Seals, Crests and Signets

The tradition of wearing a signet ring is seeing a revival. Rich in history, the practice goes back thousands of years. Before we had PIN numbers, utility bills and other forms of ID an official document would have been endorsed with a seal. At one time these were the privilege of nobility and would have been worn on a chain or kept in a purse. The Lord Privy Seal was historically the keeper of the monarch’s personal seal.

Today, the most popular form of a seal is as a signet ring. This is normally in the form of a crest or a coat of arms. However, signet rings are often engraved with initials or a monogram. The coming of age, either at 18 or at 21, is an occasion when it is appropriate to give such a ring. To wear one’s family crest marks a recognition of a family member and conveys a kinship between the owner and his or her family.

The engraving of a crest on a signet ring can be done in two ways. In order to use it as a seal it must be engraved in reverse so that the impression comes out as a positive image. If using on sealing wax, the seal should be moistened first to prevent the wax from sticking to the ring.

There are many options for the ring itself. It can be yellow or white gold, 18ct or 9ct. It can be platinum. It can be stone set with a variety of different hard stones of differing colours. It can be oval, round, cushion or many other shapes. The size of the ring will be chosen to suit the size of the hand on which it will be worn.

If you need any help or guidance in identifying your family crest we can help. The definitive book on the subject is Fairbairn’s Crests. We have this wonderful two volume book in the office and would be delighted to guide you.