Have you ever seen those pinky rings with stamps or drawing on the top plate? That’s a signet ring. Many people wear them today as a sign of belonging, expression of individuality or a family heirloom. There’s even an old legend that says that Sigmund Freud would give signet rings to some of his students that were part of a secret society.
Signet rings were originally used sign a document. Rings would have a drawing or family crest carved into the metal and would leave a mark when stamped with wax on paper. The stamp of a ring was seen as more authentic than a signature. Most signet rings have traditionally been made of solid gold, however some have been found of bronze, copper and many few of silver.
Before the days of voice authentication, fingerprints and face recognition it was normal for all the most influential people to have this rings and use them to confirm the authenticity of any document. They do look marvelous, but they were designed with a specific purpose in mind.
The engraving on the top would be a family crest, a sort of shield with imagery that had a meaning to the values or story of the family.
Others had a monogram. A monogram is a motif of two or more letters, traditionally a person’s initials, commonly interwoven or otherwise combined in a decorative design, used as a logo for the person. This served to stamp wax seals.
It all started as far back as in 3,500 B.C. Mesopotamia, where cylindrical seals would stamp documents. By the ancient Egyptians era, seals had become attached to a ring and would be worn to show their position. Later, during the Middle Ages, specially in the UK, any influential person ported one and signed all documents and letters with them. Most of the rings dating back to this period were destroyed when their owners died, this because they were unique and avoided any possibility of forgery.
Today, the head of some families wear a signer ring and pass it on from generation to generation.
How to Wear it?
The best way to wear it is with simplicity and confidence, as an extension of you. Don’t be disturned by the thought of which finger to wear it in. The English have traditionally worn their signet ring on the pinky finger of their left hand and German (and some Americans) on the ring or middle finger of their left hand. This is because English rings typically show a crest only, rather than a full coat of arms or shield, and thus can be smaller. Therefore, choose what you want engraved on, and wear it in a finger where it becomes part of your everyday.
The most important thing is that even though rings are no longer used to sign documents (although it would be incredibly cool if you use it for this) it should still serve as a reminder of who you are. Let it show you the way back to your identity when you’ve lost your track. And shine light to the values that have brought you this far in the days where short cuts seem better. Use it as your emblem torch to light your way.