Throughout history, many cultures have used rings as symbols. One of the most important factors of a ring’s symbolism is on which finger and hand the ring is worn.
Thumb rings are used as a protection for archers, protection from evil spirits, a way for widows to honor their deceased husbands, a symbol of wealth and status, a way for someone to express their relationship status, sexuality, or attributes, and have various meanings in different philosophies.
Since there have been so many different uses and meanings for wearing thumb rings, you’ll want to know what your jewelry is saying about you.
What is a Thumb Ring Called?
Nowadays, it is common to refer to rings worn on the thumb as thumb rings.
However, different countries have called them different things over the years.
Zihgir is the Turkish name for thumb rings that are specifically used to protect archers’ knuckles from the bowstring,.
Persians refer to the same type of protective thumb ring as kustubān. Whereas, Arabs call thumb rings khayta‘ah.
What is The Significance or Symbolism of a Thumb Ring?
In addition to these meanings behind wearing a thumb ring, it’s important to note that what the ring is made out of, gemstones used, color, and engravings can all add and/or change the meaning of the ring.
Protection for Archers
The most common use of a thumb ring throughout history has been its role in archery.
Almost every culture has a history of archers wearing thumb rings to prevent their knuckles from getting cut and calloused from the bowstring.
Early thumb rings were made out of leather, wood, ivory, and rope. Later it became more common to see metal thumb rings, many in silver or bronze.
Occasionally, thumb rings have even been made out of glass.
Here is a basic overview of how thumb rings are used and made for archery:
Protection from Evil Spirits
According to ancient beliefs, wearing a thumb ring can ward off spells, misfortunes, and illness.
In many cases, these thumb rings would be engraved with specific symbols to further scare off evil spirits, demons, and dark scourges.
A Symbol of Wealth and Status
Starting in Ancient Greek societies, wearing thumb rings was a symbol of power, rank, wealth, and influence.
They believed in the common saying “bigger is better” and reserved the largest, heaviest, and most decorated rings for those in the highest positions of power.
In some cases, the highest and wealthiest authorities would wear multiple thumb rings to prove their importance.
This usage is still in practice in many countries today.
In China, thumbs rings are specifically used to signify rank in the military and are commonly made out of jade glass.
In general, wearing a thumb ring on the left hand represents being in a committed relationship and the right hand represents being single.
Wearing a thumb ring can symbolize a lot of attributes.
Since meanings are determined by one’s culture, some of the attributes appear contradictory.
The main attributes are:
- Being a decisive person
- Personal Strength
In Different Philosophies
In palmistry, each finger is connected to a specific planet and indicates a particular energy.
Thumbs are connected to Mars, which is referred to as the “lone planet.”
It can indicate having suppressed anger, strong willpower, and a firm grasp on life.
Specifically wearing the thumb ring on the left corresponds to mental character and beliefs.
Thumb rings on the right represent physical characteristics and overall dominance.
Ancient Greek philosophy corresponds the thumb to the sea god Poseidon.
He is said to have an independent personality and so wearing a thumb ring indicates your independence, dignity, and strength as a leader and not a follower.
In Ancient Chinese philosophy, the concepts of Yin and Yang are applied to thumbs.
Generally, they consider the left thumb as yang, which represents masculinity, growth, and brightness.
On the other hand (literally), the right thumb represents yin which calls upon femininity, calm, and soft energy.
What Does It Mean When A Man Wears A Thumb Ring?
In ancient times, men mostly wore thumb rings as a symbol of their power and wealth.
The more powerful and wealthier the person, the heavier, larger, and more ornate the ring would be.
In general, it is also a symbol of individual assertiveness and aggression in life.
On The Left Thumb
Since thumb rings can be used to represent one’s relationships status, it is believed that if a man wears a thumb ring on his left hand then he is highlighting being in a committed relationship (whether married or otherwise).
The attributes connected to men wearing thumb rings on the left are virility, good luck, goodwill, authority, and commitment.
On The Right Thumb
In communities where thumb rings are used to signify sexuality, wearing a thumb ring on the right indicates homosexuality.
In terms of relationship status, it represents being in platonic friendships as opposed to the left hand’s committed relationships.
The attributes connected to men wearing thumb rings on the right are wealth, power, influence, and royalty/high class.
What Does it Mean When a Woman Wears a Thumb Ring?
In general, thumb rings on women can simply be a fashion statement. But they also have a history of being used to honor one’s husband.
In the Renaissance era, women accepted their fiance’s thumb ring as a symbol of their love and commitment.
Throughout history, widows would use their husband’s wedding bands as thumb rings or purchase a thumb ring to honor their deceased spouse.
On The Left Thumb
Thumb rings on the left represent independence, freedom, and courage.
On The Right Thumb
Very similar to men wearing thumb rings on the right, women with thumb rings can signify being single and having an open mindset in regards to sexuality.
Should You Wear a Thumb Ring?
Looking at all the different meanings that wearing a thumb ring can symbolize is intimidating.
There is a lot of historical and cultural significance in why certain people choose to wear thumb rings as they do.
That being said, most of the meanings and symbols are no longer common practice.
In modern times, many wear thumb rings out of enjoyment and convenience.
Most often, both men and women use thumb rings as fashion accessories.
They also might wear rings on their thumbs just because that’s the only finger the ring fits!
Essentially, if you have a thumb ring that you really want to wear, go for it. You don’t have to have a symbolic reason to wear one!
And nowadays, no one is going to assume you’re wearing a thumb ring for one of the reasons above.
On the other side of things, if you are looking for a way to make a statement or symbolically represent something about yourself, thumb rings might be perfect for you.
Dangers of Wearing a Thumb Ring
With any finger you wear a ring on, always be cautious to not get your finger caught on anything!
In many normal, everyday situations, people lose the skin on their fingers, chunks of flesh, and sometimes their entire finger because it got caught on a hard and/or immovable object.
Objects such as door frames, ladder rungs, basketball rings/nets, machinery, etc. can all result in you losing at least part of your finger.
Finger degloving incidents most often occur when a ring on a finger gets caught on an object and either the object or person keeps moving, ripping the ring off the finger and taking with it skin, flesh, or the whole finger.
This is a common accident in sports activities, one of the reasons that silicone rings are becoming more popular.
It would be very unfortunate to deglove any finger, but it’s especially bad to lose your thumb.
Our thumbs are crucial to our ability to grasp and function as we live.
Without a thumb, most mundane tasks would be impossible to accomplish without the assistance of modern technology.
Therefore, you might want to reconsider wearing a ring on your thumb.
Currently, most rings are made out of metal. It makes them durable and easy to maintain.
But metal also conducts electricity. Any time you work with or near energized machinery, you run the risk of getting an electrical burn.
Electricity will always take the path of least resistance, so coming into contact with electricity with a metal ring on your hand is giving the electricity an open invitation to visit your ring, burning any nearby flesh.
In most ring-related electrical burn accidents, the individual is left with deep second-degree burns that can leave permanent damage.
Cutting Off Blood Circulation
Although much less likely to happen, due to your own ability to control, rings can cut off blood circulation to your finger and result in amputation.
This typically happens because of wearing a ring that is too tight.
If you can’t get the ring off, turn it around your finger, it gives you a muffin top, or feel pricks and needles when you wear it, your ring is too tight.
Most people can recognize when their ring is too tight, but not everyone knows that our fingers change size throughout the day.
Our water retention, temperature, stress levels, and finger activity can all affect the size of our fingers.
Meaning, you can start the day with a ring that fits just fine, but over the course of the day or while you’re sleeping, the ring has become too tight.
The easy solution is simply to take off your ring whenever it feels snug and always remove it before bed.
The Rules of Thumb Rings
How Should It Fit?
A thumb ring is a good fit if it can slide over your finger and thumb-knuckle with little to no friction and sit comfortably on your thumb.
Taking it off, there should be just a little resistance.
If it comes off too easily then it’s too big and if you really struggle trying to remove it then it’s too small.
How To Take Care of Thumb Rings?
Depending on what material it’s made out of, you will want to care for your thumb ring differently.
With most materials though, it’s wise to keep the thumb ring in a different pouch than jewelry with strong gemstones (like diamonds) to avoid scratching.
Silver thumb rings need to be polished with soft and moist sponges.
Even though a lot of people recommend using toothpaste as the cleaning agent for silver, that can be harmful to your ring.
Toothpaste that contains baking soda and other abrasive ingredients can damage your silver thumb ring rather than polish it.
The safest recommendation is to get formulated polish to remove any tarnish.
Gold thumb rings need only a solution of lukewarm water and liquid dish detergent to clean the ring.
Copper thumb rings that are not lacquered can be cleaned with more acidic and abrasive substances like lemon juice, tomato juice, and baking soda.
Some people even use Worcestershire sauce!
Ivory thumb rings can also be cleaned with lemon juice or just consistently cleaned with water.
An important factor for maintaining an ivory thumb ring is making sure it is frequently exposed to light. When ivory is kept in the dark, it can turn yellow.
Wood thumb rings can get a little wet, but cannot be exposed to water for prolonged periods of time.
This includes your own sweat! They also should not be exposed to abrasive materials, strong chemicals, or solvents.
If you’ve thoroughly protected it, then “dry” washing with a soft cloth should be sufficient for cleaning.
Leather thumb rings can be cleaned with cold water and mild soap using a damp sponge. Like cleaning silver, there are specifically formulated cleaners for leather.
Roman glass thumb rings (not common but very pretty) cannot have any contact with liquid. If it gets wet in any way, there will be discoloration and potential deterioration of the material.
Instead, clean it with a gentle polishing cloth. If you’ve been careful and protected it, the cloth should be very efficient.