One might be tempted to think that the meaning behind men’s ring placement is as simple as the traditional wedding band. And while a ring placed on the “ring” finger of the left hand is the most widely recognised symbolic placement, there are other meanings for men’s rings, depending on which finger they adorn, and their orientation on the hand.
One of the most famous and complex examples of this is the Claddagh ring. A traditional symbol of love among the Irish, this band features a pair of hands holding a heart, with a crown resting on the top. When worn on the right hand with the heart facing out towards the world, it shows a person’s open heart and availability to find love. When worn with the heart pointed towards their own heart, it symbolizes how their love has already been captured by another. When worn on the left hand, an outward heart shows their betrothal to another; an inward heart means they are married.
Wedding bands are a more commonly known example. Worn on the left hand in modern Western culture, they belong on the “ring finger”. Traditionally, no other ring (other than an engagement ring) should be worn on that finger. The left hand was believed to have the “vein of love” running along its ring finger, connected directly to the heart. Thus, a ring on that finger was as close to the wearer’s heart at possible.
Pinkie rings have the unique position of being somewhat without a cultural or historical background. There are two examples of variations, however: The Engineer’s Ring or Iron Ring is worn by many Canadian professional engineers, and each one is said to be made from a piece of the poorly-engineered Quebec Bridge that collapsed in the early 1900’s; the other is the Signet ring, which in times past was used to create a stamp or seal, which was used instead of a signature on a document.
Another placement of meaning is not a finger at all. Thumb ring can be a symbol of your sexuality, a fashion statement, or for archery. In some circles, a thumb ring on the right hand indicates a gay or lesbian lifestyle. In other circles, of course, sometimes a thumb ring is just a thumb ring – worn there because the piece of jewellery in question was simply too large to be worn on any regular finger, or as a fashion statement. And for some who practice the art of archery, a thumb ring is a tool in a certain style of bow drawing, meant to protect the flesh of the thumb.
In the end, it pays to know what sort of men’s ring you are wearing, and while you should be conscious of what finger you wear it on, do not allow these rules to rule your life. A ring is a possession, and as such, you define it – not the other way around.