Rings and Fingers – Unmasking the Symbolism

rings and fingers

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While some people wear rings on specific fingers because of traditions and cultural beliefs, others prefer to wear them on any finger they like. It might come as a surprise that each finger on our hands has its own meaning and so does wearing a ring on any one of them.

It’s common knowledge that wedding bands are worn on the left ring finger but apart from this, not many people are aware of what it means when they wear rings on certain fingers. Knowing this can be useful since you might be accidentally sending the wrong messages to others.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the symbolism of each finger and what it means to wear a ring on it.

Ring Symbolism

ring symbolism

There’s a lot more to rings than just being beautiful pieces of jewelry that are worn to decorate your hands. Throughout history, rings have been worn to symbolize many things such as devotion, eternity, and fidelity and they have even represented certain deities. However, today they’re commonly worn as a fashion trend or to denote love at weddings and engagements.

While each finger tells a different story, depending on your culture and where you live, wearing a ring is generally considered a sign of wealth. For some people, it’s a way of showing the world their wealth and for others, seeing someone wearing rings is a sign that that particular person has more money than they know what to do with and are a good target for thieves. By wearing rings, you’re letting everyone know that you have money and this can expose you to danger.

Note that not everyone will understand what your ring stands for. The few who do may have certain assumptions about you, your intentions, or your personality but don’t let this discourage you from wearing your rings the way you like.

Wedding Ring Symbolism

wedding rings

One use for rings that are culturally accepted in almost every corner of the world is to show that you’re married or in a serious, committed relationship. It was the Neanderthals who first began this tradition thousands of years ago, by weaving small ‘rings’ out of grass or twigs to wear. This practice was later adopted by other civilizations which is how it spread throughout the world.

In certain Asian cultures, wedding rings were made entirely out of wood. If removed, the ring would fall apart, which was a sign of infidelity. In the past, rings were worn only by women, to show potential suitors that they were unavailable. It was until World War II that this changed and men also began to wear wedding rings. They did this as a way of carrying their love close to them. However, in some parts of the world, wedding rings are still worn only by women and only men who wanted to specifically display their wealth would wear a ring.

Finger Symbolism

names of each finger

Different cultures have different beliefs and opinions when it comes to wearing rings on certain fingers, some with spiritual or supernatural roots. In general, the hands are considered equal so that the meaning of a ring doesn’t change based on which hand it’s worn.

However, in some cultures, each finger has its own meaning regardless of whether it’s on the right hand or the left. For example, wearing a ring on the pinky finger of your right hand would symbolize something completely different from wearing one on the pinky of your left hand.  

1. Pinky Finger

This is the smallest finger on your hand. Palmistry-related symbolism suggests that the planet Mercury controls this finger. Mercury stands for persuasion, intelligence, and intuition. It’s believed that wearing a ring on this finger can invoke the power of Mercury.

  • Left Pinky: This finger might be small but the ring worn on it has a heavy meaning. In the 19th and 20th centuries, wearing a ring on the left pinky finger was popular and signified two things:
    • It denoted mafia connections (extremely dangerous organized crime groups).
    • It meant that you were married. Two rings on the left pinky finger indicated that a man was married. On the bottom was a simple wedding band followed by a signet ring at the top. This custom has long since been outdated.
  • Right Pinky: In contemporary societies, a ring on the right pinky finger signifies a professional status. For instance, academic scholars in different fields wear signet rings on their right pinky fingers upon graduation.

2. The Ring Finger

Wedding rings are typically worn on your ring finger which is said to be associated with the moon. The Earth’s moon symbolizes imagination and beauty and it also implies romantic relationships. This finger is referred to as the finger of love. In some cultures, the ring finger is associated with the Greek god, Apollo.

  • Left Ring Finger: Most modern societies reserve this finger for special rings like engagement, weddings, and purity rings. They show commitment, love, or a promise.

Depending on personal preference, promise rings and chastity rings can also be worn on the left ring finger. If someone wears a chastity ring, it means that the wearer is abstaining from any sexual relations until after marriage.

  • Right Ring Finger: Men often wear their wedding ring on the right ring finger, while women wear it on the left. Rings worn on this finger are typically associated with romance, creativity, beauty, and love.

3. The Middle Finger

This is the longest finger on any human. As the name suggests, it’s located right in the middle of your other four fingers. The planet associated with this finger is Saturn, responsible for stability, accountability, and soul searching.

It’s quite uncommon to see rings worn on middle fingers especially because it’s adjacent to your index finger, which is used for fine manual tasks. Wearing rings on the middle finger can hinder it, so if you’re planning to do so, make sure to choose rings that are small and simple.

The middle finger has an aura of confidence around it, but it has no special symbolism, regardless of whether it’s your left or right. Most people who wear rings on their middle finger do so to accentuate it. You can wear any jewelry of your choice on this finger as a fashion statement.  

4. The Index Finger

Also called the pointer finger, the index finger’s ruler is believed to be planet Jupiter. It symbolizes leadership, self-confidence, and ambition. This finger also stands for power. The index finger is the most used finger on our hands, but wearing a ring on the finger doesn’t hinder it as much as wearing one on the finger next to it would.

  • Left Index Finger: In the past, queens, kings, and nobles often wore rings on their index fingers. In fact, wearing a ring on the index finger was reserved only for royalty or the wealthy, and people of lower ranks weren’t allowed to wear anything on this finger.
  • Right Index Finger: It was a Jewish tradition to wear rings on the right index finger to symbolize marriage. Jewish brides would wear their wedding on this finger during the ceremony but afterward, they had the option of wearing the ring on any finger they chose.

5. The Thumb

What comes to your mind when someone gives you thumbs up? This is often a congratulatory comment, which lightens up your mood and motivates you. The thumb is associated with friendship, acquaintances, self-assertion, and willpower.

In the olden days, wearing a ring on either thumb symbolized wealth, power, and influence. Only people from higher social classes were allowed to wear thumb rings. However, today anyone can wear a thumb ring as a fashion statement. When worn by men in some societies, they represent influence or wealth and are usually wide or bulky.

While the thumb doesn’t have any astrological association, it was once believed to be an indicator of personality. Having a strong, straight thumb meant that the individual had an authoritative personality while people with crooked thumbs were regarded as dishonest or wicked.

Pros and Cons of Wearing Rings

Now that you know about the various symbolism of rings and fingers, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of wearing rings in general, starting with the pros:

  1. They boost your overall look.
  2. Rings accentuate your appearance, which boosts your confidence.
  3. As with other types of jewelry, rings add liveliness to your outfits.
  4. Wearing a healing ring or a lucky ring is believed to bring you good luck and positive vibes.

Wearing rings also comes with its disadvantages, especially when you have trouble comprehending the symbolism behind it:

  1. You may unintentionally pass across a wrong message when you wear some rings. For example, wearing multiple rings at the same time draws unnecessary attention to you.
  2. You can suffer from ring avulsion injuries if you pull out your ring in the wrong way.
  3. If you’re allergic to certain metals, wearing rings made from these metals can harm your fingers.

Wrapping Up

Although rings had various interesting symbols in different cultures in the past, most of these are becoming outdated and fading away. Just like any other type of jewelry, the main reason people wear rings today is for aesthetic purposes, aside from wedding and engagement rings which continue to be important symbols of love, marriage, and commitment.