Some of my earliest memories of experimenting with personal style include acquiring a sizable collection of mood rings. Most were run-of-the-mill versions from museum gift shops, while the more trendy pieces came from every Y2K kid’s favorite mall mainstay, Claire’s – both complete with the color card for an accurate reading. Now, thanks to brands like Studs, Rhyden, and Astrid & Miyu, mood-reflecting jewelry has crept back into the accessories trend circuit some 15 years later, in part due to the resurgence of our never-ending affinity for nostalgia and playful kitsch.
“The ‘90s and early ‘00s were all about personalization and self-expression,” says Claire’s chief marketing officer, Kristin Patrick. “During those decades, style trends were really being defined by cultural movements, and I think we’re really leaning into that again today. It’s that experimental and fluid approach that we see people exploring and seeking as part of their every day.” This revived accessories trend is a prime example: “Mood jewelry, in particular, offers an easy way to show a piece of who you are in your everyday accessories and is also great for mixing and matching, giving you the ability to customize a look that feels most you.”
The exact origins of mood rings are unknown with the earliest iterations dating back to the 1970s. New York native Joshua Reynolds, along with Maris Ambats, was said to have created the first style after quitting his stressful job on Wall Street and taking up biofeedback, a mind-body therapy. The rings were ultimately designed as a way for individuals to track their emotions and help control their anxieties. Other experts say that jeweler Marvin Wernick came up with the idea after seeing physicians use thermotropic tape strips to measure kids’ temperatures. Nonetheless, consumers were intrigued. When the style eventually debuted on the market, 40 million rings were sold in the first three months.
Today the hashtag "mood rings" has more than 4.4 million views on TikTok. Despite Gen Z leading the charge on kitschy style today, one could argue that millennials have been a real driving force behind the current revival, with a number of TikToks showing content creators born in the ‘90s making the connection between their affinity for mood jewelry as a kid and their mental health journey in adulthood.
The trend has gone fully mainstream with many designers and small business owners also embracing the trend. Piercing destination and jewelry brand Studs (which was founded by two millennials), recently launched a collection of earrings that change according to your mood. Meanwhile, makeup brand Tarte released a collection of color-shifting lip and cheek oils that monitor your moods, currently going viral on the clock app. Even high-end accessories label Dannijo teamed up with sparkling water company, SoulBoost, to create a crystal-encrusted mood ring as a nod to the past.
“We've always been obsessed with ‘90s nostalgia; it was our era as kids so it brings back a lot of incredible memories,” say Dannijo co-founders Jodie Snyder Morel and Danielle Snyder. “I definitely remember my sister and I buying matching ones at the mall in middle school. We never took them off. We wore uniforms to school, so our mood rings quickly became our favorite accessory.”
Nostalgia isn’t the only reason the brand wanted to bring the trend back. “Our mom is a mental health counselor and our muse, so this collaboration really hit home for us,” the design duo says of the decision to give 100% of the proceeds of the ring to Project Healthy Minds, a non-profit organization helping tackle the mental health crisis. “We're both now mothers, so the importance of mental health is more relevant now to us than ever. [Bringing] awareness [to the cause] and mood rings are two things we love, which make for an organic and successful collaboration.”
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