07 April 2009

Color vs Mood: That 70s Ring

2018.The idea of color matching mood is one that apparently runs deep within our own Western culture. And nowhere does that idea have a more whimsical fruition than that iconic bit of 1970s mass-market jewelry couture, the mood ring.

This trifle, a staple of the 1970s – a decade that could still glimpse the free-love and emotion vibes of the 1960s and the Summer of Love – purported to disclose the mood of the wearer via a color change. A typical rundown might go as follows:

  • Black Very stressed
  • Gray Very Nervous
  • Amber Anxious and/or uncertain
  • Green Calm
  • Teal Calm and relaxed
  • Blue Happy
  • Indigo or Violet Happy, romantic or passionate

Some of the mentioned colors may align with ones' personal subjective impressions of color, and some may govern ones' subsequent reactions to a certain range of colors. Some may simply make little or no sense. Follow this link for a nearly-insanely detailed list of possible meanings.

The rings worked on a very simple principle: body heat. The usually-inexpensive rings had a layer of liquid crystal bonded to a surface over which was mounted polished glass or some inexpensive transparent gem. The liquid crystal responded to changing body heat which was held to be in specific response to specific moods, refracting light and changing the reflected color as body heat changed ... as mood changed.

What I find interesting here is that many of the colors listed correspond to already-held assumptions about color in Western society – blue, green, and cool colors were held to connote clamness and cheerfulness, whereas colors such as black, which is found in situations of gravity and grimness, connote stress and strain.

The connection to mood and bodily response is one whose validity is open to question, depending on one's point of view. The interesting thing about the mood ring is that instead of color determining mood, mood determines color – which is a thing that wouldn't occur to us in the gestalt if we didn't think that color did indeed, somehow, influence mood.

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