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A Guide to Signet Rings: 9 Recommended Custom Styles and More

The significance of signet rings...

While watching a movie about historical happenings, you’ve probably noticed peculiar rings on the fingers of important characters. They’re often large, golden rings with bold symbols molded into their surfaces. In truth, these “signet rings” carry a cultural, societal, and political significance that dates back to ancient times.⏰

However, despite their long history, signet rings can still be found today in fashion. With modern materials and better production processes, they have become a hot accessory that makes a bold statement. But, how do you properly wear a signet ring? And what are your options when it comes to designs, materials, etc.?

Let’s discuss the historical and modern significance of signet rings and some common styles you’ll want to add to your wardrobe right away.

Signet Rings: Recommended Traditional and Modern Styles

👉🏻What is a signet ring?

What is a signet ring used for?

Throughout history, wearers used signet rings as stamps to sign important documents. To use it, one would pour wax on paper and press the ring into it to add the signet’s marking to the page. Wearers utilized this wax pressing as a signature for business, politics, and wills.

These signatures legalized contracts and correspondence as early as 3500 BC!  Researchers have found round seals used by ancient Mesopotamians for the exact same purpose of authenticating documents.  But, the Ancient Egyptians were, seemingly, the first to add the seals to rings. Craftsmen emblazoned specific hieroglyphs on these rings to denote a person’s position or importance within the community.

Ancient Signet Ring With Name of King Akhenaten
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By the Middle Ages, members of high-class families also used signet rings with the family crest to sign documents. Jewelers added small, unique details to each family member’s ring to make their signatures distinct to avoid forgery. In fact, when nobles died, officials destroyed their signet rings to ensure no one could forge their signatures!

A group that still wears signet rings today is the Freemasons. While the Freemasons still wear them as a form of tradition and a way to identify fellow Masonic members, these rings are no longer a legal form of signature.

What is a signet ring’s meaning today?

Today, signet rings don’t necessarily have a purpose, but they play an important role in fashion🕺🏻 and family lineage. In wealthy families, patriarchs pass signet rings to future generations, and some rings are over a hundred years old! Additionally, some families commission signet rings to create a priceless family heirloom they can pass on through generations.

Many high schools suggest students purchase class rings with their graduation year, school crest, or mascot on top. Students can customize them to include sports, clubs, or other activities they participated in during their time at the school. Some corporations also offer milestone rings for employees who have been with the company for a certain number of years.

Experienced Company Management Wearing Gold Signet Ring on Her Finger

Signet rings have even found a place in pop culture, making appearances in TV shows, movies, and even video games. For instance, Hazelmere’s signet ring is a hero item that appears in RuneScape, and it’s a perfect example of the signet ring’s influence on our world today.

Despite the signet ring’s practical history, many people just enjoy the classic style of this accessory today. Traditionally, women did not wear signet rings as they did not participate in business or political affairs. As a result, many modern women choose sleek, fashionable signet ring styles that call back to historic designs. Signet rings have come a long way, and new metals, gemstones, and layering techniques provide unlimited options for buyers to create a signature look.😻

📝The ins and outs of signet rings

Before we discuss customizable signet rings, let’s look at the parts, materials, and symbols that make up a proper ring.

Parts

These are the major parts of a signet ring and how they fit into the whole design:

  • Shank: Also known as the “band”, this piece of metal encircles the wearer’s finger. Shanks can have various fits, from a straight or comfort fit to the more complex knife and interlocked shanks.
  • Bezel: As the top surface of a ring, this is the focal point of the entire piece. The bezel may be flat—with a polished or brushed finish—or fitted with prongs for gemstones.
  • Signet: This is the design engraved into the surface of the bezel. Historically, the design was a family crest or selection of symbols meaningful to the individual’s heritage. However, today these symbols can be whatever the wearer chooses.

Metals

Jewelers use the same types of metals for signet rings as they would use for other jewelry. If you’re looking to keep your ring as authentic as possible, a gold signet ring would best match those of antiquity. However, you can order a ring in sterling silver, platinum, palladium, and color of gold, and more.

Gemstones

Jewelry crafters use gemstones as a bezel surface in many signet rings. Generally, a jeweler will create a large, flat piece of gemstone that sets into the bezel of the ring. This piece becomes the base for the signet, and it can be whatever flat stone the wearer chooses. The most common options are bloodstone, lapis lazuli, onyx, tigers eye, and carnelian.

Gemstone Used as the Bezel Base of an Ancient Signet Ring
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

However, in the 18th century, adding other gemstones to your signet ring became popular among the wealthy. In turn, modern wearers may choose to add other gemstones to the bezel of their signet ring, such as diamonds, sapphires, etc. 

Shapes of signet rings

The bezel of a signet ring comes in various shapes and sizes. Here are some common styles wearers may encounter:

Bezel surface options

When it comes to the bezel of your signet ring, there are plenty of design options nowadays. Here are some popular design choices for bezels:

Bezel direction

Another decision to make regarding the bezel of your ring is whether or not you’d like it to rotate. Though uncommon today, many signet rings used to have a rotating bezel to conceal the image against the wearer’s finger. Modern wearers may not have a use for this functionality, but it may be a fun feature for those who love eccentric designs!

Symbols

While you can add any design you’d like to the surface of your custom signet ring, wearers typically choose:

9 traditional and modern custom signet ring styles for your inspiration!

There are plenty of traditional and modern designs that you can mix and match to create the perfect custom signet ring for your personality. Here are 9 custom signet ring styles to consider when shopping for your own:

Custom Family Crest Signet Rings

A family crest is the most traditional design for a signet ring. Coats of arms and crests are passed through generations, giving younger family members a clear tie to their proud heritage. Unsure whether your family has a crest you could use? Try using Dexter’s crest archive to locate your family’s symbol or create a new one for your custom signet ring.

Personalized Family Crest Signet Ring in Gold or Sterling Silver
Get my family crest signet ring customized.
Dexter's Family Crest Signet Ring Examples
Find more family crest signet ring examples.

Masonic Signet Rings

A Masonic signet ring carries great symbolism and history in its design. These signet rings should be reserved for those with connections to the Freemasons, as preservation of their rituals and heritage is important. However, for anyone who qualifies, these rings are steeped in mysterious imagery and stories perpetuated by the uninitiated!

Gallery of Dexter's Masonic Signet Ring Designs
Click here to view more Masonic signet ring designs.

Custom Signet Rings for School College University and Graduation

Looking to show off some school pride? Consider a college signet ring! These rings often include the school’s coat of arms as well as your graduation date, extracurricular activities, and anything else you’d like to add.

Jostens Custom Signet Ring: Large Signet Curriculum
Check more details.

Military Signet Rings

Individuals who served in the military may prefer a signet ring that reflects their service. Military signet rings may include branch logos, dates of service, or symbols that signify a particular group. Wearing your military affiliation is a source of pride and a remembrance of those lost.🙏🏻

Click here to learn how to customize a military signet ring.

Initial Signet Rings

Signet rings may also include a wearer’s initials or those of someone important to them. If you have a family name, a signet ring with the initials that were passed on to you by a parent, grandparent, etc. may be a lovely tribute to that bond.🥰 Additionally, signet rings may also contain a single letter to represent the wearer’s first or last name.

Custom Gold Family Initials Signet Ring: Christmas Gift
Customize my signet ring with family members’ initials engraved.
14K Yellow Gold Single-Initial Signet Ring by Aurate
Find more details of this custom initial signet ring.

Monogram Signet Rings

Similar to initial rings, a monogram signet ring generally carries the first, middle, and last initial of the wearer. These designs also present the wearer’s initials out of order, with the last initial in the center for emphasis with the first initial on the left and middle initial on the right.

Classic Oval Signet Ring With Personalized Monogram Engraved
Try to customize one for myself or my loved one.

Gemstone Signet Rings

As previously discussed, many wearers choose to add gemstones to their custom signet ring. While any gemstone can be added, you may want to consider gems that have significance to you, such as your birthstone or that of a partner, parent, or child. That way, these gemstones become a personal expression of your love for family, friends, or whomever you choose to honor.❤️

Constellation Zodiac Sign Signet Rings, With Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald and More
Ring photo: Etsy
Personalized Birthstone Signet Rings for Dads or Men
See this modern signet ring item here.
Oval Birthstone Signet Ring for Customization, in Yellow Gold, Rose Gold and Sterling Silver
Check this elegant birthstone ring HERE.

Diamond Signet Rings

One of the most luxurious options, a diamond signet ring is a powerful form of personal expression. If you prefer statement pieces that draw attention, consider adding diamonds to your custom signet ring. This piece would be a great option if you’ll only wear your ring to events or special occasions, as it requires more maintenance than other signet rings.

14kt Yellow Gold Diamond Signet Ring for Bold Statement
Check the 360-degree view of this diamond signet ring.

Signet Rings With Custom Symbols

Despite all of the options listed, you can always choose your own symbol for your custom signet ring! There are plenty of online retailers who will engrave images🌈 for you, and you can choose from flowers, skulls, animals, or any other design you like.

Personalized Engraved Tree Signet Ring Yellow Gold
Check other symbols for the engraved signet ring.

Honorable Mentions: Custom Shapes, Colors, and More

Here are some additional custom signet rings that add personality and originality to your piece:

Black Titanium Cable Inlay Custom Engraved Signet Ring by Eve's Addiction
Find it HERE.
David Yurman's Colorful Signet Ring With Ceramic Coating
Browse more colorful signet rings here.

🧐FAQ for wearing a custom signet ring

Here are answers to some common questions regarding proper wear of signet rings:

On which finger should I wear my custom signet ring?

While there are no specific rules for signet ring wear, the finger you choose can mean different things. For instance, wearing a signet ring on your left or right ring finger can signify that you are married. If this is not the case, you may want to consider a different finger for your signet ring!

Illustration: On Which Finger Should Wear a Custom Signet Ring

Different parts of the world also vary on which finger is best for a signet ring. In the Middle East, signet rings belong on the middle finger or thumb and are often accompanied by gemstones. In America, signet rings are usually worn on the ring, index, or pinky finger. English culture also favors the pinky as the perfect finger to display your signet ring. If you’re married or open to a relationship, an index or pinky signet ring may be your best option. With both choices, the signet ring will not hinder your movement but will still remain a ready conversation piece.

Is there any wearing etiquette for a custom signet ring that I must follow?

In the past, one could not wear a signet ring unless it had been earned, either by birthright or purchase. Because signet rings serve fashion rather than function in modern society, there really is no absolute etiquette on how you must wear your ring.

Similarly, there are no specific design standards that state a signet ring must bear a traditional family crest, initials, etc. The ring design is subject to the taste of the buyer, and other symbols or even just plain bezels without engraving are possible.

Should I wear my signet ring design facing in or out?

Debates exist regarding whether it is appropriate to wear the bezel of a signet ring facing inward toward the finger. However, there is no set guideline for wear, and you are free to choose whether you would like to keep the symbolism of the ring private or display it proudly.🌟

How can I pair my custom signet ring with my other jewelry? Is my ring too fancy for everyday wear?

When styling your custom signet ring, keep in mind WHEN and WHERE you plan to wear your special piece. If you’ll often wear this ring in a casual environment or to the office, ⚠️it may be best to choose a durable metal and ensure the symbol is reverse engraved to avoid any segments wearing down with time.

Custom Gold Signet Ring Sketch

However, if you’d rather save your custom signet ring for special events, you may have many more options for wear. Gemstones, pricier metals, and intricate designs are better suited for less wear, and so they would be perfect for statement pieces worn only during significant events.

Here are some options to consider for your custom signet ring:

  • Standard/Casual
    • Sterling silver signet ring
    • 18K gold (most traditional) signet ring
    • Engraved with initials, family crest, or a design of importance to you
    • A plain surfaced signet ring would also look great for daily wear
    • Pair a women’s signet ring with small earrings, a delicate necklace, or smaller rings to avoid attracting too much attention away from your signet ring
  • Special/Limited
    • 18K gold or platinum signet ring
    • Engraved with family crest, official seal, etc.
    • Diamonds, enamel, and other gemstones look great in a piece made for special occasions
    • Pair a women’s signet ring with a statement necklace or statement earrings to embolden your look

We’ll cover more information at a later date, but the tips listed above are helpful to consider when choosing a custom signet ring and design.

Create a custom signet ring that is significant to you

Whether you wear a custom signet ring to support your family, membership in a group, or to denote your school or employer, it can become a significant piece of your identity. To wear custom signet rings for any of these reasons is to perpetuate their history of nobility, power, and importance.

However, the signet ring has a new place in modern fashion, and wearers can always choose to don one to make a bold statement. Signet rings come in all shapes, sizes, and materials nowadays, and they can easily reflect your personal style without having familial or societal significance. Let the material, design, or gemstones do the talking😚, and let them reflect the parts of your personality that you want the world to see!