Napkin rings can be a subject of much debate: are they a pretty and purely decorative piece of tabletop jewelry designed to complement a place setting on formal occasions? Or are they a utilitarian object that should never be brought out in front of a guest?
The anti-napkin ring camp has history behind them. Napkin rings are a holdover from the days before washing machines, when table linens were not washed after every meal and it was necessary to use personalized rings to identify which napkin had been used by which family member so they could continue using the same one until it was washed. Putting a napkin ring in front of a guest would imply that he or she was receiving a used napkin. Blech.
The pro-napkin ring camp campaigns on the strength of aesthetics. Today's napkin rings are pretty and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The right napkin ring can pull together a whole place setting, and since most people don't particularly care about the history of the napkin ring, one is unlikely to hear anything about it unless one's anti-napkin ring mother is invited to dinner.
My own mother is a vocal opponent of the napkin ring for formal settings or dinner parties, but she has an extensive collection of them. I suspect she's actually been withholding napkins from the wash (where there is plenty of room beside the kitchen towels and other assorted laundry) just to have an excuse to use her napkin rings.
Where do you stand on napkin rings at dinner parties — fun or faux pas?