Why signet rings symbolise wealth and power

Although this year’s exam results have been a bit of a fiasco(!) and it’s unlikely that graduation ceremonies are going to happen this year, you can still celebrate by giving your son, daughter, niece or nephew a gift they will always remember. And what could be better than a signet ring.

Available as simple, plain bands or with gemstones, you can have them engraved with your loved one’s monogram or even your family crest. A gift they will surely treasure, especially during these difficult times.

We took a look at the history of the signet ring and why they make such an ideal present.

What is a signet ring?

Egyptian-signet-ring

A signet ring is pretty much how it sounds – a ring which bares someone’s signature!

Signet rings date back to 1400 BC where they were worn by the Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian civilisations. While they were always beautiful pieces of jewellery, they also served another important function.

Engraved with a family crest or other significant mark, they were used as an alternative to someone’s signature. The signet ring would be pressed into hot wax or soft clay and the distinctive impression left would act as an identification mark.

Why are they also called seal rings?

The impression left by a signet ring can’t be removed without damaging the identifying mark, which is why they are also called seal rings. Used by royal rulers and religious leaders, they sealed everything from documents to tombs and proved that something was authentic and hadn’t been tampered with.

In the Middle Ages, signet rings were used by wealthy individuals to prove that their letters were genuine, and, by the 14th century, it was compulsory for all important legal documents to be stamped with a signet ring.

How are signet rings designed?

Just like signatures, every signet ring was unique and usually included a family crest or a special mark which personally identifies the ring holder. This could be a monogram, icon or a coat of arms.

As a signet ring needed to leave a clear impression, the jewellery maker needed to create the design as a mirror-image, so that the finished impression would be the right way round. This level of detail also helped ensure that rings were very difficult to copy. In fact, very few signet rings from the Mediaeval times survive, as they were destroyed when the owner died to stop them being used to forge documents.

How have signet rings changed over the ages?

ancient-signet-ring

In ancient Egypt, signet rings were made of hardstone or blue pottery called faience. The rings were flat on the outside and ornate with decorations and symbols used to denote its owner.

It wasn’t until the bronze age that metal was used to make the rings, and they started to take on the form we recognise today.

The nineteenth century saw rings become more ornate with precious and semi-precious stones being added to the design. This in turn made the rings larger and heavy, so they were often kept in jewellery boxes or added to a chain or the fob of pocket watches to make them more wearable.

One common theme throughout all of history is that the signet ring was considered to be symbol of class, wealth and power. As rings cost a great deal, they were often handed down from father to son.

Looking for a signet ring?

You might not be able to use a signet ring in place of your signature anymore, but they still make a wonderful gift to celebrate a special birthday or to mark a graduation. We do all types and can arrange for the ring to be engraved with a special message. A perfect gift whatever the occasion. Pop into our store to view our collection.