The Pieces Stamped in History
Known as the ‘gentleman’s ring’, signet rings – often handed down on 21st birthdays – traditionally act as visible reminders that the wearer comes from a certain bloodline or heritage.
Nowadays, signet rings are as much a fashion accessory than a status symbol. More on that later.
Who wears signet rings?
We all know the archetypal signet ring wearer. Take a walk through Parson’s Green on a Summer’s evening and chances are you will spot several hundred signet rings clinking on glasses of pale pink Provençale rosé. Worn by Princes, Sloanes and Chins far and wide, to many the signet ring indicates that the wearer is part of ‘the club’ – whatever that club may be.
Sadly, more often than not, these signet rings end up at the bottom of the sea just off the coast of the South of France, or on the floor of a nightclub in Edinburgh.
We feel this satirical music video sums up this type of signet ring wearer quite well…
The paradox of signet rings
These days signet ring wearers are more likely to be selling country estates than inheriting them. They don signets rings so shiny and sharp that they could easily be mistaken for deluxe weaponry. They stride with pride to lunch in their Fulham lifejackets (Schoffel gilets).
Inversely, there are those who do actually own 60,000 acre estates. And they wince at the very thought of displaying a signet ring. It’s just not the done thing. Of course they own one – so smooth and worn that it almost erodes into their finger. It will be in some dusty mahogany drawer somewhere, to re-emerge in time for the next generation.
Confusing, the English class system, isn’t it?
So, do I need a crest to wear a signet ring?
If you’re finding the above all a bit disheartening then don’t fret. We believe signet rings, especially antique signet rings, are best seen as a stylish and sentimental connection to something or someone from the past, irrespective of one’s personal family history. In other words, you don’t need to wear red trousers, have a house in Parson’s Green or holiday in Rock to qualify for wearing a signet ring.
We sell signet rings to people from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. They are universally drawn to the fun and varied designs of the crests as well as the intrinsic ‘feeling’ of history that each ring embodies. They like to imagine the history of their signet ring and relish breathing new life into it. Above all, they just think that they are cool.
Whisper it along the Lillie Road… signet rings are now cool.
What is the history of signet rings?
Back in the day, signet rings weren’t status symbols but entirely practical devices. They were used to authenticate documents by stamping one’s crest into wax. This is why you’ll notice the crest is always backwards on signet rings. Some of the most important documents in history have been stamped with a signet. In its time this stamp was seen as more authentic than a signature.
What are signet rings made from?
Signet rings are most commonly 18 carat gold and are either plain or set with an engraved agate. Non-engraved, plain gold signet rings are particularly hard to find in antique jewellery, however we do find them sometimes. They are a blank canvas for any engraving you like!
18ct Gold Signet Ring with Intaglio of Prince of Wales Feathers by Theo Fennell£1,500
Edwardian 18ct Gold Shield Shape Signet Ring£1,650
18ct Gold Signet Ring with Shield Motif by Charles Green & Co£1,650
Edwardian 18ct Gold Ring with a Heraldic Crest of a Pelican and a Crown£1,275
9ct Gold Signet Ring with Welsh Dragon Motif£975
Signet rings are also often set with hard-wearing stones such bloodstone, onyx, carnelian and lapis lazuli. We prefer the colour and character that these stones offer – especially bloodstone, which has a delightful fieriness to it.
Victorian 18ct Gold Carnelian Intaglio of a Crest Signet Ring£2,400
Victorian 18ct Gold Signet Ring with Banded Onyx Intaglio of a Crest£1,975
Victorian 18ct Gold Signet Ring set with a Bloodstone£1,450
Early 20th Century Austro- Hungarian 14ct Gold Signet Ring with Onyx Intaglio of a Crest with Two Hearts£1,650
18ct Gold Signet Ring set with a Bloodstone£1,650
Victorian 15ct Gold Signet Ring with Intaglio of a Rearing Cat£1,950
Victorian 18ct Gold Signet Ring set with a Bloodstone£1,475
Victorian 18ct Gold, Lapis Lazuli Signet Ring with Intaglio of a Crest£1,650
Victorian 9ct Gold Signet Ring set with a Carnelian with Intaglio of Two Cross Keys£975
How do I wear a signet ring?
Signet rings are traditionally worn on the little finger – or ‘pinky’. But like all our jewellery, we encourage people to use their imagination and wear them how they please. It is 2021, for goodness sake!
The future of signet rings
It seems signet rings have well and truly shaken off their earlier (some might say stuffy) associations. Free from the shackles of status, signet rings are now popular and versatile fashion accessories for both men and women. Crests have been replaced with engraved initials and even precious stones make an appearance. There are no rules! Don’t just take our word for it. Brad Pitt, Kate Moss, Cara and James Pattinson are known to be big fans of signet rings.
Signet rings sure have come a long way since their beginnings, almost 4,000 years ago. From A-listers to aristocrats – and everyone in between – it looks like they are here to stay.
For something no bigger than a 10 pence coin, these little nuggets carry a great deal of weight.
Long live the signet ring, and all those who wear them!