From Egyptian mummies to modern-day moms, the thumb ring has gone in and out of fashion throughout recorded human history. The history of thumb rings proves that the ring's significance varies widely, depending on the culture and era. For example, it can signify independence, love, sexuality, good luck or simply a fashion choice.
A thumb ring is a ring worn on the thumb finger of the hand. Thumb rings come in a vast selection of styles and sizes, and they are worn by men and women of all ages.
According to a New York Times article published in 1902, thumb rings date back thousands of years. An Egyptian mummy case located in the British Museum depicts a woman with rings on both of her thumbs. Many of these ancient, medieval and renaissance thumb rings were up to three and a half inches in width and were often adorned with heavy stones, jewels and even animal teeth.
Throughout history, the thumb ring has swayed back-and-forth between being worn by the upper classes or the lower classes. Today, the thumb ring is seen on people of all classes, ages and genders, although they are most frequently spotted on the hands of young women.
In ancient times, thumb rings were often considered protective talismans or charms to ward off evil or disease, according to the Times' report. Superstitious people today may still consider the thumb ring to be a charm against ailments or bad luck.
In renaissance societies, the thumb ring represented love and commitment. Women received a thumb ring from their beloved upon acceptance of a marriage proposal, according to an antiques columnist who writes for Pennsylvania's Pocono Record.
Whether modern thumb rings have personal meaning varies according to the individual. For many, it is simply a fashion statement but, for some, there is a personal, psychological or sexual significance attached to the band around their thumb.
Some believe that the thumb represents the "self" since it is set apart from and independent of the other fingers, but it is still able to cooperate with them for maximum effectiveness - much like our individual role in society. A blogger who focuses his writing on rings believes this makes the thumb ring a symbol of freedom and independence in thought and action.
In some cultures, lesbian women wear a silver thumb ring as a symbol of pride.
If you choose to give your thumb ring personal meaning, consider getting it inscribed by a jeweler. The thumb ring is often larger than rings for other fingers, so it offers more inscription space.
Jess Reamy is a freelance writer with professional experience in politics, publishing, communications, and non-profit advocacy for children's health issues. She graduated magna cum laude in 2007 from American University in Washington, D.C. with a degree in communications.
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