Signet Rings

A signet ring is a ring engraved with a monogram or coat of arms or other symbol.  It can also be set with an intaglio (the opposite of cameo) with the design carved into the stone or plaque.   Signet rings have been used for centuries to seal letters and sign documents with a mark of authentication.  They are traditionally worn by men.  Throughout the 1700s, wealthy people collected ancient carved gems and set them in rings.  Tassies (glass replicas of cameos) were also commonly set into rings.  By the 1800s, coats of arms and heraldic crests were popular designs for signet rings.  Romantic and nostalgic classical themes dominated. By the mid-1800s hardstone rings, carved with an individual’s initials or family symbol, were often seen.  Many signet rings had masonic symbols also. Also, plain signet style rings, with no engraved or carved design were worn.  By the 1900s, signet rings were simpler and tended to be designed with a gold band, a flat bezel and engraved with initials or a monogram or with no engraved design at all.  They were still considered to be a gentleman’s jewelry item but they were rarely used for sealing documents and were instead worn for adornment or status.

  Europe, c. 1810   Ring, gold mounted with rose-cut diamonds set in silver and carnelian intaglio set in gold   V&A Museum

Europe, c. 1810
Ring, gold mounted with rose-cut diamonds set in silver and carnelian intaglio set in gold
V&A Museum

  A late 19th century gold signet ring   Christie’s Sale 5642

A late 19th century gold signet ring
Christie’s Sale 5642

  Victorian gold signet ring   Image from 1stdibs

Victorian gold signet ring
Image from 1stdibs

Sources / further reading:

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Signet_Ring

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_%28emblem%29

 

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Pippa Bear