Rings: the often simple form of circular jewellery typically worn on one’s fingers, have a long history. Examples of rings have been found dating back to before 2000BC, and over their 4000 year history they have found their place as a versatile accessory, suitable for anyone and any occasion. 

Yet to this day, there exists a lengthy list of regulations surrounding rings. From traditions on the proper jewellery to wear, to rules on how you should wear them, and most importantly, specifics on how they should be styled. Some rules are more general, applying to jewellery as a whole, whilst others apply specifically to the world of rings. The most prevalent example are the traditions surrounding wedding rings and bands. In the UK, the wedding ring is traditionally worn on the ring finger of the left hand. Engagement rings have been historically reserved for women, and after the wedding the engagement ring is worn together with the wedding ring on the same finger. Diamond rings were also seen as only for women.  

However, in recent years rings have for many people become the ultimate form of self-expression despite these rules and traditions. Wedding rings and engagement rings are becoming less popular among the younger generations as their ideas about marriage and relationships change. For those that opt for them, they often avoid the flashier options. The now wide-spread knowledge of the use of conflict minerals in high-end jewellery, particularly diamonds, alongside the economic realities faced by young couples have led to more understated choices. A higher proportion of men are wearing engagement rings and at the same time, more and more couples are opting to ditch engagement rings all together, particularly given the problematic gender dynamic involved with them. 

These changes are not limited to wedding rings. With the release of La Manso’s most recent collection of rings, there is a focus on plastic rings in bright colours. This demonstrates a distinct change from traditional rings utilising metal, and the association that rings, and jewellery in general, should only be stylised as ‘luxury’. These rings provide a unique fashion statement, a clear marker of one’s own style. They also represent a move away from more problematic usages of fast fashion to buy cheaper metal jewellery, as well as from conflict minerals in more expensive pieces. Changes in gender norms have also changed the ring market, with men increasingly using rings as a form of self expression outside of the traditional wedding band or signet ring. As seen in many celebrity looks, men have adopted rings in a wide-array of styles, some opting for more minimalist looks, whilst others stack rings or choose to flex heavily jewelled pieces. 

Stacking rings, whilst not a new idea, having been popular across Europe for both men and women in the Middle-Ages, marks the pinnacle of rule-breaking self-expression when it comes to jewellery. As such, it is an extremely popular look at the moment and is surprisingly easy to pull off. The choices made when stacking rings say a lot about the wearer, whether deliberate or not. Stacking rings allows for simpler pieces to be elevated and older pieces to be reused; one is able to mix metals, different coloured jewels, and combine high and low-end pieces to form their own unique look – expressing all the wearer wants to say with just their hands.

The choices made by all genders in creating such looks are able to function as a form of self-expression never seen before. Beneath the beauty of the rings themselves, you are able to read deeply into the wearer’s personality and sense of style as you understand how they choose to break the rules and depart from traditions.

For Cherwell, maintaining editorial independence is vital. We are run entirely by and for students. To ensure independence, we receive no funding from the University and are reliant on obtaining other income, such as advertisements. Due to the current global situation, such sources are being limited significantly and we anticipate a tough time ahead – for us and fellow student journalists across the country.

So, if you can, please consider donating. We really appreciate any support you’re able to provide; it’ll all go towards helping with our running costs. Even if you can't support us monetarily, please consider sharing articles with friends, families, colleagues - it all helps!

Thank you!