Rings are not only for personal adornment or to make a bold fashion statement; sometimes wearing a ring conveys a deeper symbolic meaning. That bling you're sporting on your hand could communicate your marital status, your alliegience to your high school, or, in rare cases, perhaps even the fact that you've won a Super Bowl.
One of the first rings we wear that carries any symbolic meaning is the high school class ring. It often features design elements that represent our high school – a mascot, for example, or a stone in one of the school’s colors. There might also be a symbol representing the wearer’s high school activities, such as a baseball bat for sports or a comedy mask for theater. Sometimes a high school student will give a ring to his girlfriend to represent that they are “going steady” – dating each other exclusively.
A promise ring is a kind of warm up to an engagement ring. When a couple is not quite ready to officially become betrothed, a promise ring is a way of saying “we’ll get engaged someday.” A pearl is considered a traditional and appropriate gemstone for a promise ring. A small diamond is also a popular choice.
This ring is traditionally given by a man to a woman he intends to marry. In contemporary American society, this is the ring that tends to carry the most emotional weight. This piece of jewelry “seals the deal” in a romantic relationship, and telegraphs to the world that a marriage is imminent. Engagement rings are traditionally diamond rings, but a colored stone like a sapphire is also appropriate. Most famously, the ring given to Lady Diana by Prince Charles, and then given to Kate Middleton by Prince William, is a blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds.
Not all rings symbolize a romantic commitment. A masonic ring is a type of “signet ring,” meaning it represents a “sign” of authentic affiliation to a group. Members of the secret society of Free Masons may choose to wear a masonic ring to honor allegiance to their brotherhood. Often the ring includes the Masonic square and compasses, with or without the letter G at its center.
A purity ring is a relatively new trend, begun in the 1990s by abstinence groups and worn by pre-teens and teens to signify a pledge to remaining a virgin until marriage. Sometimes they are inscribed with the words “Love Waits.” These rings are worn on the third finger of the left hand, meant to represent that the wearer will remain a virgin until marriage.
A wedding ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand to symbolize that the wearer is married. A man or a woman may wear this ring. These rings can be simple or elaborate in design, from a basic gold band to a circle of glittering diamonds. The ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand because years ago it was believed that there was a vein running from this finger directly to the heart.