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Napkin ring traditions – and when they first appeared in table settings

We added our handcrafted wood bead napkin rings to our market pages…and of course, it got us curious about when napkin rings started to appear in table settings. (Photo below picking, sorting and threading wood beads onto copper wiring to make Native Leaf’s wood bead napkin rings)

sort pick and threading wood bead napkin rings

So… it turns out that it is was just over 200 years ago that napkin rings started to appear in table settings.  Napkin rings were first used in the 1800’s by the French middle class and were mostly made of silver and silver plate, as well as bone, wood and pearls.

In the days before disposable paper napkins, napkin rings were also used as a way to keep track of napkins used by various family members, and to track when it was time to launder the napkin (and by the way, despite the ease of using disposable napkins, in our household we prefer sturdy cloth napkins which get softer the longer we have them).

These days, napkin rings not only hold napkins, they also help to define or tie together table setting colors and themes.

You can find napkin rings made from just about every material and motif imaginable, from natural materials like coconut timber and palm seeds (photo below),  woven rattan and woven pandanus (romblon leaves), carved wood and figurines, to wire and jewel beads, variations of tassels, or encrusted with fancy stones and beads.

I’ve even seen napkin rings made from recycled denim jeans as well as edible napkin rings made from jelly beans!

close up coconut timber and palm seeds web

Native Leaf’s natural napkin rings made from coconut wood and palm seeds. Both have unique features from the natural, speckled properties of coconut timber and very cool veining of palm seeds.

CREATIVE TIP:  Our customers also use our handmade napkin rings as a holder for invitations or to hold rolled up menus or announcements on table settings.

history napkin rings postTo learn more about how place settings evolved over time, visit the informative blog pages of the The Clermont State Historic Site, here.


Things started developing into a pretty recognizable form by the beginning of the 18th century, when forks were making it onto the scene and napkins were increasing in popularity and availability.

Early on in the process, the stalwart dinner fork got put on the left side and staid there. Bless its little heart. You can always count on the dinner fork. You can see it at left even in the Thomas Rowlandson satirical cartoon of 1788. The fellows in the picture may look like uncultured slobs, but at least they know where the dinner fork goes. (Old drawing at left from the blog post and features an early illustration of table setting with napkin rings.)

If you love using napkin rings, our fun and affordable napkin rings will add color as well as added texture to your table settings.  Order now to have our colorful napkin rings at your next special occasion event, or switch colors by season or every month.  With our super pricing, you can even change ring colors every day!  Or mix and match the colors for a festive and bright look to your table setting.

Napkin ring market pages:

And so…are you in the napkin ring or no napkin ring camp?  Do you use them all the time, or only sometimes like on special occasion holidays?

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