Signets & Cyphers
Signet Ring Specialists
Click on a question to see the answer.
I am not sure which family crest to use for my partners signet ring. I have been researching online for the family crest for his name and have come up with a number of different options. I would like to do ‘the right thing’ and choose the right family crest that is genuinely related to him.
Regarding the genealogy and family crests; you are doing the right thing by asking your partners family if they know what it might be. Very often family stories are passed down through the generation that they were related to some eminent or titled person. Many people claim relation to someone of the same surname who was indeed granted a coat of arms many centuries ago and the many websites you find on the internet normally pick the oldest recorded coat of arms for that name. Some of these date back to Norman times. Many of these are ultimately derived from books such as Burkes General Armory but many are frankly bogus and cannot be relied on. To do the ‘right thing’ I suppose one should trace ones family back to a forebear who was granted a coat of arms. Sometimes this might be through the female line and another surname altogether but the most important thing in my mind is that whatever you choose it has some personal family significance.
For example; in my own case, we have no grants of arms as far as I am aware linked to Pritchard or Barrett but I have only traced our family tree back to 1830. On my grandmothers side a genealogist traced the family tree back to d’oyley which did have a grant of arms so that is the one our family might use in recognition of a tiny bit of the gene pool relating to the titled aristocracy. I am sure many families can also trace back similar connections if you go back far enough.
On saying that there is no jurisdication about wearing a family crest on a signet ring. Regulation only applies to a full coat of arms which is regulated by the College of Arms or the Lords Lyon in Scotland. A crest which is part of a coat of arms (being the Heraldic device on top of the Helmet) always was a more personal thing and historically they were used for personal seals and were semi unofficially adapted within families. This is the heritage behind the whole signet ring thing which really gained popularity in Georgian and Victorian times.
You can apply to the College of Arms for a coat of arms if you have the inclination and a few thousand pounds to spend on it. Of course this is entirely suitable for many eminent people who have had successful careers in all walks of life. The heralds then design the coat of arms in consultation with the recipient and normally use a crest and emblems which relate to career, achievements and interests. http://college-of-arms.gov.uk.
In summary of my feelings on the issue of finding a family crest or deciding what to engrave on your signet ring is as follows:
1. If you want to be serious about doing ‘the right thing’ then check the genealogical line back to a forebear who was genuinely granted a Caot of Arms. This may involve employing a genealogist or maybe some in the family has done this already or has good reason to know the family tree. Usually there are items that have been handed down through the generations that may indicate there was a connection to a family crest. These are usually old book plates, or engravings on cutlery.
2. Clan Badges. The Scottish and Irish Clan system has a different take on this and seems more open to allowing the use of a clan badge on the basis of being of the same surname.
3. However it is still important to do the genealogical research as there are various clans. (For example there are various MacDonald Clans – Clan ranald, Glencoe, Sleat for example).
4. If you are unsure of any genealogical connection and do not have the time to check, you can assume a vague connection to the family crest of someone of the same name but please be aware that this is extremely tenuous and some of the websites provide crests that are frankly bogus. However the use of crests is unregulated and no one will stop you using anything as a crest on your own signet ring. It is only your own sense of heritage and need to be true that is to be considered.
5. Talk to us and we can steer you in the right direction using the more genuine reference books we have : Fairbairns Book Of Crests (all editions), Burkes Peerage, Burkes General Armory, Reitstaps Armorial General (for European derivations).
6. Do not use or assume a connection to a coat of arms from something you find on the internet as Coats of Arms are regulated for official purposes by the College of Arms and The Lords Lyon.
7. Consider a Monogram or Cypher. These are unique and can be designed with great effect. These can also be Seal engraved.
8. Engrave an emblem of personal significance in lieu of crest. For example we can engrave any variation of animal. We have done Kingfishers for Bird Watchers, Dogs for dog lovers. A flower for gardeners. We can advise if any item would make a good engraving. We have many good resource books to help. This approach is more like a family emblem or logo and can look great.
9. Some people think that the wearing of a signet ring with a crest is a bit archaic but the wonderful thing we keep seeing is the great pleasure they give in providing a sense of belonging to a family. Whatever you choose the most important thing in our minds is that they create a connection in the present – to someone you love and to the past – your family heritage.
10. Ultimately It is your decision and do whatever you feel comfortable with. There is no right or wrong way to do things.
11. There is great flexibility with Crests as they are individual and unregulated – but please respect that un regulated Coats of Arms should never be used for official purposes.
Which way around do you wear a signet ring?
About which way you wear them. My personal feeling with this is that you should do whatever is most comfortable for you. However the general consensus is that you should wear them on your non leading hand and with the bottom of the crest nearest the base knuckle (or your wrist as you refer). As far as I know the British Royal Family tend to wear them this way and I attach some photos of Princess Diana’s rings on her hand and also the same for Charles, Prince of Wales.
Traditionally one would create a seal by rolling your hand outward and impressing into the wax. Rather than making a fist and pressing down vertically from above. There is more control in the former method and you can use your other hand to assist and gently apply pressure in the right areas to get a good seal.
How do I find my family Crest?
We can help with this by looking in our library of Heraldic books. Visit our Family Crest Finder Page to submit a request. We use Fairbairns book of crests. There are many editions of this unique reference book. You can normally find a copy in your local library, should you wish to do your own research. Most family crests are detailed in this book and we would be more than happy to send the options to you either via fax or in the post.
How long will my ring take to arrive?
Signet Rings usually take up to 6-8 weeks to complete, although at busier times (September - December) they can take up to 9 weeks. We do not hold any stock - all signet rings are made to order and engraving is something you cannot rush.
How do I find my Ring Size?
We include a ring sizer with all our brochures - to order a brochure, please contact us. We will then send you one within a few days.
Are the Signet Rings Hallmarked?
Yes - all our signet rings bear our Signets & Cyphers hallmark - S&C. Visit the hallmark page to find out more.
Which hand should I wear my Signet Ring on?
Signet Rings should be worn on your non leading hand. Ie; if you are right handed, you should wear it on your left hand and vice versa. Signets rings should always be worn on your little finger.
Is it possible to have a Signet ring made of White Gold?
How will my finished Signet Ring be sent to me?
We will send your finished Signet Ring to you via Royal Mail Special Delivery. We will call you when it arrives back with us to make sure you will be in to sign for the delivery. If this is not possible - we can always send to a different address.
My wife mostly wears silver or platinum jewellery so I am interested in white gold. Please can you give me some information on the pro's and con's of white gold or should I be considering platinum to achieve a pure white result?
Firstly Platinum is very expensive.
White gold is a little bit more expensive.
White gold processing. Silver Palladium is added to the gold to make it whiter. 18ct white gold uses more palladium as it is more resistant to tarnishing and colour change (thus will remain whiter)but the lower you go down the purity scale more silver is used and this has a tendency to tarnish due to the blackening effect of silver. This means that white gold inevitably will become slightly yellow and in 9ct this is more obvious. (If worn continually the ring will be constantly polished so there will be less tarnishing effect).
It is an option to have white gold rhodium plated which looks very bright and impressive but this is a short lived fix as the electroplating process only produces a very thin veneer. This may only last 9 months and then you get the unpleasant effect of seeing the different tone of the gold showing through in the areas where it is wearing. Rhodium plating does not sound like a good idea and I am sure it would compromise the effect of the engraving.
In terms of purity and achieving a near white gold ring my recommendation is always to go for an 18ct white gold ring, but please bear in mind that occasionally people say that it looks a bit more metallic (but then again so does platinum!).
What is the actual difference between 9ct and 18ct Gold?
Amongst the differences between 9 and 18 carat gold are...
Fine gold content:
• 18 carat gold contains twice as much fine gold by proportion (750ppt vs 375ppt)
• 18 carat gold is approximately 40% heavier.
• 18 carat gold contains over 2.6 times as much fine gold as a 9 carat product of the same size/volume. That is to say, don't expect that if you have two identical items in 9 and 18 carat gold, the 18 carat one has twice as much gold, this is not the case. Please see attached note for a detailed explanation of this.
• Tarnish resistance- 18 carat gold is more resistant to tarnishing and other chemical attack than 9 carat gold. This is because silver and copper, which constitute a larger proportion of 9 carat gold, oxidise more readily than gold.
• Hardness An issue on which there is much discussion. It is often claimed that 9 carat gold is harder than 18 carat, but this does not mean it is more durable. Gold rings can give many years of wear - a 'soft' 22 carat ring can easily last for more than 50 years, and the wearer can appreciate the fine colour and lustre of almost fine gold for the whole of that time!
What is it that makes rose gold more reddish in colour?
Rose gold contains more copper than yellow gold, and less silver. For some alloys there may be adjustments in the balance of zinc too, but that is a very small part. Rose gold tends to tarnish more than yellow gold because of the tendency of copper to show up strongly as a black oxide ( for e.g. whereas iron rusts red, copper goes black)
If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to contact us and we'll be happy to help you.