Have you noticed stylish men wearing engraved rings on their pinky fingers recently? Or perhaps you are tying the knot and considering vintage jewelry as an alternative to a wedding band.

Are you wondering what are signet rings? We cover the significance of a signet ring as a status symbol, how they are made, and who should wear one below.

What Are Signet Rings?

A signet ring is a wearable form of identification and has been a popular family heirloom since the middle ages. Today, it is growing in popularity as an attractive accessory any man or woman can wear. 

What are signet rings

Men’s Signet Rings

Truly a gentleman’s ring and a symbol of family heritage. You’ve probably noticed that Prince Charles is never without his official Prince of Wales signet ring. He wears his gold signet ring stacked with his wedding ring on his little finger.

Once an item only worn by men of magnificent wealth, a signet ring in modern times can be an understated addition to your formal attire.

If you are not the type to wear jewelry, the notion of a wedding band may be of little interest to you. Signet rings are a welcome alternative and are frequently chosen as a wedding band. Alternatively, a growing trend is for the signet ring to be stacked with a wedding band.

Signet rings reached a peak in popularity during the Victorian era. Most gentlemen would wear a ring bearing their family crest on their little finger, with which they’d mark official documents. 

While precious stones such as rubies and bloodstone started to appear in gold and silver signet rings during this period, today’s trend for men is to have engraving on plain gold rings.

A man's signet ring
A man’s signet ring

Women’s Signet Rings

Following the popularity of signet rings among men in the 19th century, women began wearing signet rings in the early 20th century. Many first-wave feminists started to wear the rings to identify their allegiance to fighting for women’s rights. Consider including purple, white, and green elements in your ring to show solidarity with the suffragette movement.

Women traditionally wear wedding rings on their left ring fingers. Wearing a signet ring on this digit may cause confusion. However, it is up to you to decide how you would like to express your style.

While signet rings with diamonds have appeared as engagement rings in the past, the modern trend is for women to wear plain gold designs.

A gold bezel signet ring
A gold bezel signet ring

History of the Signet Ring

The signet ring’s origins appear as cylindrical seals used as early as 3200 BC in Mesopotamia. These seals of authenticity made of stone and precious metal were used to mark soft clay.

They were important possessions and would carry symbols, words, or letters to represent the owner in some way. During this period, only the highest class members possessed signet rings.

Signet rings evolved during the bronze age into a similar appearance and style seen today. The rings featured raised decorations until the development of wax sealing in the middle ages.

This influenced the move to depressed designs. Artifacts discovered in Roman military sites indicate soldiers wore rings carrying engravings with symbols of victory.

Marking letters or an envelope with a seal ring was once a daily part of society. A marking from a signet ring functioned similarly to a signature on important documents. Legal documents were typically marked by pressing the embellished side of the ring into hot wax for sealing.

While signet rings were worn as everyday items, you can honor the age-old tradition today by adding a signet ring to your outfit.

A signet ring and two coins of the ancient Roman Empire
A signet ring and two coins of the ancient Roman Empire

What Does Wearing a Signet Ring Mean?

Today, a signet ring does not carry the same significance as it did two hundred years ago. While rings are often commissioned by a ring maker, most people who own a signet ring inherit it from their parents or grandparents. In this case, wearing the ring can symbolize your family’s wealth.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge don’t wear signet rings themselves. However, after The Queen gave the Middleton family an official Coat of Arms, Kate’s brother James, sister Pippa and parents have all been spotted with signet rings adorned with their family crest.

If your family doesn’t have a crest, you can design one to start a new tradition. Some clubs, organizations, and even schools give signet rings as a gift or commendation. The ring, in this case, represents a bond outside of your bloodline. 

A contemporary gold signet ring design
A contemporary gold signet ring design

How is a Custom Signet Ring Made?

Working with metal to create jewelry requires experience and the right tools for the job. You can either have a customizable signet ring engraved or have a jeweler create something unique for you from scratch. It is up to you to decide on the size, shape, and design of your statement piece before the engraving can be done. 

Most of these unique rings are made in either white gold, rose gold, yellow gold, or sterling silver. The engraving is done on a flat piece of metal or stone. The most popular stones to include are black onyx, lapis lazuli, bloodstone, and carnelian. Consider choosing a metal or stone that will match your skin tone or the color of your cufflinks.

Who Should Wear a Signet Ring? 

Anyone can wear a signet ring. They represent elegance and carry a level of class. While once most popular with gentlemen, this is a piece of jewelry that women are encouraged to wear too.

If you intend to start a family tradition, you can consider giving signet rings to each child on their twenty-first birthday. It can instill a great sense of pride in the wearer.

Graduating students can choose to create class rings. These have become a popular way to commemorate your schooling years with a piece of jewelry.

A unique signet ring
A unique signet ring

Which Finger Should You Wear It On?

While you can wear a signet ring on your middle finger or ring finger, the British tradition is to wear it on the little finger of the left hand, also known as a pinky finger. That’s why this type of ring is known as a pinky ring. Decide which hand is more comfortable to wear the ring as your dominant hand’s fingers will be slightly larger.

Celebrate Your Signet Ring

These modest pieces of jewelry are often family heirlooms and are a great talking point. Why not wear a signet ring to celebrate your family crest or to start a new family tradition. Luckily, anyone can wear them, and if you don’t have a family crest, you can take on the task of designing your own.

Now that you have a deeper understanding of what makes a signet ring so significant, you can wear yours with confidence.

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What Are Signet Rings?
What Are Signet Rings?

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