While signet rings have become ubiquitous in today’s fashion culture, it’s lengthy history dates all the way back to 3500 BC. Back then, wearing a signet ring distinguished you as a person with influence and power (pharaohs, kings and religious leaders all owned rings), and they were often emblazoned with a family crest or coat of arms. Since every ring had unique markings to help identify the owner, the rings were used to stamp, seal or sign documents, which was seen as more authentic than a signature.
Though they were originally only worn by royalty, religious officials and noblemen, merchants and tradesmen began wearing them as time passed. Royal rings were still set apart by their extravagant gems and rich metals while merchant’s rings had logos or mottos cut into them. By this point though, more people had become literate and the use of signet rings as document seals was no longer needed. Instead, the rings became family heirlooms that got passed down from generation to generation.
A lot has changed since those days, but sentiment towards the ring has not. Signets are worn by men and women of all ages who want to connect to their heritage and roots. The modern designs are often worn as an extension of the self and a form of self expression.
Here’s a look at how signet style rings have evolved through time.
This ring is dated to the Meroitic Period, between 40 B.C. - 40 A.D. It was excavated from Sudan (what was ancient Nubia) and recovered from a plundered burial site. The engraving shows two figures in gold. Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This Roman ring is dated from 100 - 200 A.D. It's made of gold with an onyx intaglio (a design incised or engraved into a material) depicting an ant, which was the symbol of the Roman goddess Ceres. It is thought to have been intended to bring prosperity to its wearer. Image courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
This Ancient Roman Jupiter intaglio signet ring dates back to 1st-3rd century AD. It's yellow gold and engraved with the profile of Jupiter, the powerful king of the gods. Image courtesy of Berganza
Signet ring of the “Black Prince” was found at Montpensier, Puy-de-Dôme, in 1866 and dates back to the 14th century. It's made in gold with a ruby in the centre.
Just like these antique signet rings, Ruusk creates heirlooms that are durable enough to wear daily and last through multiple generations. We draw upon traditional designs, but love to customise rings with locally sourced and conflict-free stones, or engrave them to create a personalised piece that connects to significant stories and family.
Interested in customising your own signet ring? Browse through our collections.