The term pinky finger comes from pinck, a Dutch word that means ‘small finger’. Yet despite its size, the pinky has big bona fides. It represents a world of meanings from violence to sensuality, and these shades of meaning have morphed and merged over the years. So what does a pinky ring mean and why do people wear them? It depends on gender and period, so let’s explore.
Meaning 1. Family Status
Initially, pinky rings were exclusively worn by men. And not just any man – it had to be a man of high stature. Why? Because his pinky ring was his signet ring. It had a carving of the family crest on it and could be used to seal letters and sign documents. So the signet ring on your left pinky finger announced to the world that your family had vast wealth and potentially royal lineage.
Men in the royal family have always worn signet rings on their pinkies. Even some American politicians with British roots wear them. The signet was a valuable item though, so sometimes, the original seal was hidden and a simpler signet ring was worn for everyday activities. It alerted everyone around you that your family was powerful enough to have a signet back home.
Meaning 2. Marital Status
Traditional, wedding rings and engagement rings were worn by women on their left ring fingers. This was thanks to the so-called vena amoris that was thought to head to her heart. But when men wore wedding rings, they wore them on their left pinky finger, below their signet rings.
So yes, back in the old days, men could stack their rings without necessarily being labeled dandies. Prince Leopold (son of Queen Victoria) wore his wedding band on his left pinky. And even Prince Charles, first in line to the UK throne, wears his wedding ring on his left pinky.
Meaning 3. Non-Marital Status
If the ring finger indicates marital, romantic love, the little finger represents carnal, self-love. It’s why many suffragettes and first-wave feminists started wearing them in the 1920s and 1930s – previously they were largely worn by men. But even before modern times, women (and some men) who intended to stay celibate wore pinky rings. It declared their unwillingness to marry.
This doesn’t refer to religious rings. Nuns and priests often wear a ring on their left ring finger to show they’re married to the church. And the pope wears rings too. Here, we’re referring to secular pinky rings worn by ordinary citizens as an announcement of their non-marital intentions. There’s even a contemporary line of self-love pinky rings that echo this sentiment.
Meaning 4. Social Status
Pinky rings show wealth in several ways. First, as we mentioned, the original pinky ring was a signet ring, and only wealthy families had a family crest or banner they could emboss on a ring. These early rings weren’t even worn on the finger. They were clipped to a watch chain.
These signets were used to seal key messages and scrolls. They served as a family signature, so they were destroyed when the owner died. But remember, your pinky and thumb are at the extremes of your hand. They almost jut out and are largely out of the way during active work.
So wearing a pinky ring or thumb ring shows wealth. It defines someone rich enough that they don’t have to get their hands dirty or di mundane manual work like dishes, household chores, yard work, or anything that would be disrupted by bulky jewelry on their fingers and thumbs.
Meaning 5. Sexual Status
It may seem like a stereotype now but for a long time, gay men wore pinky rings as an outward sign of their sexual identity. They also used other markers, like piercing their right ear or piercing both ears. (As opposed to piercing the left ear, which was considered straight.)
There are lots of jokes and slurs around sexuality and the ‘limp wrist’ which ironically, shows off your pinky ring beautifully. These days, many women wear pinky rings to show their sexual independence and flaunt their freedom from conventional relationships, even if they’re straight. I think Ne-yo says it best: “she gave back the wedding ring and I turned to a pinky ring” …
Meaning 6. Financial Status
Today, many women convert their midi rings into pinky rings. Midi rings – when they’re metal – are often super slim and wavy or braided. They’re delicate, intricate, and not very expensive. But true pinkie rings are made of solid gold – white, rose, or yellow. The band is thinner towards the palm and wider towards the knuckle. They will usually have a flat surface, simulating a signet.
They might have a domed surface is they sport a stone rather than a carving, crest, or banner. The ring’s crown could be closed or open – closed ones cost more because they use more metal. The stones are often dark-colored – red carnelian, green malachite or tourmaline, black onyx or bloodstones, or blue lapis lazuli. These are all expensive items so pinky ring wearers are rich!
Meaning 7. Organized Crime
Once you were officially inducted into the mafia, you got a special pinky ring. Some Mafiosi wore them above their wedding bands, which they also wore on their left pinkies. Later versions of these rings are described as pimp rings, and these sometimes double as aesthetic brass knuckles.
But in their initial use – or so the urban legend goes – a mafia pinky ring was his life insurance policy. Those rings are huge, gaudy, and expensive, often solid metal. Allegedly, when the ring-wearer dies – especially in the line of duty – the ring can be sold or pawned for funeral costs.
These rings were fancy enough that they could pay for the funeral and have some change left over for the deceased successor among the mafia ranks. But nomadic grifters often wore pinky rings for the same reason. They had no close family ties, so their rings would pay for final rites.
Meaning 8. Controlled Communication
In Roman mythology, each finger is associated with a specific god. The pinky is set aside for Mercury, the messenger god. He is also the god of mischief, wisdom, travel, transitions, and practical jokes. He links the world of the gods, living mortals, celestial beings, and dead souls.
For this reason, some people wear pinky rings as a healing or protective talisman. It’s thought to relieve blockages, so it may be ‘prescribed’ for writers’ block. Celebrities, politicians, and public personas may also wear one during interviews and speeches to ‘guard their tongue’.
They probably believe their rings keep them from saying the wrong thing or giving out too much information. Whether it’s a good luck charm or a display of their eccentric artistic taste, many famous people wore pinky rings including Elvis, Jimmy Hendrix, and Ringo ‘Rings’ Starr.
Meaning 9. Professional Status
We’ve mentioned kings and clergy use their rings as status symbols to sign official decrees. But in the modern world, many high schools issue a class ring to the graduating class. You may also have a signet ring that represents your club or shows membership to a given association.
In given professions like engineering, graduates get an Engineer’s Ring or Iron Ring for their right or left pinky as a sign of their trade. Geologists sometimes wear an Earth Ring for this same reason. Athletes may choose to wear their class ring or team ring on their index or pinky.
Meaning 10. Fashion Status
Pinky rings – on both men and women – show individuality and personal style. True pinky rings for women have the same silhouette as men’s rings. They retain the wider top and mostly flat, engraved markings. These markings are often sunken to reflect their initial function – wax seals. It may be why pinky rings are often designed in ‘solitaire style’ with a single stone or image.
Today, the ring is about fashion forwardness. Men can match the gemstones in their pinky rings with other accessories. It could accent the color of their shirt or the gemstones in their cufflinks. They could even match it with an understated but bejeweled earring or stud. But if you wear rings for fashion reasons, buy a few different sizes – your fingers change girth with the seasons.
Meaning 11. Wishful Thinking
Many modern citizens believe in positivity and the laws of attraction. So knowing pinky rings are associated with self-love, intelligence, material well-being, and wealth, you could invest in a pinky ring as a prophetic good-luck charm. You may be consciously or subconsciously inviting these things into your life. That’s why you may wake up one day and ‘feel like wearing your ring’.
This school of thought is more esoteric. It assumes you’re listening to your body, mind, and spirit, so you can tell when the subtle energies of the universe prompt you to wear a specific pinky ring. It also implies you have a sizeable ring collection whose origins, designs, and gemstones have different denotations and various healing properties. Blue seems popular here.
Is your pinky sporting any bling? Show us a photo in the comments and tell us what it means to you. We’d really love to know the ring’s backstory and significance!
My name is Vanessa, Editor and Writer of Something Borrowed Jewelry. Here I talk about my love for diamonds, rings, and all fashion of Jewellery.