The napkin ring is a bourgeois invention. The first examples were probably plain or embroidered tapes created by the housewife to personalise the family's napkins between weekly wash-days.
Napkin rings in silver were the result of the growing wealth of the middle class. The observations below indicate that silver napkin rings started in France about 1800. By 1840 they had spread to most western countries.
A research report about silver in Sweden 1830-1915 (In Swedish by Björn Hedstrand) quotes statistics from the Swedish assay office illustrating the start of silver napkin rings in Sweden ca. 1840 and the very large number produced and imported from about 1890.
In the 19th century the dinner table was the centre of social events and that was where the family exhibited its wealth. The quality and quantity of a family's table silver was a direct measure of its success.
The Russians were no exception; what was en vogue in European countries was adopted at once but altered in the Russian way: better, bigger and more expensive.
Russian napkin rings exist in different materials and styles - but mainly in the "classic six":
Silver, silver/niello, silver/niello (souvenirs from Caucasus), silver/enamel (cloisonné, champlevé, plique á jour), silver/laque and pappmaché.