Gold signet rings, also conventionally known as seal rings, are widely regarded as the epitome of royalty fashion. The rings, which typically bear either a coat of arms or some authoritarian insignia, are made through special engraving on either real or gold-plated ring. Although the rings are predominantly made of the precious metal, the seal part is mostly a rare hard stone such agate or carnelian. A stone which is hard enough to resist wear and tear, yet soft enough to engrave quickly.
The trend of sporting gold signet rings harks back to the medieval ages in ancient civilisations in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. For instance, the Egyptians wore cylindrical and hexagonal rings – sometimes hanging by a special thread from their necks or arms – as a sign of authority. Egyptian women of royalty blood also had several signet rings in different fingers as a mark of beauty and allure. On the other hand, Roman customs also wore signet rings – not for the purpose of decoration but as a mark of authority. For instance, only the top echelons of the civil and military Roman government were allowed to wear bright gold signet rings. Slaves and others in the masses could only wear iron-wrought signet rings. The middle-classes and former freed slaves were entitled to silver signet rings.
An Insignia of Nobility Carried on to the Modern World
Gold signet rings and other types of unique family rings were handed down from generation to generation in the olden times as a mark of identity. Since back then there were no digital signatures, the seal engraved on the signet ring was used as a recognised stamp to officiate a letter/document before being sent. This way, the receiver of the paper would then identify the mark left by the engraved seal as proof of authenticity. It was a classic way of protecting sensitive documents from tampered with during transit by the couriers. For this reason, the gold signet ring became part and parcel of the regalia of most monarchies and empires across medieval Europe and Asia. In other words, it was slowly integrated into the regal jewellery that only the royal family was allowed to possess.
In some of the biggest museums today, the gold signet ring is displayed with the sceptre, crown, and other royal assorted paraphernalia of the monarch. You will also come across such rings in most antique shops and other odd jewellery shops such as collector and garage sale stores.
The significance of the gold signet rings as an emblem of authority has also been carried to the modern civilisation quite remarkably. The Roman Catholic church, for instance, issues the Pope with a special gold signet ring as a mark of his papacy. When he dies, his seal ring is destroyed which symbolises the start of Sede Vacante – which can be loosely translated to ‘the seat is now vacant’ – and the selection of a new pope.
The culture of family signet rings from ancient civilisation also led to the inception of the tradition of University or school rings. In this case, the badge of the college/campus is usually engraved on a gold ring. At times, the year of graduation is added as an additional decoration. Although such rings are no longer used as conventional sealing devices, they indicate one’s membership ( alma mater ) of a reputable institution or fondly kept as a souvenir.
Wearing a Gold Signet Ring
Gold signet rings are now typically worn on the smallest finger. Some families and cultures choose to have the ring on the right finger while others – depending on the tradition passed on to them by those before them – will have them on the left hand. On the other side, others prescribe the wearers of the ring to have it on the ring finger with the seal/insignia facing up or down. But since we are the helm of globalisation, it’s no surprise that almost anyone today can buy a gold signet ring for themselves or their significant one. There are now even exclusive gold seal rings specifically meant to be worn by men or women. Some couples will buy the rings and gift each other as one of the signs of their romance while other people purchase them as a representation of a lifetime friendship.