In 1975, New York inventors Maris Ambats and Josh Reynolds produced the first mood ring. These rings changed color in response to temperature, potentially reflecting the body temperature change associated with the wearer’s emotions. The rings were an instant sensation, despite the high price tag. A silver-colored (plated, not sterling silver) ring retailed for $45, although a gold ring was available for $250.
Whether or not the rings were accurate, people were enchanted by the colors produced by the thermochromic liquid crystals. The composition of mood rings has changed since the 1970s, but mood rings (and necklaces and bracelets) are still made today.
Key Takeaways: Mood Ring Colors
- Mood rings contain thermochromic liquid crystals. When the temperature changes, the orientation of the crystals also changes, altering their color.
- Changes in body temperature do accompany different moods, but the jewelry is not a reliable indicator of emotion. The color could easily be due to changes in the external environment.
- While old mood rings had a uniform color charge, modern pigments don’t necessarily follow the old pattern. In fact, some modern rings cycle through colors.
Chart of Mood Ring Colors and Meanings
This chart shows the colors of the typical 1970s mood ring and the meanings associated with the mood ring colors:
- Amber: Nervous, unhappy, cool
- Green: Average, calm
- Blue: Emotions are charged, active, relaxed
- Violet: Passionate, excited, very happy
- Black: Tense, nervous (or broken crystal)
- Gray: Strained, anxious
The color of the warmest temperature is violet or purple. The color of the coolest temperature is black or gray.
How Mood Rings Work
A mood ring contains liquid crystals that change color in response to small changed in temperature. The amount of blood that reaches your skin depends on both the temperature and your mood, so there is some scientific basis for the functioning of a mood ring. For example, if you are under stress your body direct blood toward your internal organs, with less blood reaching your fingers. The cooler temperature of your fingers will register on the mood ring as a gray or amber color. When you are excited, more blood flows to the extremities, increasing the temperature of your finger. This drives the color of the mood ring toward the blue or violet end of its color range.
Why the Colors Aren’t Accurate
Modern mood rings use a variety of thermochromic pigments. While many of the rings might be set to be a pleasing green or blue color at normal peripheral body temperature, there are other pigments that work from a different temperature range. So, while one mood ring might be blue at normal (calm) body temperature, another ring containing a different material could be red, yellow, purple, etc.
Some modern thermochromic pigments repeat or cycle through colors, so once a ring is violet, an increase in temperature could turn it brown (for example). Other pigments only display two or three colors. Leuco dyes, for example, tend to have a colorless, colored, and intermediate state.
Color Depends on Temperature
Since the color of mood jewelry depends on temperature, it will give different readings depending where you wear it. A mood ring may display a color from its cool range, while the same stone might turn a warmer color as a necklace the touches the skin. Did the mood of the wearer change? No, it’s just that the chest is warmer than the fingers!
Old mood rings were notoriously susceptible to permanent damage. If the ring got wet or even exposed to high humidity, the pigments would react with the water and lose their ability to change color. The ring would turn black. Modern mood jewelry is still affected by water and may turn permanently brown or black when wet. Mood “stones” used for beads are typically coated with a polymer to protect them from damage. The beads are interesting because a single bead may display an entire rainbow of color, with the warmest color facing the skin and the coolest color (black or brown) away from the body. Since multiple colors may be displayed on a single bead, it’s safe to say the colors cannot be used to predict the wearer’s mood.
Finally, the color of a mood ring may be changed by placing a colored glass, quartz, or plastic dome over the thermochromic crystals. Placing a yellow dome over a blue pigment would make it appear green, for example. While the color changes will follow a predictable pattern, the only way to know what mood might be associated with a color is by experimentation.
- “A Ring Around the Mood Market”, The Washington Post, Nov. 24, 1975.
- Muthyala, Ramaiah . Chemistry and Applications of Leuco Dyes. Springer, 1997. ISBN 978-0306454592.
- “Mood Ring Monitors Your State of Mind,” Chicago Tribune, Oct. 8, 1975.
- “Ring Buyers Warm Up to Quartz Jewelry That Is Said to Reflect Their Emotions”, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 14, 1975.