From the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC until the Dark Ages, seals of various kinds were in production in the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. The Late Bronze Age is the time par excellence of the lens-shaped seal and the seal ring, which continued in to the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods, in the form of pictorial engraved gems. Engraved gems continued to be produced and collected until the 19th century.
During the early Middle Ages seals of lead were in common use both in East and West, but these leaden authentications soon went out of favour in western Christendom and it became the universal practice to take the impressions in wax.
The signet is a small seal dating from the reign of Edward II (1307-27) until 1851. Every warrant of the privy seal or great seal required a seal. Ever since the middle ages those entitled with a grant to bear heraldic arms used signets. A seal authorized orders or letters to authenticate the bearer. This is therefore why this genre of Jewellery Men rings are respectfully labelled Heraldic Rings.
More modern times
Signets and Seals were the distinguishing mark of legal stamping and authentication for 600 years. Businesses, lawyers and government therefore used them. Their presence is also felt today even in common parlance. “set one’s seal on” meaning to authorize or give one’s approval to something. “signed sealed and delivered” – this idiom additionally referring to a legal deed.
Gold signet rings became increasingly popular from the 17th century onward as the ultimate, portable mark of distinction. By the 18th century the signet ring (or fob signet for ladies) was also more widely used to seal letters. They also included those of a more lighthearted or personal nature .
Seals and Signets became more elaborate with the introduction of gemstones set in Gold. Engraving consequently became more precise and artistically challenging to cope with the much harder materials. Seal engraving became a true art form in its own right and remains no less so today. You will find exquisite creations in The Regnas Collection today.
Most classical engraved gemstone rings were originally worn as signet rings. This inspired the wide spectrum of gemstones used today. They include Lapis Lazuli, Rock Crystal, Amethyst, Red Agate, Jade Albite, Rhodonite, Jade, Bloodstone and Black Onyx, among others.
Signet rings are also used as a souvenir or membership attribute, such as a class ring ( which typically bears the coat of arms or crest of the school). The Masonic ring is an especially relevant example of this. You can consequently find many such designs in the The Regnas Collection Heraldic Rings section.
FAMOUS SIGNET RING-BEARERS THROUGHOUT THE AGES
Pompey: (106-48 B.C.) Pompey’s signet ring displayed a lion bearing a sword. This Roman politician, Gnaeus Pompeis Magnus, better known as Pompey, was one of the greatest generals of his time.
Julius Caesar: (circa July 12/13, 102/100 B.C. – March 15, 44 B.C.): His ring had an armed Venus.
Caesar Augustus: (63 B.C. – 14 C.E.) His signet ring had first a sphinx, then the head of Alexander the Great. Finally he placed his own image on his signet ring. Rome achieved great glory under Emperor Octavian/Augustus.
Nero (37 AD – 68 AD) was the 5th and last of the Julio/Claudian dynasty of Roman Emperors. His reputation is as an ineffectual, neglectful and brutal leader. His signet ring represented the flaying of Marsyas by Apollo.
The face of Michelangelo’s signet ring contained a carving of a segment of the Sistine Chapel