What's Your Story?! Signet Rings

One of our very first rings to design and a big favorite with our Hot Crown Princesses (and princes!) are our signet rings. I thought it would be fun to take a look back in history and examine the background of theses amazing rings - but even I didn't imagine how fascinating it's going to be. Shall we?

history of the signet ring as seen on reign

as seen on tv show Reign, similar


The signet ring - also known as the seal ring - goes back more than 4000 years ago, to ancient Egypt, where it's still found in the Pharaohs tombs. The technical purpose of the ring was to seal letters with a personal sign - much like today's signature. The ring would have a raised symbol or decoration on the top, which, when dipped in hot wax would leave an impression (pun intended). Fun fact: the symbol is actually reversed so the impression it leaves will be in the correct direction - just like in stamps.

But very quickly, signet rings have become so much more than a glorifies stamp. Since only the most important people would wear it, the signet ring has come to signify authority and class, be highly recognizable and seal business transactions. At this point each signet had a unique symbol to its owner.

From Egypt, the signet ring traveled down history (and geography) to the Greeks, the Etruscans and then the Romans. In each of the cultures the symbols had a slightly different look, but the most important thing to remember about them is that they were symbols of power and prestige: from animals to mythological creatures to Gods.

Then came the Romans who took their signet rings very seriously and added a lot more to the variety - you could find symbols depicting battle scenes, profiles of emperors and Gods. The rings were used by warriors and higher officials and were given to them from the Roman emperors. Yes, it was all about prestige.



As the Roman empire expanded the rings travelled to new places - in the west as well as the the east. With time, more and more women started wearing signet rings because they were the ones to take care of the household and therefore needed to seal those documents.

As the west declined into the Middle Ages, lesser officials started wearing signets as well to signify authority, since the wide majority people couldn't read - that was their way to convince them of their authority.

prince charles signet ring

Prince Charles' ring

When the public became more and more literate, signet rings were stripped of their main purpose, but they still signified authority. One of the changes that followed was that rings no longer had a symbol unique to the person - but rather a symbol for a group of people. It could be the family crest or coat of arms, a monogram or the person's initials (yes, just like our own rings!).

Continuing the path of signifying authority and belonging to a group - a lot of the signet rings we see in pop culture from the last century are actually class rings, rings that are specific to a university or college.

More recent sightings signet rings are those of the Freemasons and heirloom rings which are passed from generation to generation. Some families will also still commission a special symbol ring for family members - you can actually design your own family (or personal) crest and we'll happily make it into a ring for you. Of course, contemporary signet rings don't function as seals anymore and so the symbols are no longer reversed.

Signet rings through the ages, including Princess Diana, Roger Sterling on Mad Men, ancient rings and HC Mila ring

Some memorable signet rings in recent history are the Pope's ring, Prince Charles' ring and Princess Diana's ring - not her famous engagement ring, but the other one - which you can see in the photo above. In pop culture it was mostly men who wore signet rings which is natural when you think of them as family or class rings in the era when not many women would attend college. For men like Gatsby in The Big Gatsby or Roger Sterling in Mad Men, the signet ring would definitely symbolize power. And actually, so it would for Queen Mary Stuart in the royal set tv show Reign.

Actress Romi Aboulafia wearing Hot Crown rings

And as for real life? Signet rings still leave a powerful impression - not on wax, necessarily... Many celebrities and stylists use signet rings to make a strong statement. That's why it's not surprising that Rihanna is a big fan. The flat surface of the ring allows for a lot of personalization, which means it can be used for a monogram, your initials or to comemmorate a significant date or anniversary. Many of our Hot Crown Princesses actually use this to keep their dearest's names where they can always see them. 

1 comment

John Karr

John Karr

My loved grandpa had a signet ring he got when he was young, and i still have it. It is amazing to see signet ring evolotion

My loved grandpa had a signet ring he got when he was young, and i still have it. It is amazing to see signet ring evolotion

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