10) RINGS – GARAKJI AND PANJI
Just as every aspect of the life in the era, the accessories of the Joseon Dynasty had also been influenced by the Confucianism ideals, therefore wearing of earrings and necklaces by women was basically outlawed just as was the wearing of rings by men. This was largely because they symbolized vanity and profligacy and as the philosophy found it unseemly to present one’s wealth in such an obvious manner. However, women were allowed to wear jihwan (지환, rings) that include garakji (가락지) and panji (반지).
In Joseon dynasty, noblewomen and royal family put on different materials of rings by season and occasion. Gold rings from October to January, silver lacquer rings from February to April, jade or quartz rings were for Dano festival and regular lacquer rings were from dog days, boknal, to September. All of them were for having a natural and harmonious look, which are influenced by the formality of clothing and four seasons.
Garakji (가락지) literally means a pair of big rings and could be worn only by married women as the duality symbolizes harmony between spouses. The idea came again from Confucianism – rings symbolize the never ending cycle of time and marriage and garakji symbolize the husband and the wife being one in body and spirit. When the husband died, one ring would be buried together with him while the wife kept and wore the other one until her death as a symbol of faithfulness. They were designed to be worn with one on each hand, and crafted so that they would lock together when the wearer clasped their hands together. Together with binyeo, garakji were also used as wedding gifts to the bride. When a man gifted any of them to a single woman it revealed his intentions to marrying her. Garakji was made simply without any special decorations and had a flat inside but the exterior is made thick. The materials include mainly gold and silver but other materials were also used, such as lacquer, jade, quartz, green jadeite, amber, pearl, and copper.
If a woman put on only one ring on her finger called panji (반지), it indicated her status of a single woman. Panji, unlike garakji, had a decorative part laid on the top.