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Interlocking Puzzles – History and Evolution

Interlocking Puzzles – History and Evolution

Have you ever wondered who created the interlocking puzzles? Interlocking puzzles are often referred to as Chinese puzzles and they usually involve two rings, keys or wires that are joined together, and your goal is to unjoin them. Doesn’t seem to hard, but if it was easy, it wouldn’t be called a puzzle. So, what…

My investigations uncovered a range of differing answers to that question. 

Chinese history tells of a story of King Zhen of the Qin Kingdom, who would go on to become Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China.  He is believed to have sent a messenger with set of jade interlocked rings to the Empress Dowager of the Qi Kingdom.  The message challenged the Qi people to untangle the rings to prove their intelligence.  The Empress asked her top people to untangle the rings but to no avail.  She then took a hammer and smashed the rings and sent back a message that they were now untangled.  But of course, that doesn’t talk about who created the rings? 

Fast forward to the circa 15th Century history tells us of the Gimmel Ring or Fede Ring were used as a type of engagement ring where the couple would wear a ring each and on their wedding day the two rings would be joined together as one.  Whilst technically not interlocking, these are believed to have inspired Turkish Puzzle Rings among many others. 

Turkish Puzzles rings also known as Harem rings can include up to 12 interlocking rings that require you to solve the puzzle before they can be worn as a ring.  It is believed that men gave these rings to their wives to discourage their wives from removing (and potentially cheating) the rings as the puzzle would need to be solved before it could be put back on.   

References to lock puzzles or trick locks are shown in Roman, Chinese, Japanese and Celtic histories and were primarily used to thwart thieves from accessing jewels, money and prized possessions. 

History tells us that interlocking puzzles were commercialised during the industrial revolution in the 17th Century in many countries throughout the world.  They were generally simplified and given to privileged children as toys. 

Today, there are 100’s of different interlocking puzzles available and they form a large part of the puzzle world.  Unfortunately the exact origins of these amazing puzzles and the genius behind them may not be truly known, we can still enjoy the evolution and today’s version of the challenge of the interlocking puzzle.