So a couple of interesting photos from Jim Halverson today, where you can see what looks like Amish women wearing rings. This first is from a recent auction in Clare, Michigan:
And here’s another, also from an event at Clare (2020) – the woman in purple:
Now, when looking closer, I must admit it occurred to me that the woman with the bags could perhaps have part of the bag looped through her fingers, to give the appearance of a ring.
However, that would be an odd way to carry the bag, and the thickness of what we see on her finger does not match to the thickness of the bag material, in my opinion.
And more importantly, Jim states that it is “definitely a ring”, and that he observed it several times during the event.
And in the first photo, could that be a part of her kapp string looped through her finger in a similar manner? I considered that, but it seems that if that were the case, the kapp string would lay considerably shorter than the other one. Additionally, the physical angle would appear to be off.
And in both photos, the finger is the same, the ring finger.
Some Amish DO wear rings: a special exception
So you may have heard that the Amish don’t wear jewelry like wedding rings, necklaces, etc. This is true.
Jewelry is generally seen as an adornment drawing attention to or enhancing physical beauty, which Amish discourage, given that it can lead to pride. Thus the Amish do not exchange wedding rings, or wear other pieces of jewelry (now, if it’s a young Amish woman during Rumspringa we’re talking about, it’s possible).
So that said, what’s going on in these photos?
Well, in some of the more traditional communities, some Amish do wear copper rings or bracelets for health purposes (specifically to counter arthritis). For example, Karen Johnson-Weiner mentions bracelet wearing for this purpose in New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State when discussing another unconventional health practice, pain-pulling (see page 70).
I have actually never seen (or just didn’t notice) this before, and I’ve never seen photos either, so I’m glad Jim is able to provide some visual illustration.
Now again, this is one practice among the many health and wellness practices found across the diverse groups within Amish society. Some of which can be termed more conventional – and others unconventional, “folk” or alternative practices.
In the book The Amish, the authors capture this gap in this brief sentence:
Some Amish people wear copper rings to ward off arthritis, go to unlicensed Amish “doctors” for care, and have their teeth pulled to avoid the need for future dental care, while members of other Amish groups dismiss such practices as foolhardy. (The Amish. Kraybill, Johnson-Weiner, & Nolt, pp. 336-337).
Of course, this type of thing is not seen only among the Amish. One of my loved ones wears an amber ring also for supposed health purposes.
So, if you notice something like this, this is probably what you are seeing.
In both photos above, you can tell by the women’s style of dress that they are from plainer groups, though I can’t say for sure which. Events like certain auctions will draw a diverse group of Amish from different communities with widely varying practices.
Thanks to Jim for sharing these visuals of a lesser-known health practice found among some Amish.
Update: You can watch the video version of this post here: