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.
👉🏻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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Oxford Oval: Somewhere between an oval and a circle, this is the most traditional popular shape
- Round: A traditional circular shape that’s a bit more modern than the Oxford Oval
- Marquise: A diamond shape with rounded edges that is elegant but underused in signet rings
- Octagon: A more modern, angular spin on circular bezels
- Cushion: A square signet ring with rounded edges that was exceedingly popular in the Victorian era and is still a favorite today
- Oxford: A thicker, heavier version of the cushion shape
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:
- Engraved: Jewelers reverse engrave signet rings to ensure the symbol is stamped in the correct direction when in use. Signet designs were originally raised, but jewelers in the Middle Ages switched to an “intaglio” design where the symbol is engraved into the surface of the bezel to prevent wear.
- Blank: A more recent addition to signet rings, some wearers prefer to leave the bezel blank with a polished or brushed finish. If you want the shape and allure of a signet ring without adding identifying information, this may be a perfect solution.
- Stamped: An affordable alternative to engraving, stamping provides a modern twist to the signet style. Stamped rings are created by taking a physical stamp and pressing it into the surface of the metal after heating. Hand stamped rings provide a more rustic appeal than the classic ring design.
- Embossed: Although less common, embossed rings are also an option. Embossing requires pushing metal down around a design to create a raised look. These designs are impactful and beautiful, but they tend to wear down with time given their raised surface.
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!
While you can add any design you’d like to the surface of your custom signet ring, wearers typically choose:
- Status Symbols: Unlike the family coat of arms used to designate a family’s status that graced the surfaces of old signet rings, wearers today can choose any symbol that is meaningful to them. These images may have religious, military, or other meanings that show support of a group or community. Class rings, crosses and other religious imagery, and even fraternal orders such as police departments may be used to create a signet design that relates to the wearer personally.
- Initials: Many signet rings used to bear the initials of their wearer, and this is still a common trend. Another version of the initials style, monogram designs, consisting of initials in a special order, have also become exceptionally popular.😎
- Personal Designs: If none of these designs appeal to you, have no fear—you’re free to add whatever design you like to your signet ring! If there is an image or symbol that is meaningful to you, see if you can incorporate it into your own design.🔨
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.❤️
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.
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.
Honorable Mentions: Custom Shapes, Colors, and More
Here are some additional custom signet rings that add personality and originality to your piece:
- With black titanium and cable inlay, this signet ring is something you can guarantee no one else has.
- These David Yurman signet rings add a pop of color with their ceramic coating.
- If you don’t have a coat of arms, consider a shield-shaped bezel as a nod to the historic meaning of the signet style.
- Proclaim your love to your partner with a heart-shaped bezel that is sure to impress.
- Add a stone inlay to amplify the theatrics, like the tiger eye inlay signet ring by Fendi.
- Mixed metals are a huge fashion trend currently, so blend your silver and gold for a more exotic look.
- Looking for a special gift for your husband or boyfriend? Try a gorgeous men’s signet ring to enhance his personal style.
- If you’re not interested in creating your own design, purchase an antique signet ring with a history of its own.
🧐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!
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.
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:
- 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
- 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!