Column: There actually was some science to mood rings

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By: 

Roger VanHaren

Remember mood rings?

Back when our late daughter Jill was in middle school and high school, mood rings were a fad among young girls – and maybe some adult women, too? The mood ring was created in 1975 by two New York inventors, Josh Reynolds and Maris Ambats, who bonded liquid crystals with quartz stones set into rings. They initially retailed for $45 for a “silvery setting” and $250 for gold, and were first sold by New York jewelers Bonwit Teller. They rapidly became a fad in the 1970s.

The mood rings that junior high and high school girls were wearing were nowhere near that expensive, or for sure our daughter wouldn’t have had one!

Did you ever wear one of those groovy mood rings in your youth?

The idea behind a mood ring is simple: Wear it on your finger and it will reflect the state of your emotions. The ring’s stone should be dark blue if you’re happy, and it supposedly turns black if you are anxious or stressed. While mood rings can’t really reflect your mood with any real scientific accuracy, they actually are indicators of your body’s involuntary physical reaction to your emotional state.

Mood rings are basic biofeedback tools that measure your skin temperature to determine your mood. A mood ring is a specialized liquid crystal thermometer, wearable on the finger. The ring is typically ornamented with a gemstone (usually made of quartz or glass) which is either a clear capsule filled with thermochronic liquid crystal, a heat changing liquid, or has a thin sheet of liquid crystal sealed underneath. Changes in temperature cause the crystal to reflect different wavelengths of light which changes the color of the stone. The liquid crystal used in mood rings is usually set up to display a “neutral” color at the average human skin temperature, which is approximately 93°F.

Basically, this is how they work: Mood rings measure the temperature of your skin. Changes in skin temperature are due to changes in the amount of blood flowing through the skin. More blood flow, the skin is warmer; less blood flow, the skin is cooler.

When you are stressed or scared, your capillaries constrict. The blood flow to your skin decreases, which causes your skin temperature to drop. When your temperature drops, your mood ring changes color. When a person is tense the skin blood vessels constrict, reducing the blood flow; the stone in the ring will appear yellow, amber or black. When a person is calm and relaxed the skin blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow; the stone will appear turquoise, blue or violet.

Mood ring colors are listed below, with an explanation of what “mood” they represent. The colors are listed according to the change in temperature they represent, with dark blue being the warmest and black the coolest.

Dark blue: Happy, romantic or passionate

Blue: Calm or relaxed

Blue-green: Somewhat relaxed

Green: Normal or average

Amber: A little nervous or anxious

Gray: Very nervous or anxious

Black: Stressed, tense or feeling harried

If you think about the moods represented by the colors, you’ll see a definite correlation between your body’s surface temperature and the color of the liquid crystal. When you are in a passionate mood, your skin is usually flushed. This is a physical reaction to an emotion, causing the capillaries to move closer to the surface of the skin and release heat. This brings about a slight change in the surface temperature of your body.

When you are nervous or stressed, your skin may feel clammy. This physical reaction to your emotional state causes the capillaries to move deeper into your skin, causing the surface temperature to drop.

I read an article that said there are two ways or reasons to wear a mood ring. You either wear a mood ring because it’s fun for you and you like to see generalities about your emotions, or you wear a mood ring and use it as a tool to further understand your reactions to the things and people around you. If you can learn to perform the latter, then not only will you master your mood ring, but you will master the art of understanding yourself. Wow!

Fads are interesting, aren’t they?

Contact Roger VanHaren at rjmavh@gmail.com.