In India, toe rings are considered auspicious jewelry items and an essential part of the bridal get-up. Also called Bichiya, toe rings have even been mentioned in ancient texts like the Ramayana as part of the married woman’s ensemble and hence have a very significant role in Indian society.
As a rule, Indian toe rings are not made of gold as this is a ‘divine’ metal not meant to be worn below the waist; however, this rule is not very strictly followed and one can find many Indian toe rings made of gold and diamonds. In fact, the toe ring is today worn across the world, in a variety of non-traditional and non-religious contexts.
In some cultures, the men put the toe ring onto the giant toe of the women during the wedding ceremony and she is then expected to wear it all times, along with the mangal sutra, as a sign of her married status. Many people also consider the toe ring an important sign of the femininity or chastity of the married woman. There are many different types of toe ring designs, even within the traditional Indian category.
The classic bridal toe ring usually has the ring attached to the payal or anklet, and may even consist of four toe rings worn on both the legs. While this traditional design has its own charm, modern varieties are quite different. Usually, these are worn only on one or maximum two toes and don’t typically have a chain attached to anything else. There is a lot of cross influence of designs between Indian and western fashion, and this is visible in toe rings as well. Thus, one can find western style toe rings with Indian motifs and Indian style toe rings with western designs as well.
The raw materials used to fashion toe rings can range from silver and gold to bronze, copper and brass. The choice of metal would depend upon the effect desired and the occasion for which it is worn. For instance, a traditional Indian bride would definitely opt for silver foot jewelry for the ceremony itself but for a party or any other semi-formal celebration, she may bring in the bling with gold toe rings.
A gold ring can be of many types, from the plain and simple gold band to the elaborately wrought ring with motifs of flowers, snakes or any other animals. Many Indian women today go in for white gold toe rings to get the traditional silver look without giving up on the precious gold metal. Toe rings embellished with Meenakari or Kundan work are very popular, especially for traditional occasions and religious ceremonies.
In the last decade or so, many traditional Indian jewelry pieces like anklets, bangles and mang tikkas have come back into fashion and become popular across the world. This trend has also resulted in many new innovations and funky designs for these kinds of traditional jewelry pieces.
Toe rings are no exception. One can find all types of designs today, from the simple gold bands to the heavy bejeweled pieces. A lot of animal, bird and flower motifs are often used in toe rings, as well as interlacing net designs and intricately wrought metallic patterns. Simple designs for daily wear might have a single bead, crystal or precious/semi-precious stone studded on a thin band. They come as single rings, as a pair (one for each foot) or as a set (one for each toe except the pinky).
Toe rings might have originated in ancient times in Indian villages, but today they are considered an extremely trendy fashion accessory across the world. Many celebrities have been seen wearing toe rings, in day to day life as well as on the red carpet, and this has further helped to enhance the glamour of these accessories.
Moreover, they are an extremely versatile accessory too, as they can now be paired up with all types of western and indo western outfits as well as traditional Indian garments. There are many different types suited for different fashion sensibilities. One can find toe rings to fit in with an ethnic traditional wardrobe and to jazz up a funky, street smart dressing style.
The most elaborate and ornate Indian rings are the ones worn by brides. These can be worn with all types of bridal outfits, as long as it matches with the designs on the outfit. For parties, celebrations, festivals and other special occasions, simpler, more elegant toe rings with pearls and diamonds are the best bet, while for daily wear, plain silver or gold plated toe rings would be the most appropriate.
Obviously, they have to be worn with open-toe shoes so that they can be properly displayed. For daily wear, they look perfect with flat Indian shoes like jutis or mojaris. The shoes should be in more sober or muted shades to make sure that the toe rings are highlighted in the best way possible.