Although there is a lot of history and symbolism attached to the skull, there is far less on the skull ring. The skull has generally over the ages been understood to signify death. That stands to reason as you would never actually see a skull unless it was in a pile of skeletal remains. The distinctive shape and overall size of the skull makes it the most recognizable of all bones in any body. The human skull, in particular, conjures up many eerie and scary images resulting from it being used to evoke fear in modern times as a prop in horror movies.
In fact, the skeleton is embraced and celebrated in Mexico during the celebration called “The Day of the Dead’ which is also marked in Latin America and is held in early November. Children collect and enjoy candies that are shaped and coloured to resemble skulls and skeletons and are called sugar skulls. Even ancient Celts held the skull in great reverence claiming it was ‘the house of the soul’ and that it unlocked various levels of understanding.
The Elizabethan Era that ran from 1558 to 1603 introduced the first rings with a skull design on them. They were known as ‘Death’s Head Skull’ rings and signified that the wearer was a member of an underworld organization. It was during wartime that the skull ring became a trademark of sorts for Nazi armies. They wore them into battle assuming that the look of the ring would bring fear to their foes and allowed the Nazis to claim the rings helped them to ‘bring death’ to whatever army they encountered.
It must have worked as it wasn’t long before the British Grenadier and German SS armies starting wearing skull rings hoping to strike fear into their enemies and help build their reputation of being really ‘bad.’ As simple as that sounds, being a non-conformist was often connected with the skull design in the years that followed wartime. Tattoos, clothing and rings that had skull designs were favoured by those in what turned into a shift from mainstream anti-movement of sorts. Almost as if picking up where pirates left off using the Jolly Roger (skull and cross bones) as a form of identification and formation of groups, biker gangs looked to the skull as their symbol and when combined with wings it turned into a symbol for freedom with a ‘don’t mess with us’ attitude.
Rock music added a bit more mystique to the skull rings putting it into territory that could be accessed by anyone who didn’t fall into the category generally known as ‘outlaws.’ As often happens with pop icons such as movie stars or musicians, fashion trends take off and skull rings was one accessory that moved into that circle. Even if the skull equals death symbolism is not what you see in the wearing of them, the skull ring has become popular just by being something unusual and different to what is already available. Or in other words, it continues to be considered a symbol of those who do not wish to fit in with the rest of society.