styles and Meanings

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Wondering about how to wear rings in a ways that speaks about you and your personal style?

You're in the right place. In this Learning Guide, we'll cover all you need to know about wearing rings on different fingers, as well as the following:

how to wear rings
  • Which wedding ring goes on first?
  • What does a pinky finger ring symbolize?
  • How does one wear stacking rings?

Different Kinds of Rings You Can Wear

I'm sure when you think of wearing rings, your mind goes straight to the wedding band or engagement ring. These are the most popular, but there's many rings out there. Some of them have an interesting history behind them, though most are worn today as a fashion statement.

Here's some of the most popular non-wedding rings. Each category can be broken down further in different styles.

Cocktail Rings

There's not an exact science to what makes a ring a cocktail ring, but there's an obvious characteristic. Cocktail rings are rings that are noticeable and often flashy. Popular cocktail styles may be a crossover bands, cluster ring, or a dramatic statement ring.

diamond wrap fashion ring crossover blue nile

They can be worn on virtually any finger, but are most often found on the three longest fingers. Cocktail rings can have diamond or gemstones. Sometimes, they may not have either. There are many dramatic statement rings made of a precious metals with intricate designs.

Signet Rings

Signet rings aren't as popular today for their meanings, but more for their fashion statement. They have been used since the ancient times of the pharaohs. The word "signet" comes from the Latin word meaning "sign". Signet rings were traditionally carved with a family's crest. They would be dipped in wax and used to sign or seal important documents.

In modern times, the signet ring is worn more like a family ring. Football rings and class rings are a modern take on the original signet ring. Some rings classified as signet rings in jewelry stores may not have any kind of crest of at all. Often times they will have a large colored gemstone at the top.

Stackable Rings

Stackable rings are a big trend right now. It's one I happen to love too. Wearing rings that stack is a great way to arrange multiple rings on one finger, without cluttering. Sometimes wearing multiple rings can look like a mess, but stacking them can arrange them neatly. Brilliant Earth even lets you create your ring stack online

create your own stack brilliant earth

There's no real rules for how to wear rings that stack. If you want something more delicate, you might stick to thin and simple bands, between 2-4mm. You can wear rings with or without stones, and mixing metals can have a great look.

If you want something that stands out a bit more, mixing thick bands and thin bands of different metals can be very eye-catching. I don't recommend stacking rings with all wide bands. It can be very uncomfortable and your finger may start looking like an armadillo.

Many ask if you can wear too many rings and if so, how many rings is too many. I don't think that's the proper question to be asking. Instead of being concerned about how many rings, you want to look at the type of rings you've chosen. Rings have different widths and styles. Three simple bands could make a modest ring stack. But three chunky stacked ring could look like too many.

Wearing Rings is Personal

There's all sorts of origins to wearing rings. Many rings have a history of symbolism, and so do the fingers we choose to wear them on. There's even recommendations on which colored gemstones or ring metals look best on what skin tone.

It's true there's a bit of color science to wearing jewelry with your skin tone, but most people just get what reflects their personal style or taste. White metals are said to look best on a cool tone, while yellow gold and rose gold rings are said to be better on warmer skin tones.

two tone ring brilliant earth

Personally, I like all sorts of different metals. I have a particular affinity for tri-tone rings. Mixing rose gold with yellow gold and white gold in one ring can create a beautiful cocktail ring. It may break the color rules, but as long as you love it, who cares?

Ring Meanings on Each Finger

I do encourage personal taste and style when you wear a ring, whether you're going for a single ring or many rings. However, it's kind of cool to know the history and meaning of which finger you choose to put your rings on.

Thumb Rings

Wearing thumb rings dates back to ancient Egypt. The oldest known use of a ring on thumb finger was found on mummies. In ancient Rome, the thumb is said to symbolize the water god, Neptune. It was also believed if you had a straight thumb, you had a strong character. If you had a crooked thumb, it meant the opposite. To wear a ring on your thumb meant you were someone of substantial wealth and status.

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thumb ring

credited to: dleeII 

Most people that wear rings on their thumbs today hold no significance to it other than a statement ring. However, most people that do wear thumb rings choose chunky ring designs that may be adjustable or standard ring shanks.

Left Thumb Ring

Thumb rings in Asia were also called archer's rings. It was worn on the left hand by archers in order to help with the thumb release on a bow. They were used for the larger, higher quality bows. When the string hit the very wide design of the archer ring, it reduces the drag.

archers ring

Right Thumb Ring

There's no direct significance to wearing a ring on the thumb in the modern world. The thumb ring finger became the new place to wear statement rings besides the pinky finger. Majority of people don't wear multiple rings on their thumb due to the lack of space. Neither the left nor the right thumb has any specific message today.

Index Finger Ring

Kings and those of royal stature would often wear rings on their index finger, known today as the "pointer finger". If you're noticing a common theme, wearing rings pretty much meant you had money to actually wear rings. These were the rings that people would kneel and kiss as a sign of reverence or respect. Pointer fingers are popular for larger rings like signet or cocktail rings.

index finger ring

credited to: emilygoodstein

In astrology, the index finger is ruled by Jupiter. It is said that those who wear a ring on this finer have high self-esteem, confidence, and possess a flair for leadership. I could see how that is, given that wearing rings on this hand is associated with status and individuality.

Left Index Finger

In some cultures, the pointer finger on the left hand is used for wedding bands. During a Jewish wedding ceremony, wedding bands are exchanged and worn on the pointer finger. The most popular reason why they wear wedding bands on that finger is because it's the closest to your heart. It's similar to why we wear wedding bands on the inside of our engagement rings instead of on top.

Right Index Finger

In Western cultures, both the right and left index finger ring is often used for large rings or to wear multiple rings on. It's also a favorite finger for class rings, large cocktail rings, or other rings that make a statement.

The right or left hand pointer finger makes the ideal finger for large rings because it's more comfortable against the side of one finger, rather than sandwiched between two fingers.

Middle Finger Ring

Aside from the obvious negative message the middle finger brings, the middle finger has additional symbolism in different cultures and astrology.

The ring sandwich is why a lot of women don't wear rings on their middle finger. However, it could be a the perfect place to wear multiple rings as a stackable set. Wider rings are a great option for this finger because it's the longest one on your hand.

middle finger ring

The length of this finger has symbolism of balance. Middle finger rings have become increasingly popular in the Western world to wear a bold ring with a larger center stone.

These meanings are true whether you wear it on your active hand or passive hand. There's no distinct significance on which middle finger you choose.

Left Ring Finger

The left hand ring finger is the most popular finger to wear a wedding band on. For majority of the world, it's the finger we wear our engagement rings and wedding rings on.

rose gold bridal set ring finger

In the past, the wedding ring finger has been associated with the god, Apollo. The finger represents love, beauty, and relationships. Originally, the wedding ring was supposed to show ownership, indicating a woman belonged to a man. Not the most romantic origin story, but thankfully this has changed now.

Not everyone could afford to wear gold jewelry. Many bands were a simple silver band or similarly styled rings. Women's engagement rings were fancier, adorned with small semi precious stones or precious stones for the the more wealthy.

In present day, we recommend not to wear silver engagement rings and the like. Sterling silver has a lot of upkeep, especially if you're planning to wear it everyday for years.

Right Ring Finger

In some cultures, the right finger is the wedding ring finger. It has the same connotations as the left ring finger. 

Pinky Finger Rings

Pinky ring fingers were popular in the past for people of high status. The pinky symbolizes power, which gave way to the idea of mob bosses wearing large rings on their little finger. Family rings were popular for this finger.

prince pinky ring

The pinky has been associated with the planet Mercury, and is said to represent those with great intuition. During the early 90s and 2000s, pinky rings were sometimes worn to show sexual status. Piercing the right ear and wearing pinky rings could indicate someone's sexuality. Alternatively, it wasn't only associated with members of the LGBTQ community. Many heterosexual people wore pinky rings to show sexual independence as well.

Left Pinky Finger

The left pinky finger was used between the 19th-20th century to show they were married as well. Often times they would wear two rings on the left pinky finger.

Right Pinky Finger

The right pinky finger has the same meaning as the left, though many choose to wear rings of prominence on this finger, like a class ring or other jewelry representing achievement.

How to Find Your Finger Size

There are multiple ways to determine your ring finger size. Your local jewelry stores should carry a ring sizer. If you have a ring that fits well on your hand but don't know the ring size, you can take it to a local jewelry store to determine the ring size. They will slide it on a tool called a mandrel. It looks like a long metal stick with measurements etched in the metal. Based on how far down the mandrel the ring drops, that will determine the ring sizing.

mandrel

credited: Emma Day

The jewelry store should also have a ring sizer. If you go into a Kays or Zales, they'll have two. Their ring sizers has several rings on it, so you can easily switch on and off. If you're looking for delicate rings, you'll want to use the 2mm ring sizers.

Men's wedding bands tend to be wider, but more female and non-binary people are liking the wider rings too. If you wear larger rings, you'll want to use the wide ring sizers. They are a different fit from the 2mm. The wider the band, the tighter it fits on your finger. They will not be the same size as sizing rings with a smaller width.

mens ring sizer

credited: DoNotLick

womens sizers

If you don't want to go into a jewelry store, you can use a measuring tape at home to determine the ring size. Don't assume the same finger on the opposite hand will be the same size. Measure each finger individually if you're wanting to wear multiple rings.

Conclusion

So while there are current and past symbolism for other fingers, the ring finger is the most common place to wear rings. Whichever ring you choose for your hand, you don't always have to wear them according to their meaning.

Today, most people wear rings as a small accessory and a way to show their style. Not every ring sends a message, so you shouldn't assume these reasons are why someone is wearing it on that particular finger.


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