The Resurgence of Signet Rings

Monday, March 04, 2013

--Guest Post By Joe Shervell

Jennifer Carpenter wearing a signet ring
Jennifer Carpenter
A signet ring is a piece of jewellery with an ancient and regal past. The use of signet rings goes all the way back to Biblical times. They were popular in Ancient Egypt and the Middle-Ages. Signet comes from the Latin word "signum," when means "sign." In the past, signet rings were used as a sort of signature for important documents.

Before the concept of the personal signature was invented, personal seals were created by pressing a signet ring into hot wax. The engraving on the signet ring would leave an imprint on the wax. This not only sealed the document for delivery purposes, but it also demonstrated the stature of the document's creator.

The most common engraving for a signet ring was a coat of arms which signified that the wearer had heraldic privileges. That meant they had the power to decide matters of rank or protocol, a power usually bestowed to knights and royals. Traditional signet rings are still worn by contemporary monarchs.

Traditional signet rings are made of metal or gemstone. They are created using a technique called intaglio, which entails cutting or etching a pattern into the surface. Engraving is the type of intaglio printing method most used to create signet rings. Semi-precious stones, like agate, make beautiful and long-lasting signet rings. Metal signet rings are not as sturdy as the ones made of gems, but they are still an attractive option.

Helen Mirren wearing a signet ring
Helen Mirren
Today, signet rings are no longer reserved for royalty. They are usually ornamental and do not have any legal or binding significance. A common use for signet rings is as class rings for high schools and universities. School crests and mascots are the natural replacements for coat of arms. As coat of arms have gone out of fashion, other types of engravings, such are initials, have come in style. Signet rings are worn by men and women alike. Women's signet rings tend to be daintier and more feminine.

It’s no wonder that with their regal past, signet rings are more popular than ever. Modern jewellers like David Yurman, Sarah Chloe and Jennifer Zeuner have found ways of updating the look of the classic signet ring. David Yurman specializes in signet rings for men. His rings come in darker colours like sterling silver with black diamonds. Sarah Chloe has the Lana line of signet rings that come in circle, oval and elongated oval shapes. Jennifer Zeuner’s signet rings feature initial engravings in delicate, swirly text.

If you see a signet ring on a celebrity, don’t be surprised. Since enjoying a resurgence, signet rings have been seen on big name stars like academy award winner Dame Helen Mirren and Jennifer Carpenter, of Dexter fame. Sarah Chloe signet rings are of favourite of theirs. Forward thinking fashionistas such as Lauren Conrad are sporting signet rings as well. Even male celebrities are getting in on the trend. A recent Vanity Fair photo shoot with Twilight’s Robert Pattinson featured an attractive, gold signet ring on his pinkie finger.

Signet rings are at once classic and modern. Thanks to their resurgence, anyone can enjoy this ornamental jewellery. You may not be royalty, but you will certainly feel like it with a signet ring on your finger.

This article was supplied by Joe Shervell for