Sar Jewelry

Mens Signet Rings – a nuanced history.


‘Signet (n.)  From the Old French ‘signet’ meaning ‘a small
seal’, from the Latin ‘Signum’ meaning Sign/Signature.

What are signet rings?

Signet Rings are the most enduring style of ring the world has known.

Spanning cultures and countries, they are renowned for their purpose, as well as their capacity to display personality, status, beliefs and sentiment.  They have always been a signifier, right through history from the time of Ancient Egypt, when the cylinder seals of the Mesopotamians were re-imagined into a piece that could be worn. 

20th–19th century B.C. Mesopotamia - carved rolls in chalcedony,carnelian and rose quartz
ca. 16th century B.C. Mesopotamian roll - Carnelian.

The story behind the signet ring

 

Mesopotamian roll ring with clay cylinder and rubies Ca. 18th Century B.C.

Throughout history, governments, highborn families, clergy and monarchies have required the verification of official documents and letters. From pharaohs to Roman Emperors, exalted religious members to the kings of Europe signet rings for men became an invaluable tool to ensure the word of these powerful humans was protected and that their will was made clear in seals of clay or wax. 

The materials from which the men’s signet rings were hewn changed through the ages, from iron to bronze to precious metals. With valuable materials came the addition of gemstones, enamels, and human bone and hair. As time wore on, signet rings for men became a piece that broke free a little of the class system.  Those with less could choose a simple bronze or silver piece with a verse inscribed, or wear as a ring of betrothal.  
Roman haematite intaglio on gold ring-ca. 3rd century A.D.
Ancient Egyptian Signet Ring. Made of solid gold. Late Period, 26th Dynasty, ca. 664-525 BC
Roman-Military-Ring-circa-3rd-Century-AD
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Hieroglyphs and Latin Verse

Signet rings were found amongst the treasures in the tombs of pharaohs, who were laid to rest as early as 1300BC.  The signet bezels were engraved with simple hieroglyphs, sometimes signifying their throne names, or regal sentiments such as ‘All Egypt is in Adoration’. The Romans would engrave Latin verse, often religious in sentiment, or relative to battles fought hard and won. Words of love and devotion were chosen for rings designed for marriage.

Our Vanitas Ring bares the latin words ‘Omnia Vanitas’ – which states that all on earth is ultimately empty – a wearable reminder that the purpose of life is not to acquire mindlessly, but to exist present to its moments, and cultivate love.

Heraldry

A coat of arms became a feature in the Middle Ages and identified men in armour whilst they fought in battle.  Complex systems of identity were created, as coats of arms and crests evolved, and their elements were passed down but also combined as families were brought together by marriage.  Crests and coats of arms are enduring symbols for signets, still very much utilised, and passed down, today.

 

 

How to wear and care for a signet ring.

In the modern age, the signet ring is genderless. It can be a simple or as decadent as you wish.  Personalized signet rings continue to remain popular, as you can create your own heirloom ring. After choosing a piece that resonates with your aesthetic, you can enjoy a design that has a history spanning millennia, with as many individual stories entwined within it is as you can possibly imagine.

Caring for your piece is simple – remove it whenever there is a possibility of impact, abrasion or contact with chemicals. Keep it safe in its bag or box when you are not wearing it, so that it can be safe from hard sunlight and dust.  Know that it will wear with time, and the quality of the wear adds to its personality.

Stay updated for our new upcoming collection soon.

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