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The Complete Guide to Signet Rings: Origins, styling, and making the signet ring your own

Signet rings were used as early as 3500 BC by merchants to authenticate important documents. Today, they’re worn as symbols of heritage, identity, and signature style. With time, the signet ring has evolved to include an exciting range of possibilities with boundary-pushing engravings and materials in tow.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the origins of the signet ring and then we’ll chat through the materials, styling, and significance of signet rings in modern times.

  1. Where Do Signet Rings Come From?
  2. Identifying a Signet Ring
  3. Which Finger Does a Signet Ring Go On?
  4. Personalised Signet Rings
  5. Signet Ring Face Shapes and Band Details
  6. Signet Rings as Family Heirlooms
  7. Signet Ring Engraving: Then and Now
  8. How To Style a Signet Ring
  9. How To Care for a Signet Ring
  10. Signet Rings & the Old Money Aesthetic
  11. The Most Sentimental Piece You Can Own

1. Where Do Signet Rings Come From?

Signet rings have a long and storied past, tracing back to ancient civilizations including Egypt, Rome, and Mesopotamia. They were initially used as personal seals and engraved with distinctive symbols or initials and pressed into wax or clay to authenticate documents.

In this way, signet rings were the original signature.

But over time, they evolved into symbols of power, authority, and social status. Today, signet rings retain their historical significance while embodying personal style and heritage passed down through generations as family heirlooms.

2. Identifying A Signet Ring

When it comes to signet rings, the possibilities are wide but not endless. As signet rings become more and more modern and customisable, there is a specific identifying factor that sets signets apart from regular rings.

A signet ring typically has a raised, flat face which often includes a design or symbol. This flat section is what accommodates the range of personal designs that signet rings have become known for. As this blog goes on, you’ll learn that the signet’s face can be customised with engraved crests, monograms, or doodles, and it can even be set with gemstones.

Infographic: How To Identify A Signet Ring.

3. Which finger does a signet ring go on?

Typically, a signet ring goes on the pinky finger of the non-dominant hand. And as signet rings have become more popular as wedding rings for men (and occasionally women too), they’re being worn on the ring finger too.

But, as seen in historical portraits, signet rings can and have been worn on whichever finger the wearer chooses.

Because signet rings are passed between generations whose ring sizes may vary, it's no surprise that people style their signets on the finger they fit best. If you’ve received an heirloom signet and want it to fit a specific finger, you can always have it resized by your jeweller.

4. Personalised Signet Rings

Signet rings are deeply personal and usually carry a special meaning for the wearer. In fact, they’re often the most personal piece of jewellery you can wear.

The engraved design on the ring can represent various personal emblems such as family crests or monograms that hold sentimental or historical significance. Modern signets often include birthstones, fingerprints, initials of loved ones, special phrases, or tiny drawings.

Every signet has a story and life of its own. When you set that story in solid metals, you’re honouring that story and making it immortal.

5. Signet Ring Face Shapes and Band Details

Signet rings come in various shapes, allowing for individual expression and personal taste. The face can be rectangular, round, or even heart-shaped. If you’re having a signet ring custom designed, you can ask for virtually any shape you like.

The band can be plain or adorned with intricate designs, gemstones, or enamel inlays. Our Ellie Safari Signet Ring has an intricate banana tree design on the band and our Intuition Signet Ring has a white diamond set in its band.

6. Signet Rings as Family Heirlooms

Signet rings are popular among family heirlooms which are passed down through generations. They become cherished artefacts, serving as tangible connections to the past. This is a beautiful opportunity to bridge the gap between generations and preserve family heritage.

They also open up an opportunity to create modern heirlooms. Every family deserves to be celebrated – even those that don’t already have a family crest or signet ring. You can create something special or update an old ring to create a fresh heirloom for your family.

7. Signet Ring Engraving: Then and Now

The original signet rings were hand carved by skilled craftsmen. But with modern technology comes the speed and efficiency of laser engraving for signet rings.

While hand engraving can cost more and take longer to do, it allows for a more one-of-a-kind, lasting signet ring design. On the other hand, laser engraving can be faster but loses the artisanal quality of hand engraving. If you’re not sure which option is better for you, read our full blog about the differences between hand engraving and laser engraving for signet rings.

8. How to Style a Signet Ring

Signet rings are extremely personal and serve as a base or anchor for your go-to jewellery stack. While they can be worn alone – this is popular for men who aren’t typically jewellery wearers – we love seeing signets in a stack.

For those who like to layer lots of jewels, we suggest pairing signet rings with softer, more feminine rings such as our Oh Honey rings. The combination of a traditional, more substantial signet alongside dainty, whimsical gemstones creates a complex, edgy stack. This is also an opportunity to mix metals and band thicknesses.

You can also wear your signet with plain bands in the same colour metal for a more traditional look.

9. How to Care for Signet Rings

The best way to keep a piece of jewellery looking sparkly is to wear it. Our solid 9k gold and sterling silver can withstand everyday wear but we recommend giving your jewels a good clean every once in a while.

Clean your signet with a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid, and use a soft toothbrush to get any grime out of the engravings or settings. Make sure it’s completely dry before storing somewhere safe from direct sunlight – such as a jewellery box.

Read our full jewellery cleaning guide here.

10. Signet Rings & the Old Money Aesthetic

With the rise of the old money aesthetic on TikTok, signet rings have become sought-after accessories, favoured by both men and women for their timeless appeal and ability to elevate any outfit.

Modern designs often incorporate sleek and minimalist elements, allowing signet rings to seamlessly blend with contemporary fashion while maintaining their distinct charm.

11. The Most Sentimentil Piece You Can Own

That’s everything you need to know about the history, details, and significance of the signet ring in modern times. From treasuring family bonds to styling a signet to celebrate your personal style, the signet ring is one of the most sentimental pieces of jewellery you can own.

Our studio creates all sorts of signets from simple stylish squares to custom-created heirlooms. We’ve even got a few showstopping gemstone signets.

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