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Why were mood rings so popular?

Why were mood rings so popular?

Mood rings were a popular novelty item and fashion accessory during the 1970s. The rings contained thermochromic liquid crystals that would change color based on the temperature of the wearer’s skin, which was said to indicate the mood of the wearer. Though the mood correlation was not scientifically proven, mood rings remain a colorful symbol of the 1970s.

History of Mood Rings

Mood rings were invented in 1975 by two New York inventors, Joshua Reynolds and Maris Ambats. They licensed the mood ring concept to various jewelry companies for mass production. The rings became widely popular in 1975 and 1976, with millions of units sold across the United States.

The initial craze around mood rings was promoted by clever marketing campaigns that claimed the rings could reveal your inner emotions. Advertisements associated the ring’s colors with various moods – blue for calm, purple for romantic, red for angry, etc. Of course, these color-mood correlations were not actually backed by science. But the idea captured the public’s imagination during a New Age-focused era.

By 1977, the initial frenzy around mood rings had faded. However, they remained popular as an inexpensive jewelry item into the 1980s. Updated versions with advanced thermochromic technology were released in the 1990s and 2000s as well.

How Mood Rings Work

The mood ring’s color-changing ability comes from thermochromic liquid crystals inside the ring. These crystals change color based on temperature. The ring is designed so that the crystals are in contact with the wearer’s skin, allowing them to react to the minute changes in temperature caused by blood flow.

Temperature Color
82°F / 28°C Black
77°F / 25°C Blue
74°F / 23°C Green
66°F / 19°C Yellow
Below 62°F / 17°C Brown

As the table shows, mood ring crystals change color at different temperatures. The ring is designed so that the crystal is heat-shielded except for the point of skin contact, allowing it to measure skin surface temperature. When worn properly, the mood ring can detect even minute fluctuations in finger temperature.

Mood Ring Color Meanings

While mood ring colors do not actually correlate scientifically to emotions, the rings were marketed with the following color meanings:

Color Meaning
Black Stressed
Blue Calm
Green Normal
Yellow Happy/Excited
Brown Nervous
Grey Sad
Amber Loving
Violet Passionate
Red Angry

These color meanings were purely for entertainment and marketing purposes. While mood can affect skin temperature to some degree, the correlation is not nearly as simple as these charts made it seem. Still, the color meanings added to the mood ring’s mystique and popularity.

Pop Culture Status

As a pop culture phenomenon, mood rings showed up frequently in 1970s TV, movies, books, and music.

Examples include:

  • Mood rings being worn by characters in TV shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.
  • Movie characters like Lois Lane wearing mood rings in 1978’s Superman.
  • Bands like Rush, Billy Joel, and Paul Simon mentioning mood rings in hit songs from the 1970s.
  • Mood ring coloring books, posters, and other merchandise for kids and teens.

For a few years in the mid-70s, mood rings persisted as one of the decade’s defining cultural fads. Their prominence in popular culture kept them in demand long after the initial craze died down.

Reasons for Popularity

Mood rings became such a phenomenon due to a few key factors:

  • They tied into New Age spiritualism and self-reflection trends that were popular in the 1970s.
  • The magical color-changing effect was visually striking and fun.
  • The marketing campaigns tapped into the consumerism and emotion-focused attitudes of the Me decade.
  • They were inexpensive enough to become a widespread teen fad.
  • Rings were an easy way for people to show off their interest in the 1970s zeitgeist.

Of course, mood ring popularity was also driven by clever marketing tactics and embellished claims about their mood-reading power. But the underlying cultural trends of the 1970s provided fertile ground for mood rings to flourish.

Fashion Impact

When mood rings first emerged around 1975, they were a cutting-edge tech accessory. But it did not take long for them to become a major fashion trend.

At the height of their popularity, mood rings adorned the fingers of teenagers, celebrities, and suburban housewives alike. The rings spawned countless inexpensive imitations, which made them accessible as an everyday style staple. Even major fashion jewelry brands like Coro and Trifari began making mood ring lines.

Mood ring jewelry also impacted the1970s aesthetic more broadly:

  • Inspired color palette – Mood ring colors like yellow, green, blue, violet became fashionable.
  • Mainstreaming of New Age imagery – Mood rings helped bring hippie-inspired themes into mainstream culture.
  • Rise of statement rings – Outsized cocktail rings surged in popularity as mood ring companions.
  • Whimsical accessories – Mood rings aligned with the irreverent, youth-oriented attitude of 70s fashion.

While their psychological insight was questionable, mood rings left an undeniable mark on the jewelry, accessories, and colors that defined 1970s style.


By 1978, the initial craze around mood rings had subsided. Several factors contributed to their declining popularity:

  • The fad had run its course, leading to oversaturation and waning interest.
  • Imitations diluted the novelty and made mood rings seem cheap.
  • New product innovations like digital watches overshadowed mood rings as tech accessories.
  • The 1970s New Age movement and Me decade culture faded out.
  • Mood rings were perceived as a novelty rather than serious jewelry.

Additionally, mood rings were technically delicate high-maintenance accessories. The rings broke easily, and the heat-sensitive crystals required careful handling to function properly. This frustrated many consumers.

By the early 1980s, mood rings had mostly faded into obscurity as a passing 1970s fad. However, they continued to have some cultural relevance and nostalgic appeal over the ensuing decades.

Modern Revival

Though they are no longer a hot trend, mood rings remain available today as novelty jewelry and retro throwback items. Reasons for their continued presence include:

  • Vintage appeal – Mood rings represent 1970s nostalgia, sought after by some millennials and Gen Xers.
  • Improved technology – Modern mood rings are higher quality and more durable than the originals.
  • Kitsch value – Their chintzy vibe fits with campy 1990s-2000s aesthetics.
  • Stocking stuffers – Affordable mood rings still work as impulse purchases and gift shop items.
  • Stress relief – Some market them as fidget items to calm anxiety, akin to fidget spinners.

While no longer ubiquitous, mood rings can still be found in certain niche markets today. They remain iconic symbols of the colorful, quirky 1970s era that birthed them.


As a 1970s craze, mood rings reveal much about the cultural zeitgeist of that period in America. Their popularity sprang from an atmosphere of spiritual exploration, self-absorption, scientific optimism, and fascination with novelty items. Mood rings left their mark on 1970s style and pop culture, though their emotional insight was pseudoscience at best. While no longer a hot trend, mood rings remain iconic reminders of the free-spirited 70s. Their legacy lives on through retro revivalism and kitschy nostalgia.