Here’s a fascinating puzzle.
I get the bare bones of it. My grandfather was the village doctor in Ireland from the 1930s to about 1980, a time when Ireland was much more puritanical than it is now. Memory is selective, of course, and people who think that sex was invented in 1968 have a lot to learn. The fact that there was a need for this, even in a small town in an intensely Catholic country, speaks volumes.
What I don’t get is what this was supposed to accomplish. Everyone in the village knew everyone else, so it’s not like these rings would fool a lot of people. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that a woman who was pregnant outside of marriage would go elsewhere to have the baby, so the ring could be a way to save face.
It does seem like an uncommon bit of kindness to give the girls these rings. I assume my grandmother was behind that. Although she raised her children pretty strictly, she understood human nature. I wonder, though, how many of these she gave out, and whether she took them back again afterward, and if there was a supplier somewhere who made cheap gold rings just for this purpose. There’s a whole backstory to this, in other words, that I suspect has been lost forever.