Signet rings have, until now, had a bad rap. A favourite accessory of Hooray Henrys and flashy wheeler dealers, Prince Charles sports one on his left pinky finger, emblazoned with the Prince of Wales three-feathers emblem, while James and Pippa Middleton have been papped wearing signet rings featuring the Middleton coat of arms. None of whom scream cool.
But for all its aristocratic associations, signet rings are the jewel du jour for men – and women. Historically known as the “gentleman’s ring”, they have been spotted on some very fashionable female fingers of late, including Cara Delevingne, Bella Hadid and Kristen Stewart. And forget them being a declaration of one’s status. You don’t need a family crest to own a signet ring.
“My feeling is that signet rings today have nothing to do with family heritage,” says Jessica Biales, whose Modern Classics collection is full of signets that are debuting this season at that temple of high fashion, Dover Street Market, as well as Matches, Colette in Paris and Barney’s Japan. “They do, however, represent classic, timeless style.”
Biales’ designs are modern interpretations of the signet rings often spotted in antique shops. Oval topped with chunky gold bands, she has added rows of coloured gemstones and given others a nautical theme. “Breton stripes are like a uniform for me in the spring and summer,” she says. “The idea struck me to combine two hallmarks of classic style: signets and Breton stripes.”
I’ve spotted signets at Jacquie Aiche, Temple St Clair, Nouvel Heritage, Shay, Anthony Lent and Foundrae, whose chunky ring (top of article) is emblazoned with the number eight to attract good karma. And they are not confined to one finger either. “I do love the signet ring worn on the pinky – that is very traditional,” says Biales. “But my signets are designed to be worn on any finger.”
But what is fuelling the revival of the signet ring? No longer a symbol of power, is it part of a wider shift in the mind-set of jewellery lovers to pieces that are more permanent – and personal? “I was taught to appreciate quality and the classics so the signet ring has always been one of my favourite pieces of jewellery,” says Biales. “Perhaps people are tired of the constant barrage of newness and ever-changing trends,” she says. “It’s nice to buy something that will always look good.”
Reassuringly weighty but without a coat of arms in sight, browse our edit of the season’s best signet rings for women below.