A Brief History of Signet Rings

Signet rings are often worn as a fashion item or sign of individuality. Sometimes they are passed down as family heirlooms, but did you know the signet ring is an important cultural item of jewellery which has a significant role in history? 

Signet rings used to have the family crest carved into them and they would be used to stamp or sign documents by pushing the metal into soft wax which then hardened to form a seal. The shapes carved into the metal would leave a permanent mark which would be used on a variety of legal documents. In it’s day, the signet ring stamp was more trusted than a signature. Each ring was unique, as well as the family crest, each ring had a significant mark which personally identified the owner. 

Records show the people of Mesopotamia used the signet ring as long ago as 3500BC. During the time of the ancient Egyptians, Pharaohs and other important people would wear a signet ring to signify their importance. 

By the Middle Ages, any person of influence had a signet ring, and they were used to sign all letters and documents. When the owners died, the rings were destroyed to prevent forged documents from being produced after a nobleman’s death. 

Signet rings are still commissioned today, often with a family crest or initials engraved into them but rarely the unique personal identification mark. Many people today wear a signet ring that has been passed down through the generations. Traditionally, the signet ring was a gentleman’s item of jewellery, but the recent resurgence in their popularity has seen ladies signet rings become a regular commission for jewellers. 

Have you considered commissioning a signet ring? Contact the team at FANCI Fine Jewellery on shop@fanci.co.uk or +44 (0)23 8020 1717 to discuss the design options or visit www.fanci.co.uk


Chris Nash of FANCI Fine Jewellery, Southampton, UK