A mood ring is a ring with a stone that changes color in response to temperature, potentially indicating the wearer’s emotions. New York inventors Maris Ambats and Josh Reynold invented the first mood ring in 1975. People were enchanted by the color-changing jewelry, but in the 70’s, the rings were expensive. A silver-colored (not sterling silver) ring would set you back $45 or you could get a real gold mood ring for $250. Modern mood rings use different materials. They are less expensive, plus you can get necklaces, bracelets, and other items.
Here’s a look at how mood rings work, the colors they produce, what mood ring colors mean, and whether they can tell your emotions or are just for fun.
How Mood Rings Work
A mood ring is basically a liquid crystal thermometer. Substances that change color in response to temperature are called thermochromic materials. There are many thermochromic liquid crystals, but the kind used in a mood ring is usually an organic polymer based on cholesterol. The liquid crystals have two phases: the nematic phase (warm) and the smectic phase (cool). In the nematic phase, the rod-shaped crystals point in the same direction, but don’t have much order. In the smectic phase, the crystals are both aligned and ordered. How cold or warm the crystals are affects their orientation, which changes the way light passes through them. Basically, if the temperature changes, the crystals change color. But, there are upper and lower temperature limits. Too low a temperature solidifies the crystals, while too high a temperature denatures and permanently ruins them.
Chart of Mood Ring Colors and Meanings
The emotions associated with mood ring colors are based on temperature. Think about the way you feel when you have cold hands versus your range of emotions when you have warm hands. Colors of cooler temperature are amber and yellow. You may be feeling sleepy, nervous, unhappy, or just plain cold. Green is an average temperature, which is the temperature of your hands when your awake and alert. As the temperature shift to blue, temperature rises. Blue indicates comfortable relaxation. But, still warmer hands means you have increased blood flow to your fingers. Violet and pink mood ring stones can indicate passion or extreme tension. However, these colors and black could just mean your hands are hot because of the weather.
- Black: Usually, the “cold” color of a mood ring is black or brown. This is also the color of a broken mood ring. High temperature breaks a mood ring, but water can ruin it too. Mood rings from the 1970s usually met a watery end, either from accidental wetting or even from perspiration from the wearer’s hands. Some modern mood rings are sealed against moisture, but many still can’t get wet.
- Amber (Orange): Unsettled or anxious
- Yellow: Unhappy, cool
- Green: Alert, awake
- Blue: Calm, comfortable
- Violet or Purple: Passionate, excited, energetic
- Pink: Nervous
- Red: Agitated, anxious, angry
Do Mood Rings Work?
Mood rings are sold as novelty items. While there’s a color chart that comes with a mood ring, it’s not a reliable indicator of emotions. Partly this is because some companies just make up their charts. Partly it’s because mood rings are affected by temperature changes caused by other reasons than emotions. Also, some people just naturally have warmer or cooler hands.
Most mood rings use liquid crystals that display a blue color a bit cooler than body temperature (98.6 °F or 37 °C ). But, there are different liquid crystal compositions. One might be blue at a certain temperature, while another might be green. Plus, a jewelry maker can cover the liquid crystals with a colored dome. So, if the ring color is green, but it’s covered with a yellow glass, quartz, or plastic cabochon, the jewel appears blue!
Under ideal circumstances, a mood ring might not be able to tell your emotional state with certainty, but it can tell your temperature. If you really want to use a mood ring to tell emotions, keep a journal of the colors you see and what you feel at the time.
- Chicago Tribune (Oct. 8, 1975). “Mood Ring Monitors Your State of Mind.”
- Muthyala, Ramaiah (1997) . Chemistry and Applications of Leuco Dyes. Springer. ISBN 978-0306454592.
- Seeboth, A.; Lötzsch, D.; Ruhmann, R.; Muehling, O. (2014). “Thermochromic Polymers – Function by Design”. Chemical Reviews. 114 (5): 3037. doi:10.1021/cr400462e
- The Washington Post (Nov. 24, 1975). “A Ring Around the Mood Market”.
- The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 14, 1975). “Ring Buyers Warm Up to Quartz Jewelry That Is Said to Reflect Their Emotions”.