Whether statement-making or secretive, reasons for wearing pinky rings have switched over the centuries. As it makes its returns to our jewellery boxes, we take a look at their extensive history and why they’ve never looked better
Ross Aston | 15.10.2019
image credit i shutterstock
We can all recall the solemn oath of a childhood pinky promise and its use of the hand's littlest finger is certainly no accident. The digit and the wearing of rings on it to convey messages has a storied history that goes back centuries, recently returning to our jewellery boxes with new meaning.
With its origins in ancient Egypt, the pinky ring has cropped up throughout the ages as both a decorative and practical accessory. The unique intaglio engraved into the flat bezel of a signet was pressed into melted wax as a family’s personal stamp of approval. The seal of the Byzantine officer Michael Zorianos, part of New York’s Met Museum collection, goes back to 1300. And as its usage to denote ancestry fell out of favour, Elizabethan men and women set their pinkies with precious gems. Later, at the turn of the 19th century, the wearing of one on the left hand signalled to others that, though single, marriage wasn’t a priority.
In more recent years, Maison Margiela’s signet design - with its blank surface - has become a cult hit and though the trend for royal men to stack together their wedding band and signet halted in the early 20th century, Princess Diana reportedly loved a pinky. Fast forward to the 21st century and Lil Pump raps about his latest purchase, “Pinky ring, pinky ring, pinky ring… Spent 20 racks on a pinky ring.” His may be topped with a giant diamond, but the likes of Retrouvai and Alison Lou are designing modern signets capped with comical reliefs or glimmering with enamel.
LIL PUMP | SHUTTERSTOCK
Opening up a world of options, if a beloved antique find doesn’t fit your middle finger try it on your pinky - consider this a warning though, just because your Grandma’s tiny heirloom engagement ring fits your little finger, doesn’t necessarily mean it should be worn there. It’s a vulnerable spot for jewellery, prone to being knocked on walls and furniture, so be on the lookout for pieces set with stones high on the Mohs scale. Used as a measurement of hardiness - diamonds are a 10 Mohs and the mineral Talc is a one - this handy barometer will help you avoid any heartbreak. Sidestep any gems below seven, including opals and pearls; one fell knock on that 5.5 Mohs Lapis Lazuli and forget handing it down to your progeny. Exposed on the outer edge of the hand, rings with pavé shanks or chunky accents are also more likely to catch on your clothing so opt for smooth bands.
As eye-catching as they are conspicuous, its location on the body makes it a subtler, more unexpected choice. Whether finished off with a delicate heraldic engraving or a giant gemstone, these pieces sit in an anachronistic middle ground between modern and traditional. Perhaps this is the key to its charms, with other brands such as Sophie Buhai, Noor Fares and Dina Kamal all utilising its multi-layered past to create contemporary incarnations of the style. Then, as now, these rings can convey whatever the wearer desires, today’s comeback being just another part of its story.