An Introduction to Our Colourful Hardstone Gems

Our collection of beautiful ornamental gemstones has been carefully curated to provide you with a comprehensive selection of colours to choose from for your gem-set signet ring.  They are all either opaque or translucent and are perfectly suited to carving which makes them ideal for use in signet rings.

All the hardstones are carefully cut to size and then bezel set into the head of the ring. Once securely set they are then deep engraved by a master craftsman with the design of your choosing. With the exception of the orange Carnelian, all the stones are in closed back settings meaning that the gold of the ring is seen behind the stone rather than the back of the stone.  The Carnelian however is left open as this stone is translucent rather than opaque and it therefore allows light to shine through it, enhancing its glowing appearance.

Read on for an introduction to each of the hardstones we offer, hopefully it will help you to decide which of them is right for you.

A sardonyx and 18ct gold Oxford oval signet ring in the process of being hand engraved.

Lapis Lazuli

18ct Yellow Gold Lapis Lazuli Signet Ring
An 18ct yellow gold and lapis lazuli signet ring

Lapis Lazuli is a beautifully vibrant royal blue gem material.  It is one of the oldest known gems having been traded for thousands of years and one of the earliest surviving examples of its use can be seen in the funeral mask of Tutankhamun.  Later, as it began to travel throughout Europe, it was ground into powder and used as a colouring pigment known as ultramarine which was widely used by artists such as Vermeer. 

Lapis is actually classified as a rock because it is a combination of several different minerals, namely lazurite (responsible for the fabulous colour) calcite (the whitish streaks) and pyrite (the little gold-coloured flecks).  The best quality material still comes from the ancient source in the mountains of Afghanistan, however it is also found in Chile, Siberia and Canada

Black Onyx

Platinum Black Onyx Signet Ring
A platinum and black onyx signet ring 

Black onyx is an opaque gem belonging to the quartz family of gemstones that also includes amethyst and citrine.  It has been used since antiquity, both for jewellery and as an ornamental gem material for carvings and statues.  Many cultures have put faith in its protective properties and have worn it into battle or to shield them from the evil eye. 

Black gems have fallen in and out of fashion over the years with high points including the latter half of the 19th Century when Queen Victoria popularised the wearing of black jewellery for mourning after the death of Prince Albert.  During the 1920s and 30s it was in vogue once more with the monochromatic look popular during the Art Deco period.   It is found in many locations including but not limited to Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Germany.

Sardonyx

Platinum Sardonyx Signet Ring
A platinum and blue sardonyx signet ring 

Sardonyx is closely related to black onyx and belongs to the same quartz family. It is a banded stone of alternating coloured layers, most commonly orangey-brown and white although it also occurs in other colour combinations such as the pale blue and dark grey-black that we use.  This banded structure makes it ideal for engraving as the design is shown in contrasting layers making it easy to see.

Sardonyx gems have been found in the archaeological recoveries at Knossos and it was used by the Romans to make amulets which they engraved with Mars, the God of War and wore to give them courage. It is one of the earliest stones used for seals and signet rings and as such is a particularly traditional choice.  Some of the loveliest stones are found in India but it is also mined in places such as Brazil, Germany, the USA and Russia.

Bloodstone

Yellow Gold Bloodstone Signet ring
An 18ct yellow gold and bloodstone signet ring

Bloodstone is an opaque deep, dark green coloured stone with interesting flecks of orangey-red in it (said to resemble spots of blood – hence the name) caused by inclusions of iron rich minerals. It has been used in jewellery for centuries and is one of few gems that are native to our shores, being found in Scotland.  It is often seen in traditional Scottish pebble jewellery which was particularly popular in the 19th century when it was worn by Queen Victoria to reflect her love of the country.

The stone was mentioned by Pliny in his Natural History where he describes its alleged ability to render a person invisible, an attribute repeated by Boccaccio in one of the stories in The Decameron.  Today it is widely found with the best material coming from India as well as Brazil, China, Australia and the USA.

Carnelian

Rose Gold Carnellian Signet Ring
An 18ct rose gold and carnelian signet ring 

Carnelian is a rich burnt orange coloured translucent gem and is another member of the Quartz family.  Known to have been used to make beads since the early Neolithic period, it was particularly popular during Roman times when it was carved with all manner of different images and used in both marriage and seal rings, surviving examples of which can be seen in the British Museum.

It was believed to possess protective qualities so was also used to carve amulets and charms which were carried by soldiers and given to children. Its beautiful fiery colour continues to make it a popular choice and today the finest gems are found in Brazil, Uruguay, India and Madagascar.