Signet Rings: Bold Jewelry Designs Win The Seal Of Approval For All Genders
When rapper A$AP Rocky spotted a signet ring by O Thongthai in a London showroom in 2015 and ordered a larger diamond version, he didn’t realize – or the designer – that this classic men’s design would become one of today’s hottest jewelry trends.
Once a men’s ring engraved with a family crest, crest or initial, today signet rings can be adorned with anything from diamonds to emojis, and worn by anyone.
Examples abound. London designer Shola Branson created an iolite silver signet ring with sparkling sapphires and aquamarines, while New York-based Alison Lou released a 14-karat gold signet ring surrounded by pink and green enamel tiles. Then there’s just a gold-plated ring with a smiley face from Martha Calvo.
The biggest brands are also getting involved. Givenchy’s version of the signet ring has just a chunky “G” logo, while Los Angeles-based unisex brand M Cohen took a sculptural take with a stacked setting and a band encrusted with a slice of lapis lazuli. .
O Thongthai founder Chanyaporn ‘O’ Thongthai – whose signet rings include tanzanite and diamonds (£20,000) or zebra jasper (£7,000) – says these new iterations of the traditional ring are worn by those who “want to show a little bit but not, like, in your face”.
She says virtually all of her business comes from the signet ring: 80% of sales a year. “Once I find a hit, I expand a lot from there and develop that design and that material.”
Signet rings have a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt when rings were sealed to authenticate documents. In the Middle Ages they were used as signatures when pressed in hot wax. This function continued until the 18th century, when decorations such as enameling were introduced.
While it would be easy to pinpoint the signet ring’s recent asexual appeal as the reason for its resurgence, or its more diverse designs, Danielle Thom, curator of manufacturing at the Museum of London, says the current obsession with jewelry personalized is the real motivation. “It’s the surface waiting to be decorated; be geared towards a personalized end,” she says. “It’s not really bespoke, of course, but the feeling that we have something distinct for ourselves.” Examples of decorations include names, zodiac signs or meanings that represent personality.
Some designers offer more customization than others. New York-based jeweler Sorellina has set up its “Design Your Own Signet” service, allowing customers to choose a setting, a stone and a design – for example, cannabis leaves, lightning bolts and zodiac signs. A gold initial signet ring costs $3,900. “It encouraged our customers to look for the other things we customize because of that, so it led to [more lucrative] a bespoke business,” says Kim Carosella, co-founder and COO of Sorellina.
Other creators have also seen their business increase after offering signet rings. London designer Bleue Wickham-Burnham, whose accessories were primarily aimed at men, says the incorporation of colored gemstones into the shape of the signet ring has also appealed to women.
While some retailers, such as Browns, offer the same or similar signet ring styles for men’s and women’s wear, other designers tailor their designs to different genders. For her gold and diamond signet rings, Rosanne Karmes, founder of Sydney Evan, has created larger designs for men “because they are more assertive and more masculine”, she says – adding that she uses more stone colors dark, such as black diamonds and tiger’s eye. , because these are more neutral.
Still, with such a familiar silhouette, designers need to make sure their signet ring styles are recognizable as their own, says Afzal Imram, co-founder of Singapore-based contemporary jewelry brand State Property. Her company’s signet rings, which have bold gold and black enamel stripes down the side, include two rows of diamonds.
These are placed around the top and base of the bezel, and the center stone is placed high “to make it more visible,” says Imram. His approach seems to be working – last year signet rings made up 50% of State Property sales, up from 15-20% in 2019, he says.
While the signet ring can rival many other pieces of jewelry, Thom thinks these rings are like brooches because of their “large surface area that lends itself to decoration.” The famous artist Theo Fennell, for example, opts for the crucifix. Rocio Canals, founder of Spanish jewelry brand Wilhelmina Garcia, says signet rings have become as strong as earrings because “they are also asexual”.
Among other design innovations, Kwakú Awah, founder and designer of Laud, mixed his wavy textured signet ring with the diamond eternity ring ($7,000) because, he says, “it makes the jewelry more interesting and more fun. And it’s “a nice balance between discreet and flash”.