Fine Jewelry

Modern Resurgence of the Traditional Signet Ring

There was a time when it was reserved for aristocratic gentleman or retired Army types, but in the modern age, signet rings are enjoying a major resurgence of interest among young people and especially women.

Well known individuals in the public eye like Cara Delevingne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, former model Kate Moss and Pippa Middleton are among some of the early adopters, and have been seen wearing engraved gold or silver rings on their little fingers.

Traditionally, this style of ring was given as a coming of age gift once one reached the age of  21, or to represent membership of an exclusive club or society, but today, you no longer need aristocratic roots to wear one.

Whether your piece is designed as an essential piece of family heritage, or for the younger adults who want to reflect the style for heritage jewellery, leading London jewellers Hancocks has no doubt the rings are making a major comeback.

Hancocks London, one of Mayfair’s oldest family-run firms – has even launched its own bespoke signet ring website in response to rising demand (see

Guy Burton, Director of Hancocks London, said: “We have been making signet rings since 1849, so we know what we’re doing, but we have seen a real resurgence of interest over the past couple of years – and it’s not just the domain of men anymore, demand is coming from young women too

“We’re often asked what’s driving demand. It’s a number of factors. People have become interested in family genealogy and there’s been a lot of coverage about silver and gold being recession-proof. Put those together and a signet ring is something unique, will hold its value well and you can be worn with anything. Quite simply, they’re a classic accessory which can be dressed up or down but one that always looks very stylish.”

Gold still makes up the vast majority of sales, and while family crests remain most popular, demand for initials or other bespoke designs is increasing.

Prince Charles presented Lady Diana Spencer with a signet ring bearing the Prince of Wales’ feathers ahead of their 1981 wedding. And the Middleton family were granted their own crest by the College of Arms ahead of Kate Middleton’s marriage to Prince William in April 2011.

Now Pippa Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, is rarely seen without a gold signet ring on her little finger. And she is not alone. Increasingly, young women are wearing the personalised rings.

Social media sites are awash with images of signet rings and the formerly traditional style of jewellery has been granted a new lease of life with a wealth of contemporary designs and styles.

About Signet Rings and Hancock’s Modern Signet Rings

Created in the Middle Ages when most people were illiterate as a method of communication, signet rings are one of the oldest and most traditional types of jewellery.

Carrying a personal design – often a family coat of arms – they were pressed into a wax or clay seal to create a unique and legally binding mark and prove a document had not been opened or otherwise tampered with.

Traditionally, signet rings were worn by men – the Prince of Wales is among those rarely seen without his signet – but the biggest growth area is in signet rings for women.

Guy Burton added: “Our workshop has decades of experience in these time-honoured traditions and all our signet rings are meticulously crafted here in the UK. Our signet rings are all ‘seal engraved’ which is a very specific style of engraving whereby the image and lettering is carved very deeply and in reverse. This traditional technique means that when the ring is pressed into softened wax to form the seal the resulting impression reveals the correct image.

“All our signet rings are supplied with a boxed wax impression for you to keep which shows you the mirror image of your signet ring engraving. Whilst few signet rings are used for their original purpose today, they are still worn and enjoyed by both men and women who are looking for something personal and meaningful to wear every day.”

Lucy Hume, co-author of the Debrett’s and Bicester Village Guide to British Style, recently commented: “Signet rings can carry meaning, reminding the wearer of their family, or, in the case of a club or society crest, creating a sense of kinship and belonging, much like a club tie or a pin badge. They were used historically as a seal with a unique family crest to sign documents.”

While modern communication has put an end to the need to verify documents, there is no doubt signet rings can still play an important part in helping us portray our unique identity. And with the ability to create your own signet ring, and perhaps fashion a new family crest, a whole new tradition is being born.


Visit Hancocks’ new signet ring website at:



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