As a small family run business, sentimentality and heritage are at the heart of what we practise at NMJ, and these elements are echoed in the tradition of the signet ring.
As precious and distinctly unique pieces, they can become an integral part of your individual story, as well as a point of connection to your family and those close to you.
We sat down with Daniel Fitch, and his Dad, Simon, to learn more about the history of signet rings, what heirloom jewellery means to them and the significance of their family crest.
What is a signet ring?
Originating from the Latin word “signum” meaning “sign”, signet rings originated amongst religious leaders and Pharaohs. These rings were used to mark and seal documents by pressing the face which were historically marked with a unique family crest, into hot wax.
As detailed by Simon, signet rings were not just like signatures, but were so personal to the individual that they could be considered fingerprints. “It used to be that when you passed away, the ring was destroyed with you so that no one else could use your fingerprint” explains Simon.
Significance of the family crest
Since he was seventeen, Simon has worn a signet ring with his family crest on the pinky finger of his left hand. “Our family crest goes back to the 1400’s and is made up of a heraldic shield, a chevron and 3 leopard heads in green and gold - a curious detail now that we are living in Australia.”
“I like the idea of bringing to life a family signet ring because you can either do some research to find out if you have a family crest, or you are perfectly entitled to design your own. It is a unique representation of you entirely, combining how they were originally used as signatures or fingerprints, with a modern expression of yourself and your heritage.”
"I like the idea of bringing to life a family signet ring because you can either do some research to find out if you have a family crest, or you are perfectly entitled to design your own."
Signets as heirloom jewellery
Simon gave both Dan and his brother Toby the family signet ring when they turned twenty-one and he now finds great pride in the fact that the whole family continues the tradition in wearing their own. This tradition now extends to Simon’s wife, Jaqui and their sons partners. “For me, because we are part of a family which has a very long history, it feels important to celebrate and perpetuate that. Both our boys have an understanding of the family tree and I’d like to think that later they will pass that on to their children.”
“If keeping with tradition, you should wear your signet on the pinky finger of your non-dominant hand. But then, traditionally, signet rings were worn by men only so these days the options are really endless”.
Daniel has recently recreated his Dad’s personal signet ring to include every last detail, including a small impression made by another ring Simon used to wear alongside it - an imperfection which has now become immortalised as a story telling feature. Daniel’s ring has become the exact definition of a modern heirloom: a family signet with a story that he will forever treasure.
View our range of signet rings here, or contact our studio to find out what the possibilities are for engraving.
"Both our boys have an understanding of the family tree and I'd like to think that later they will pass that onto their children." - Simon
"Signet rings were not just like signatures, but were so significant to the individual that they could be considered fingerprints."