From Seals To Signet Rings: Share Your Story Through Jewellery
Heritage. Lineage. Ancestry. A signet ring is a true staple of a gentleman’s jewellery collection but is common for all genders to wear.
The signet ring can often be a family heirloom, a piece of jewellery with history or just a statement unisex ring that offers the potential to make it unique to you. However, if we look at the history of the signet ring, we can see that the ring today is a chance to share a story.
An admin ring in Mesopotamia
While it is not clear when a signet ring gained popularity, researchers believe that seal or signet rings have been in existence since 3500 BC, but clear evidence connects these rings to around 1400 BC in Mesopotamia.
In Mesopotamia, these seals were not worn for decorative purposes or even as a status symbol. Back then, the signet ring was useful for purely administrative purposes. The ring, featuring identification carving, would create a distinct impression when dipped in hot wax. Set on a ring, this was an easy way to transport your identification mark for any administrative purposes. Moreover, the ring was considered a more authentic way to leave your mark than a signature.
For thousands of years, signet rings were made from ivory and soft stone; when signet rings were then recognised for their style and intricacy, further materials were used, and the rings became collectable pieces. King Mithridates VI of Pontus was even said to be a collector of signet rings.
Seals of society
As time progressed, signet rings were seen more as seals. Important paperwork and letters were waxed shut and sealed to prevent tampering. The seal was vital for identification, more so than signatures or handwriting. From the church to royalty, seal rings were vital to ensure confidentiality.
These seal rings were considered so powerful and couldn’t get into the wrong hands that rings were often destroyed in a ceremony after the death of the ring owner.
With seal rings only being necessary for those high in society, they became increasingly ornate. With heavy decoration, seal rings became larger. This often came at a considerable cost, meaning the rings were secured in family jewel boxes and passed down from generation to generation.
Signet ring jewellery
With the focus moving away from proof of identity, the rings became more of a proud symbol of identity and heritage. Signet rings took many different forms. Rings may feature the family crest, a coat of arms, initials or monograms. Some kept their signet rings to be a unique pattern, while others would choose a single letter as an engraving.
Sharing the story
Throughout history, signet rings have taken on different meanings, creating a wealth of traditions for many families. However, despite having thousands of years of evolution, the signet ring remains as a slightly chunky ring with an engraved or raised symbol that is symbolic or representative to its wearer.
Some of the traditions of a signet ring that people may follow include:
- A signet ring is worn by the son that didn’t inherit the estate
- It is a ring only worn on the little finger
- Grandfathers would gift grandsons with a signet ring on their 21st birthday
- The crest on the ring should always face toward you
- A signet ring is always worn on your “guard hand” or non-dominant hand
Buying a signet ring
While rings were often handed down and gifted throughout families, buying a signet ring can be a fantastic way to honour your family or heritage or start a tradition of your own by engraving the ring with something meaningful to you.
For example, when the Middletons were awarded a coat of arms after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge married, the Middleton family wore signet rings with their new coat of arms displayed proudly. It is never too late to start your signet ring story and engrave your family crest or coat of arms.