Delving into the story of the Signet Ring

Delving into the story of the Signet Ring

The word Signet itself is believed to have originated in Anglo-Norman and Middle French, and unsurprisingly it’s primary meaning was a " … small seal employed for formal or official purpose … " which obviously makes sense given that it’s primary function was to act as a substitute for a signature during time when few could write. Some believe it is related to the word signal - as in an emblem, a symbol. Which I kind of love - as isn’t all jewellery an emblem, a symbol of a moment, a person or a place? Signets have a long history dating back to 3500 BC when the people of Mesopotamia used them as a method of authenticity rolling seals in soft clay. In ancient Egypt, the Pharoahs, religious leaders and nobles would wear rings made of stone or pottery called faience. The rings were ornate with decorations and symbols to denote the power and authority of it’s owner. Some portrayed the interests of the wearer such as art, history or science. 1332 BC Ancient Egyptian New Kingdom Faience Ring for Tutankhamun An ancient Egyptian faience ring, inscribed with the cartouche of Tutankhamun. Dating to the New Kingdom, XVIII Dynasty, 1332-1323 BC. From 1st Dibs. Signet rings have had such a prominent place in history, they even get a shout out in the Old Testmatment when Daniel in the lion’s den… And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel. (Daniel 6:17) Over time the materials that Signet Rings have been made out of has varied greatly. And provide a wonderful example of the progression of tools and materials utilised. Rings were made out of soft stones and ivory in the Early Minoan age. And would probably have worn very quickly. By the Middle Minoan age they were made of harder stone and by the Late Bronze age, the discovery of metal was utilised. The practice of carving the seal into gemstones has brought colour to the Signet Ring. With the most popular stones used were ruby, amethyst, garnet, chrysoprase, bloodstone, cornelian, chalcedony and lapis lazuli. French Antique Lapis Gold Signet Ring Very large and handsome antique signet ring, set in 18K yellow gold. Beautiful well-detailed crest. Made in France circa 1890. From 1st Dibs. Signet Rings wielded a huge amount of power as they acted as the identifying symbol of the wearer. In some cases, the ring had to be destroyed after the death of it’s owner - to ensure that power was terminated. In most cases, the ring was passed down through the generations - transferring the power and authority down the line with it. A symbol of rank, family heritage and social position. I’ve read that when a gentleman had pledged his love to a young lady before leaving for war, it would give his signet ring to her as a tangible promise of his love. Like leaving a part of himself with her.