That’s not a problem – because if you’re reading this article you’re about to learn more in 5 minutes than what 95% of the population knows.
There are many traditions regarding jewelry in general and rings in particular.
Use them to make a statement without opening your mouth.
Now be aware – it’s not a statement everyone will get — but like a lot of fashion choices, they’re there for the people who notice, and being part of the elite club that “gets it” is part of the fun.
So if you’re someone who’s considering wearing a ring purely for the style of it (rather than just a wedding band), here are a few of the traditional associations for rings on fingers.
Want to hear & see me talk about rings and symbolism of each finger? Click here to watch my video summary.
First – Right Hand vs. Left Hand
For the most part there aren’t any steadfast rules about which hand you wear your ring (s) on.
Engagement and wedding rings are exceptions — there are a lot of specific cultural traditions — but at the end of the day there are so many cultural traditions that it becomes an anything-goes situation anywhere that’s not completely homogeneous.
Just for example, most American men will wear their wedding band on their left ring finger, but a man married in an Eastern Orthodox church could end up using the right hand instead (I do this – watch my videos and you’ll see!). And engagement rings are rare enough on men already that there is no set tradition.
Some schools or organizations may have rules about how to wear their rings (in which case you’ll be told), but most will leave it up to their members.
So for pretty much any ring, don’t worry about right hand vs. left hand rules. As far as symbolism goes, the right hand is generally seen as the “physical” hand — the active, dominant one that makes most of your gestures. The left is thought of as the “mental” hand, representing your character and beliefs.
Those are based, unsurprisingly, on a right-hander’s view of the world. A left-handed man might personally find it appropriate to reverse the whole thing. At the end of the day we’re talking about some very general concepts here — don’t be afraid to go your own way.
This is often the first choice for a man who wants to wear a “statement” ring.
Pinky rings have a couple of advantages: they don’t have religious or cultural associations in most cultures (unlike the ring finger), and, like rings on the fourth finger, they don’t touch or interfere with the index/pointer finger at all.
It also isolates the ring from your body a bit, making it more of an eye-popping statement. As a result, pinky rings tend to be among the “busiest” or flashiest of designs. It’s where you wear things when you want attention paid to them.
People who like astrological or palmistry-related symbolism will associate the littler finger with intelligence and persuasion. It represents Mercury, which was (for obvious reasons) associated with the element of mercury, so you’re not going to have a ring made of the relevant metal here — mercury is liquid at room temperature, and highly toxic to humans.
In the US and much of North & South America, the ring finger is most commonly associated with wedding symbolism: a band on the right fourth finger indicates engagement, while a band on the left fourth finger indicates marriage.
That said, nearly all men opt for a simple gold or silver band for their wedding/engagement rings. A large ring with a jewel or a three-dimensional design on it is far less likely to be taken for something related to your marital status.
That’s not to say that people don’t wear some very strange and artistic things as wedding bands, from time to time, but it’s not the cultural norm. A distinctively decorative ring on the fourth finger probably won’t be assumed to be a wedding or engagement ring, while a plain metal band or one with minor, same-tone etchings or designs probably will be.
Symbolically, the ring finger is associated with Earth’s moon, creativity, and beauty, as well as its obvious associations with romantic relationships. The moon’s metal is silver, making silver rings a natural choice for non-wedding-related rings worn on the fourth finger.
Apart from the obvious hand gesture, the middle finger is your largest, boldest finger.
Rings worn on the middle finger are surprisingly uncommon — in part, that’s because it’s adjacent to the index finger, and anything bulky can be quite a hindrance to fine manual tasks. It’s best to keep things small and simple if you’re wearing them on your middle finger.
That said, a lot of first-time ring-wearers might feel more comfortable with the middle finger, purely because if feels so central, sturdy, and frankly, “manly.” If the idea of a pinky ring weirds you out, and you don’t want any confusion with wedding/engagement symbolism, the middle finger’s a safe default.
Because of its central location, the middle finger is held to symbolize balance and responsibility, and is associated with Saturn. Since Saturn’s metal is lead, simple gray metals like steel are common middle finger choices.
There’s a natural instinct to keep the pointer finger clear, since we use it more than any other digit (except the thumb), but it turns out that a ring on the finger doesn’t interfere with it as much as one on the finger next to it.
If you go back hundreds of years the index finger was the most common location for a man’s ring (generally a signet or a crest — in some parts of Europe, people below a certain rank were actually forbidden from wearing rings, because they denoted specific family status).
That makes the index finger a good place for things like class rings, fraternal rings, or family and membership crests, although many men (especially younger, unmarried men) opt for the ring finger out of habit instead.
Anything that you want to be used frequently and emphatically in your gestures can go on the index finger. It’s not as dramatically isolated as something on the outer digits (thumb and pinky), but its prominence in our basic manual dexterity makes it noticeable.
The astrological association for the pointer finger is Jupiter, which symbolizes power, leadership, and authority. The metal association is tin, which you won’t find many rings made out of, but bright silver tones are a normal choice for the index finger.
Thumb rings have a slightly outlandish feel to people who come from conventional North American culture, but they’re actually reasonably common world-wide. In most societies a thumb ring on a man is a sign of wealth or influence, and they tend to be broad or bulky to reflect that (also to fit comfortably on the thumb, of course).
A thumb ring is also often the natural choice for men who want to wear multiple rings on the same hand, since it’s at least somewhat distanced from the others. A wedding band plus a pinky or middle finger ring can get quite crowded, both visually and physically, whereas a thumb ring gives everything some space.
Thumb gestures are associated with interaction and friendship (think “thumbs up”). Wear a ring that you want people to like — big and chunky is fine, but nothing incredibly gaudy or expensive-looking. It’s already going to be bigger than most rings, so if the design is extravagant as well it just becomes this massive anchor dragging your hand down. Keep it bold but simple.
The thumb doesn’t have an astrological association, but in classic mythology (and pre-scientific medicine) it was believed to be an indicator of character: strong, straight thumbs meant an authoritative personality, while crooked ones were seen as a sign of wickedness or dishonesty.
How Many Rings Can a Man Wear On His Hand?
What’s the maximum number of rings a guy should wear?
It’ll depend on the rings. Generally you won’t wear more than one on any given finger, but then you’ll run into things like clusters of four or five wire-thin bands that are meant to be worn together.
But assuming only one ring per finger, two or three spread out across both hands is usually a safe max. Even that’s going to be very striking — go too much beyond that and you’re just a caricature.
Oftentimes, you’re best off with a single bold “statement” ring on one hand and nothing else, or nothing more than a plain wedding/engagement band if it’s relevant.
Quality matters more than quantity, at the end of the day — no matter what finger you’re displaying your rings on.