Signet rings are a classic accessory for men and have been around for thousands of years!
Before handwriting was a thing, signet rings were traditionally used to sign off and seal documents and therefore are always totally unique to the individual.
These days, we don’t need a ring to sign things anymore but the tradition of the signet ring has stuck around. Many men still choose to wear signet rings as a classy fashion statement as well as a nod to their family heritage or even to their school, army or other significant groups they belong to.
In this post, discover what a signet ring is, their interesting history and how they are worn. Also, discover our modern take on signet rings and why they make such special gifts even in the 2020s!
What is a signet ring?
A signet ring is set apart from other rings by having a flat surface that is engraved with family initials, symbols or images such as a family crest, that are significant to the wearer.
They are usually chunky and made from solid gold or silver. The face of signet rings is commonly round but can also be square, rectangle, oval or a number of other shapes.
Signet rings are traditionally worn by men.
The history of signet rings
The word ‘signet’ originates from the Latin word ‘signup’ which means ‘sign’. These rings were traditionally used by religious leaders and Pharaohs to sign and seal documents by pressing the face into the wax.
The face would usually be marked with a unique symbol or family crest. The signet ring was traditionally a way to prove authenticity before modern forms of ID were available.
They were considered to be like a person’s fingerprint that could not be copied or forged. For this reason, signet rings were usually destroyed when the wearer passed away so that they could not be used by anyone else!
Signet rings have been used practically and as a statement of fashion, status and wealth by men for thousands of years. They were an essential part of how society worked and therefore they have played a significant role in our history.
The use of signet rings dates back to 3500BC!
We can trace the use of signet rings all the way back to 3500BC when the people of Mesopotamia first started using them as a means of signature to prove authenticity.
In these times only a seal was used in wet clay as opposed to a ring. These clay seals were used to seal things like packages, envelopes jars and so on. This is in fact where the corporate seal that we still use today originated from.
In Ancient Egypt, Pharaohs, religious leaders and noblemen would wear signet rings made from ceramics or stone which has symbols engraved on the face that was unique to their owner.
During the Bronze Age up to 1100BC the rings we made from stone and ivory. During this time is when the signet rings began to look more like they do today. As we moved into the Hellenistic period up to around 50AD, signet rings started to be recognised as a form of art.
By the time we reached the Medieval Age most men of importance would wear a signet ring to sign and seal their letters and important documents.
The signet ring was considered the only way to authentically sign something during this period and therefore was very important for the functioning of society.
Signet rings were an important status symbol
During these time periods, signet rings were also a very important symbol of class and wealth. They were heavy, difficult to make and totally unique to an individual so were very expensive to make.
Many families would hand down signet rings from father to son due to the cost so only the most wealthy men could afford to have one made exclusively for them.
People who tended to have the wealth to have their own signet rings include kings, religious leaders, doctors and lawyers.
Signet Rings Today
Signet rings today don’t hold as much social value as they once did and we certainly don’t need them anymore to sign important documents!
Today they are more of a fashion statement, a family heirloom or a way to honour your identity and family history.Some clubs, schools, families or institutions still continue to give signet rings with a coat of arms or family crest as a gift upon graduation or commendation such as leaving high school or reaching a certain level in the military but this is pretty old school and not overly common.
There are many modern takes now on traditional signet rings and you don’t need a coat of arms or family crest to have your own signet ring.
You could simply have your initials engraved on the face of the ring or even your zodiac sign.
There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a signet ring, especially in our modern age!
Browse our range of unique and modern signet rings.
Signet Ring Shapes
There are five shapes most commonly found in signet rings:
- Round: An elegant and traditional shape
- Straight Oval: This is the most popular signet ring shape
- Cushion: This is the next most popular signet ring shape
- Oxford: a heavy, square-shaped ring that takes the shape of a solid square or rectangle.
- Bulbous Oval: a heavier, more distinctive looking ring that is nearly round
How to wear a signet ring
While there are no hard and fast rules about wearing signet rings anymore, many men may choose to wear one as a fashion statement or for an important event such as a wedding or graduation to honour their lineage.
Many men also choose to wear their signet ring every day no matter what as an extension of themselves!When it comes to what finger to wear a signet ring on, there are also no hard and fast rules.
You can choose whichever finger is the most comfortable for you. There are however traditions around which finger to wear a signet ring on.
In the UK they are traditionally worn on the pinky finger on the left hand. Some men choose to wear them stacked with their wedding bands or on their right ring finger.
Some men choose to even wear them on their index fingers. The least common fingers to wear them on are the thumb and middle finger. But you can be a rule breaker!
Signet rings make great gifts for him
Or are the perfect way to start your own family tradition.Signet rings are unique and meaningful to an individual so they can make a special gift for a father, brother, husband or son to mark a significant milestone birthday.
Signet rings can be kept for a lifetime and handed down through the generations as a family heirloom to help the family always stay connected to their roots.
If you don’t have signet rings in your family, there is no better time than now to start a new family tradition!