A reader wonders if stacking jewelry can look tacky. Recent red carpets suggest otherwise, our critic writes.
Is it gauche to wear more than one ring on a hand? And once I have rings on the ring finger, what’s next? Are there any ring etiquette rules? How do I make it not look tacky? — Beth, Brooklyn, N.Y.
When Ariana Greenblatt, the 16-year-old “Barbie” actress, made her red carpet debut at the Golden Globes this month, she did so in a plain white Saint Laurent tuxedo shirt, black trousers, a black cummerbund and about eight Chopard diamond rings, one on nearly every finger, which she proudly fluttered at the watching paparazzi. And she wasn’t the only attendee so adorned.
The jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth, also at the Globes, stacked up seven of her pearl rings on both hands to go with her white Christy Rilling dress. “There’s something a little lawless about wearing a lot of rings,” she said when I asked.
Other ring aficionados include Johnny Depp, the former Gucci designer Alessandro Michele and the Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, all of whom like to load on the finger jewelry, and all of whom underscore the point that there are no actual rules when it comes to how many rings you can wear at once or on what fingers you should wear them.
Even the idea that you have to wear an engagement ring on your left ring finger is more convention than actual diktat. The ancient Romans believed that that finger contained a vein, the vena amoris, that connected directly to your heart.
Still, there are certain considerations that should be taken into account when dressing your hands. Our hands play key roles in how we interface with the world, and what we put on them matters.
On the one hand, said Rachel Garrahan, the project curator of jewelry at the Victoria and Albert Museum, “the pleasure of wearing a ring, unlike other forms of jewelry, is that the wearer gets to enjoy it as much as everyone else.” Just look down at your hand when you want a shot of joy, or a boost of confidence, she said. And if one ring does that, imagine what two (or three or four) could do.
Indeed, wearing rings you love can inspire, almost reflexively, a different, more dramatic way of speaking. One that involves a lot more gesticulating than, perhaps, has become customary. Suddenly you may find yourself flinging your hands out hither and yon to emphasize your points with both words and a bit of sparkle, rather than tucking them away in your pockets.
On the other hand, a gaggle of rings (Is that what we should call it? A pride of rings? A bouquet of rings?) can also associate you in the eye of the beholder with various aesthetic traditions — goth, new romantics, heavy metal — that themselves connect to specific stereotypes. So you should be prepared for the subconscious judgments that may ensue.
Also, large rings are often impossible to ignore. Knuckle dusters and brass knuckles are not that far apart (though that could also be a good thing, in a pinch).
There are also practical considerations. Ms. Garrahan noted that what she called “prong-set gemstones” could snag on fine gauge knits. And stones like emeralds and opals are famously soft, so not practical for everyday wear. Especially if you, like me, tend to bang your hands on desks and sinks.
The key to wearing them well is balance — in jewelry, as in all things.
Ms. Neuwirth, for example, wore earrings with her multiple rings but not bracelets or a big necklace. Ms. Greenblatt wore a few simple necklaces and only small studs. Each woman kept her clothes minimal.
Similarly, Mr. Michele tends to wear his rings with jeans and T-shirts, and Ms. Chiuri most often pairs her jewels with jeans and a button-up.
It’s the contrast between grandeur and simplicity that is modern. If your hands are your focal points, you don’t want the rest of your outfit competing for attention. That becomes less a statement than a screed.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.
Vanessa Friedman has been the fashion director and chief fashion critic for The Times since 2014. More about Vanessa Friedman