According to Peggy Post (of the Emily Post Institute), napkin rings were once used informally at dinner when a household was too large to keep up with the wash. Each person had a unique ring to mark a napkin as their own, so that the napkin could be reused several nights in a row.
1. Thank god for washing machines.
2. Why'd we throw out the baby with the bath water? Cheap metallic rings and those ubiquitous wirey beaded bands are uninventive and make for a boring, repetitive place setting. A boring place setting makes it all the more likely that guests will notice bad food. This obviously isn't an option if you share my (lack of) cooking skills.For more engaging tablescapes, use zippers, chains, pins, bows, bracelets, buckles, ribbons, bow ties, or fresh flowers. Scrounge!! Hell, I'd even use trash if looked appealing.
3. So that your dinner is at least visually delicious:
Napkin rings, left to right: chain belt, vintage pin on zipper, antique cut steel belt buckle, Victorian era bracelet and baroque pearls on velvet bow, vintage Weiss pin, vintage pin on zipper, vintage dress clip on zebra ribbon.